Should You Use RT or the Retweet Button on Twitter?

by | May 31, 2011 | Social Media | 57 comments

It’s a battle as old as time. Or, er, at least as old as when Twitter launched “New Twitter” last year.

RT or the Retweet Button?

In this corner, you have the Old School, the way people always used to pass along a fun or hilarious or awesome or interesting or all of the above Tweet:

“RT @Username Their Tweet

And in this corner, you have the New School, the Retweet Button, which pushes someone’s tweet into your follower’s feed:

Now, before we get into which one you should use, it’s important to understand exactly what the Retweet Button actually does. (If you use Twitter via certain third party applications, you might not have access to the Retweet button and may be limited to the old-school RT.)

Retweeting something using the button makes that Tweet appear in your followers’ feed. It’s almost as if the user is following the person you’re retweeting just for that Tweet. It looks like this:

See the little symbol there? That’s how it looks when something is Retweeted.

There’s one important distinction though: If someone already follows the person you’re Retweeting, they won’t see that you Retweeted them.

If you’re Retweeting, say, some breaking news from the New York Times, only the people who aren’t already following the New York Times will see it.

That leads us to the Big Question. Which method should you use?

Count me in favor of the New School Retweet Button in almost all instances. Here’s why.

Twitter has woven the Retweet button into the overall experience, and it’s now the way things like “Top Tweets” are determined:

Basically, the Tweets that are Retweeted using the Retweet button the most rise to the top, which is important in trending topics.

It’s also being used by social scoring measurers like Klout to track who is influencing conversations on Twitter. People can also easily see how many times their Tweets have been Retweeted:

In other words: If you want to give someone full credit for their awesome Tweet, the Retweet Button is the way to go.

When the Retweet Button was first introduced it took a while for people to get used to seeing strangers in their feed, but I think that has become less jarring over time and I’ve gotten used to looking for the Retweet symbol. Most of the time I’m happy to see those strangers’ Tweets because they might be someone I want to follow.

That said, I think the old school RT method has its place, but only when you’re adding to it and participating in the conversation. A great example of that is the Colson Whitehead Tweet above. He added to the person’s Tweet and made it something new, giving credit with the RT.

My feeling: “RT @Username Tweet” is so 2010. Time to get with the Retweet Button program.

What about you? Are you a RT’er or a Retweet Button-er?

57 Comments

  1. Erin Bowman

    I definitely do a little bit of both. If I just want to broadcast the message, I'll hit the retweet button. If I want to comment on, or add to the conversation, I'll often preface an old-school RT with my thoughts. I think there's still a time and place for both.

    Reply
  2. Loree Huebner

    I retweet both ways…old and new. I don't know why.

    Thanks for explaining it, Nathan.

    Reply
  3. Mr. D

    When it coms to Twitter, I'm a hold out!

    Reply
  4. Annalee

    When you click on a hashtag or run a search on Twitter, it's nice not to see an entire timeline of the same tweet, retweeted ad infinitum. In that regard, I love the retweet button.

    That said, I'd really love it if they'd provide a way to add comments to RTs using the new button.

    Reply
  5. Kasie West

    I do both. Exactly like the ways you mentioned in your post. (If I want to add commentary vs. if I don't) Does this make me perfect? Just kidding. I do pretty much everything else on twitter badly.

    Reply
  6. Mira

    I'm not a Twitterer, but I'm sure those who are will benefit from this.

    I still can't fathom why Twitter makes itself so hard to understand?? What does that serve? How does it benefit Twitter to be so complex???

    I will share that as a non-Twitter person, this seemed like a foreign language. Any anthropologist worth their salt would have a field day with the whole Twitter thing.

    Reply
  7. Ellen Brickley

    I do both. I don't like to retweet without explaining why, so I use RT @Username quite a bit. But if something stands alone in its awesomeness, or it's obvious what I think of it, I use the button.

    I'm not much of a fan of the button. Twitter is meant to be about conversation and interaction and I feel the new button somewhat inhibits that.

