The ‘Lists’ feature that twitter recently launched got a widespread approval from the twitter community but its new ‘Retweet’ (RT) feature, still in the beta stage, is facing some stiff resistance. The bone of contention for most tweeps, including myself, is that Twitter won’t let you edit your retweets and actually forces you to retweet a message in its original form. Even though users will be allowed to manually retweet as they used to earlier, one is compelled to examine twitter’s intention behind this development.
While a RT is definitely an appreciation of good content it is also an acknowledgment of tweeps who find and share good content. More often than not it is a relationship building tool and a valuable way of discussing the tweet being shared. Any attempt to make the retweet predominantly content focused is going to remove the very important social element from the retweets. I understand that twitter is taking its mission of becoming a leading content search provider very seriously, but it should maintain the fine balance between content and social networking.
From how I see it, Twitter gave us 140 characters to express ourself and the freedom to do so as we deem fit. The fabulous twitter community took what was provided to them (a very simple communication platform) and made twitter what it is today (a leading social networking platoform with great viral potential). Now twitter can’t stake exclusive claim to the platform because it belongs to the tweeters as much as it does to the twitter team. They shouldn’t forget that every feature being used on twitter was organically developed by the twitter community and they deserve to be consulted before making any changes to it.
Ideally, twitter should have come up with a variant of RT and called it DRT (for Direct RT). This would have achieved both the objectives — providing a feature that will help it in the long run, and also giving tweeps a choice to retweet either the content or the tweeter they admire. I wish the third party app providers don’t make the same mistake and retain the RT as it exists right now, and provide the twitter retweet as an additional feature.
Ever since I joined twitter in Feb’2009, I have evolved a way of retweeting that I consider most logical and reader friendly, and one which has the highest chance of being noticed and getting retweeted further. The components of an ideal retweet, according to me, should be as follows:
Topic [Source — @Author] | Link | RT @twitter-users <comment>
An example of a retweet based on the above format is:
1. Topic — It is usually the heading of the article that is being tweeted (posted) but sometimes the user can create their own headline. To make any tweet interesting it is most important that the headline is shown upfront.
2. ( ) — Round brackets are often used to attribute the tweet to a source or its author.
3. Source — It is the website or the source of the information. I have noticed if the source is usually credible more people click on the links and chances of getting retweeted is higher.
4. Author — This is not required unless the author is a well known twitter user and by giving his name you achieve the puspose as mentioned in point 2. One of the two (source or author) is usually enough.
5. | — Use the vertical line ‘|’ as a separator between the different components of a tweet
6. Link - The link leads the user to the actual article.
7. RT — Short form of retweet which shows that the tweet originated elsewhere and you are only reposting it.
8. Twitter Users - The originator of the tweet comes first followed by those who retweeted it.
9. : or < > — Add a comment either to the person who you are retweeting with a ‘:’ followed by your message or generally give your comment within < >. That way it becomes very clear if your comment is directed to the person you are retweeting or is a general comment to all.
Conclusion: With the pressure that Twitter team is facing from media and experts on twitter’s revenue model, it is quite obvious that users can expect to see business-driven changes in the time to come. Needless to say, that is what will help twitter sustain and grow. But having said that, my appeal to twitter is to retain its character of a community-owned social networking platform. That is what makes it different from its competition. Don’t just thrust changes down our throat, try to also understand why we do what we do.