The Art of Retweeting: How, When, & Why

In last week’s blog, I highlighted ways to use Twitter to effectively network at events.

After sharing that piece with the Twitterverse, I received a warm response from Carol Willing (whom I first interacted with via Twitter at Write/Speak/Code), asking specific questions about retweeting. Thanks for the call to action, Carol! I hope you enjoy these tips for retweeting.

The Native Retweet 

Native Retweet Button For Twitter

Font Awesome by Dave Gandy


This is the instant RT, which many people utilize frequently. Simply select this button, which is located under every tweet, and allow Twitter to do the work for you.

You may choose this method because:

  • You respect the author of this valuable statement and agree entirely
  • This person is an influencer, and their tweet carries more weight than something you could write on this topic
  • You feel the information provided should reach an audience of magnitude
  • The original tweet pertains to you or relates to your industry

If you’d like to add your own comment, you can write “RT” before the original content, to identify it as a retweet, and add something unique, like – “Great article!” This will encourage the author whose tweet you shared to engage with you and further show your endorsement of the tweet.

Be careful with characters here – try to stay ≤ 120, as someone may want to RT your RT. Any more characters, and your tweet may be cut off. Shorter tweets are shared more often.

Choosing Your Audience 

Twitter assumes tweets that begin with “@” are intended just for you and the person at whom you tweet, and the people who happen to follow you both. To maximize audience, many people place “.” before the “@” to ensure that their followers see the communication in their own feed. The “.” seems to solve the issue of limited visibility while only using one character of the precious 120 characters you should use.

If you’re attempting to engage with someone via tweet in a respectful dialogue, take care to put some thought into a kind greeting instead of a lazy “.” Far too often, people interact on social media in ways that are not acceptable in real life, and depending on the “.” to include your followers on what could otherwise be a private conversation is not best practice, depending on your goals and brand.

When I first saw the placement of “.” in front of someone’s handle referred to as a “dickdot,” it made immediate sense! It’s a bit rude in practice, as any character preceding one’s Twitter name works just as well. A simple salutation will do, and though it might take up a few more characters, it’s far more polite for the recipient, and mirrors how we speak in the real world.

One of my favorite people to follow is Jake Boxer. I’m thrilled to share this tweet, which made me laugh for days, and coined a now often-used phrase:

There are some situations that warrant the dot, and J.K. Rowling’s use of it is a prime example. She doesn’t need to have friendly conversation with someone who passive aggressively insults her. Her response successfully asserts her position and, instead of limiting her response to that extremely narrow pool of people who follow both of them (he has less than 300, while she has 4,000,000 plus), she adjusts her tweet so that all of her followers can be privy to the exchange.

(To be clear, I think she’s entirely justified in responding this way, and it is not “dick” at all, but on par with the tone previously used to address her.)

Modified Tweets

Let’s say there’s a tweet you want to shout from the mountains! Unfortunately, its author is maxing out on characters and pushing the 120 best practice limit. There might be some unnecessary prepositions or a repeated word. Or, you want to grab someone’s attention with this awesome tweet by mentioning them, maybe add an appropriate hashtag.

There’s good news!

Write “MT” before the tweet so that readers know you’ve modified it. This way, you’re still providing the credibility to an influencer or expert, keeping the bulk of the message in tact, and making it best suit your purposes and intent.

The Advanced Tweet

You know what you’re doing and this isn’t your first twitter-thon. There’s a breaking news article, which was tweeted out from a very trustworthy source. You can write your own message, give the author of the article acknowledgement, AND give credit to your original Twitter source.

Here’s an example from my own timeline:

There you have it!

These are some tips to effectively retweet.

Did you find this helpful? Is there another form of retweeting you prefer?

Let me know & happy tweeting!

8 thoughts on “The Art of Retweeting: How, When, & Why

  1. Great article! I think the native retweet baffled people that came from the time before it existed as an official feature.

    Another use of the .@name construct is to say something like:

    .@friend and I are checking out this great place for brunch! <>

    It’s a natural sentence, so it doesn’t make sense as a conversation.

  2. Also, if your main purpose is signal boosting, I’d say using the RT button is better bc I suspect (don’t know though) that it is the contributor to the #s for that tweet.

    • It also gives THAT person credibility in a way that is really meaningful, and leverages the power of the influencer to amplify a voice that otherwise would not reach a magnitude of people.

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