    Reply
  8. Becky Taylor

    I like buttons. But like Annalee pointed out, sometimes I would like to be able to add a comment.

    Reply
  9. Kia Abdullah

    I use the old school way if I want to add my own comment or opinion to the original tweet, otherwise I use the button.

    Reply
  10. Kate Torok

    I do both. Like most folks, if I have something to add, I'll take the old school route. But the button is handy, especially when Tweeting from my phone.

    Reply
  11. Chuck

    I'm so old school, I'm still using old Twitter. I use RT/MT because knowing who retweeted something is as important to me as (maybe more important than) knowing who first tweeted it. Also, I sometimes tack on commentary or a hashtag to an RT, which you can't do with the button. I don't use trending topics, top tweets, Klout, or other features that might exploit the button RT, so I haven't felt compelled to support that sub-ecosystem by using the button. The one thing about the button that attracts me is that it enables you to retweet something without adding to the length of the original tweet.

    Reply
  12. Munk

    I think that in the not so distant future twitter will be so 2011, that learning its tweet/retweet/@/# mumbo-jumbo is like learning the Ubby-Dubby language from Zoom.

    Reply
  13. Phoenix Sullivan

    Ah! Enlightenment!

    I use one of the 3rd-party apps w/o the new option. One of my biggest complaints about Twitter has been seeing the same tweets retweeted ad infinitum when I follow the same folk who are being retweeted. The new option would certainly take away THAT annoyance factor and I might start thinking more kindly about the whole retweeting experience.

    But without context or commentary about WHY someone is retweeting, I have no reason to think the retweeter would be someone I want to follow. In fact, I usually think they're just brown-nosing if they're retweeting an industry pro's tweet. So I usually just ignore them.

    Reply
  14. Skipetty

    eh?

    Reply
  15. Stephanie McGee

    I use Tweetdeck so when it comes to retweeting, I just hit the little forward arrow. Sometimes I'll add something at the beginning, if the tweet isn't too long already. Otherwise I hit the button that says to just re-tweet without editing.

    Not sure how these sorts of tweets/re-tweets get calculated into trending topics. But then tweetdeck doesn't show you trending topics (unless you want, I think), so there is that bonus.

    Reply
  16. Anonymous

    You just have to be certain you don't RT too often. If you do, it looks like you don't have anything of your own to say and you can come off looking lame. I like the RT Button. I know there are people who really like to see that x amount of people retweeted them. Makes them feel good.

    Reply
  17. taniadakka

    I, erroneously, was using RT in front of retweets as a means including all of my followerers, as opposed to only the common followers between the original tweeter and I; a tip I picked up from your last Twitter help post. I was raked over the coals, ever so politely by the orginal tweeter. It's good that I am practicing thickening my skin for all those writer rejections, otherwise, I might bow out of the Twitter scene and cause a less angst for Tweeters. Thanks for the helpful info.

    Reply
  18. Josin L. McQuein

    The only problem with the retweet button is that you can't add anything to the message (like "Thanks" or similar). It all depends on what I want to do with the tweet.

    Reply
  19. Heidi

    I use the retweet button unless I want to add something to the conversation or comment on the tweet.

    Reply
  20. D.G. Hudson

    All this Twitter and Retweet information makes me think of Tweety Bird. Little did he know…

    The peculiarities of Twitter seem to keep growing. The twitter-verse, a form of living the Matrix idea. Always connected.

    Reply
  21. Ishta Mercurio

    Both, both, both I say!

    If I just want to basically photocopy a tweet and pas it on, I use the button. But sometimes I have something to say about the original tweet – maybe I think it's ironic, or maybe I have something funny to say about it, or whatever – in which case I add my two cents and do it old-school. That makes it into more of a conversation.

    Reply
  22. D.G. Hudson

    After reading Munk's comment, I have to say I would retweet that (if I was a Twitter bird)!

    Good comment Munk, like taking the same thoughts right out of my head.

    Reply
  23. Ishta Mercurio

    Mira, I thought Twitter was complicated until I tried it. It is deceptively simple.

    Reply
  24. Marsha Sigman

    Yeah, it's so five minutes ago.

    Wait. What were we talking about again?

    I'm going to use the new way from now on!

    Reply
  25. Ishta Mercurio

    Chuck's point about adding on hashtags is another reason I might do it old-school. I know more people might find it if there's a relevant hashtag on it, like #pubtip or #books or some such.

    Reply
  26. K. Marie Criddle

    Woohoo! I retweeted the favorable way! It's nice to be able to add your own little comment here and there, but the majority of my RT comes from the button. Great post, Nathan! (And thanks again for the link on Saturday!)

    Reply
  27. Mira

    Ishta,

    You may very well be right! But I trying to translate this post, and reading the comments, it's all sort of surreal, this Twitter language…

    Reply
  28. Jacqueline Windh

    I hate the retweet button! And I don't like when people retweet lots and barely say anything themselves – that's just like those email people who constantly are forwarding things without ever writing to you personally.

    I like the old RT (or") system because (1) I can add a comment or hashtag and (2) the RT shows up in the person's mentions list. You don't have to go elsewhere to find out if someone RT'd you.

    I really subscribe to the idea of Twitter being about personal communciation ("social" media) and not just forwarding stuff. So to me it is important to add something, even just a Yes! to the RT so that people know why you are RTing it (because you agree, or you disagree, or you think it is important scientific info, or you were moved when you read it…)

    Reply
  29. Anne R. Allen

    I use the button because it's easier. But I sure do appreciate an old fashioned RT with a comment added when somebody RTs me. So I've been feeling guilty. But now it turns out I'm upping the Klout of the tweeter, so I guess I'll just keep on buttoning and let go of the guilt.

    Reply
  30. Jennifer Marie Donahue

    I witnessed an ugly exchange on twitter the other day and it all started with the new way to retweet. Someone I follow tweeted about a promotional offer/opportunity (not something they were selling, just a heads up sort of thing – "one day only download this for $1"). Someone retweeted this the new way. A follower of that 2nd person, the retweeter, became UNGLUED and sent the original tweeter a message that was unkind and used vulgar language. When the original tweeter tried to apologize and explain about the retweet process the other person became more belligerent and hostile and then went so far as to report this person as spam. This incited a sort of twitter war – people sending the angry person tweets defending the original tweeter, other tweeting about all this "spam." Ugly.

    So, I usually use the new retweet, but this opened my eyes to how some people might not understand the process.

    Reply
  31. Ken Hoss

    Re-Tweet Button-er. Definitely. It's even easier using TweetDeck.

    Reply
  32. abc

    I use the retweet button, but mostly for reasons related to my laziness.

    Reply
  33. Cozy in Texas

    I'm new to Twitter so didn't have an opinion. Great post for those who arrived late to the Twitter party.
    Ann

    Reply
  34. Marilyn Peake

    I usually use the new way. I started using it early on because I found that adding RT @username often made the overall retweet more than 140 characters in length and Twitter won’t allow that. I also don’t mind at all when people I follow use the new method of retweeting, unless they do it so many times every day that I have trouble seeing tweets from the people I follow.

    As others have said, I wish there was a way to add a comment to a button retweeted the new way.

    Reply
  35. Marilyn Peake

    HaHaHa. I thought this appropriate … I looked for your tweet about your blog post today, then retweeted it using both the old and new methods.

    Reply
  36. Tiana Smith

    I use both forms of retweeting, for a couple reasons. One, I use Tweetdeck, so, the only retweets that show up in my "feed" are ones that have the old school method of RT at the beginning. On Tweetdeck, if someone retweets something the new way, I don't see it unless I log in to Twitter. But maybe this is something in my settings or something …

    Another reason the old school method works is because it's easier for that original poster to see that someone has mentioned them. When someone retweets what I have said using the new method, I have a hard time figuring out everyone who has mentioned it in order to thank them.

    I'll use the new retweet when I don't have anything unique to add, or when I don't care whether anyone using a third party application sees it or not.

    Reply
  37. Stephsco

    I had a twitter account since the early days but never used it until recently. It wasn't until I started following authors, publishing & news sites, oh, and also got a smart phone, that twitter clicked for me. If you're only following the same friends you have on facebook or who you see regularly in person, then yes, it doesn't seem very useful.

    Reply
  38. Anonymous

    I use RT when I want the person I'm RT'ing to see it in their @ mentions list (usually because I know the person; it's like waving hello), or if I'm adding to the tweet.

    Otherwise I use the button.

    If anyone else RTs me, I don't care which way they use. It's nice either way and I'm not about to yell at anyone for using one method over another. Honestly, I have bigger things to worry about.

    Reply
  39. KP

    Fun fact: if you use the Retweet button provided by Twitter, the retweet doesn't show up in lists managed by your followers. So, since I have you on a list of kids book folks, if I'm checking your feed there, all your Retweets will be lost to me.

    I'm not sure whey they do it that way either.

    Reply
  40. KSCollier

    I use both still. I agree with Erin Bowman. Happy Tweeting or is that Happy Twittering. Hehehe.

    Reply
  41. Amanda

    I use the new school version, BUT!!!

    There is always a, "but."

    I wish I had the option to add a comment to the RT. I'm sad the Twitter gods didn't consult me when in development of the new school RT button.

    Reply
  42. Matthew MacNish

    I've always used the button unless I had something to add to the Tweet, if there was room. I didn't realize there was an actual difference in how it worked, though.

    Reply
  43. CMSmith

    Thanks. That was helpful. I'm going to try to find it and retweet it.

    Reply
  44. Sandy Day

    I do both. If it's awesome, I retweet plus I RT: with my own comment – that way it gets posted twice!

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Your way is the simplest… I was gettin a headache reading all these posts!

      Reply
  45. M.L. Hamilton

    I have no blanket method, I have to go on a case-by-case basis.

    Here's the thing, I hate Facebook, but it's sort of essential to have it. So I push all my Tweets to Facebook. Often there's something I want to retweet that I'd like my Facebook friends as well as my Twitter followers to get. I don't currently know of a method to get retweets using the button to post over there (if someone has an app or something that will do it for me, by all means, share!). So in those instances, I use the old method.

    The other reason I might use the old method is the example you used in the article, when I want to add my own comment to it.

    Otherwise, I like the convenience of the button and the fact that it won't bug people in my feed who follow the same account by giving them duplicate tweets. One more benefit is being able to retweet longer tweets that I might have to otherwise edit down to include the RT @username within the 140 characters. Using the button retweets it exactly how it is so it always fits.

    Reply
  46. Anonymous

    On my twitter app I can use the retweet button and add a comment if I want so I only use the button.

    Reply
  47. Bill Robert

    Great examples that really helped to clearly explain the difference.

    Reply
  48. Herman

    I manual RT just out of preference. I had to it that way before the new retweet button was integrated & I still do it 'cause that's what I knew from the start. I tried the Retweet Button for a few months while still manual RT if I want to add a comment with it, but now I just manual RT & avoid using the RT Button. Only time I'd consider using the Button again is if the original tweet won't be able to fit in a manual RT.

    & I think it's silly for people to get wildly upset if you manual RT them, I assume they joined when the Button was already in place or their just way to concerned about a Klout score, smh.

    But to each his own.

    Reply
  49. Anonymous

    I really don't like someone who takes my tweet for themselves. I find it very rude and I unfollow or block those who do it. If you want to comment, reply, don't be a rude thief.

    Reply
  50. Anonymous

    I have a lot of followers. I have discovered that people who have a lot less followers with something to promote, cut & paste my tweets to further their own name, just to gain followers. They are looking to play the Twitter numbers game.

    I unfollow them, then block. My 10k followers never see you again. You lose.

    Reply

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