How to get ReTweeted – The Formula

louise-doherty.jpgIn this post Louise Doherty (@louisedoherty) shares a formula to help you increase the chances of being ReTweeted.

Being ‘retweeted’, the word to describe when one of your followers re-post one of your tweets, is a useful way of reaching a greater portion of the Twittersphere than you might otherwise be capable of reaching on your own.

Retweeted posts are generally indicated by adding ‘RT @username’ in front of the original tweet.

You might want to reach a wider audience for a number of reasons:

  • To ask a question, perhaps for help or opinion (crowdsourcing)
  • To share something prolific, amusing or newsworthy
  • To promote something (an event, blog post or product)
  • To interact with new people on Twitter (many of my new followers are as a result of being retweeted)

Unfortunately, without explicitly asking to be retweeted (which in my opinion always looks a bit desperate) you can’t physically make people retweet you. But I’ve discovered it is possible to increase your chances of being retweeted.

As part of my job as an in house PR at Fubra, who own HousePriceCrash.co.uk, OurProperty.co.uk and PetrolPrices.com, I created @housepricecrash, @ourproperty and @ukpetrolprices, and in running three Twitter accounts I noticed a common theme in retweeted tweets.

I’ve condensed my observations into a formula:

<140 – (username + 5) x interestingness = probability of RT

Ok, so it’s not totally mathematical – I do words not numbers – but it basically means that to increase your chances of being retweeted you only need to do two things:

  1. Keep your tweet short - All tweets must be less than 140 characters, but to be retweeted you need to allow space for an ‘@’ symbol, your username, the letters ‘RT’, and 2 spaces (one after RT and one after your username).
  2. Say something interesting – No one will retweet you just because they can, you also need to have something interesting to say! People should actively want to pass it on, because they’ve found it funny, informative or useful.

Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, is the best example of this in action. The majority of his tweets are under 127 characters (the maximum length he can tweet to enable people to retweet him, given the length of his username) and he tweets about ‘all that’s new on the web’ – a subject the technologically enlightened Twittersphere clearly finds interesting. He’s retweeted several hundred times a day, as you can see from Retweetist.com – a site which ranks Twitter users based on the number of times they are retweeted.

There are of course other factors at play (the time you tweet, the number of followers you have, how much your followers respect or like you, to name a few) but by sticking to the formula above you will almost certainly increase your chances of being retweeted.

Try it out – and if you find this post useful feel free to retweet it!

Comments

  • February 18, 2009

    Thanks, that was interesting.

    I find that my most retweeted tweets are links to interesting content. I also find myself retweeting a good cause I want to help support.

    Regarding length, it may matter, but if the message is really that good, I will take the time to edit it to keep it under 140 chars.

  • February 18, 2009

    Are we seeing a fanatical interst in RT over quality content in the same way peole are writing blog posts to reach the front page of Digg & co.?

    Tweets crafted for retweet make an already diffiuclty communication medium more difficult IMHO.

  • February 18, 2009

    Interesting post!

  • February 18, 2009

    Pete Cashmore has over 98,000 followers but greedily chooses to only follow a small percentage of them back–which makes him unfollowable in my book. The only reason people retweet anything he says is because they are kissing up to him like a horde of mindless sheep.

    He actually followed me and dozens of other people I know. As soon as they followed him back, he unfollowed them! That’s how he operates. He follows hundreds of new people and waits a few days–then unfollows them. That is low down arrogant greed.

  • February 18, 2009
    richrecruiter
    @richrecruiter

    I’m not a fan of retweets. For me, nothing is more annoying than a deluge of RT’s in my stream.

    In moderation it’s ok, if there is something particularly newsworthy. But too many people (mostly Tweetdeck users I’ve found) abuse the retweet function and repeat barely interesting stuff. I don’t mind stuff that’s barely interesting, but at least make it your own rather than simply recycling someone’s else’s words.

    My new rule is if I catch someone with 3 consecutive retweets, I unfollow them. My thinking is if you’ve retweeted 3 times in a row you are doing in mindlessly – without any original thought of your own.

  • February 18, 2009

    Love the formula – nice way of breaking it down.

  • February 18, 2009

    How about not worrying whether you’re reTweeted or not and simply concentrate on quality connections instead?

    This is reminiscent of the post about Kevin Rose’s tips for Twitter users to get more followers. Yes, all well and good when you already have a huge database to purge from (Digg) but less realistic for *normal* users.

    Same goes for Pete Cashmore. He’s going to have a lot of reTweets purely from the number followers because of the Mashable connection. He could probably tweet about farts and it’s be #1 on reTweetist.

    There seems to be too many of these *guides* around at the minute – whatever happened to plain, good old honest conversation? If you have something worth sharing, it’ll be shared – you don’t need to (nor should you) force the issue.

  • February 18, 2009

    Thanks for reminding folks about length. There are times when I would otherwise retweet, but I know that I have to do some heavy editing of the tweet in order to fit the 140 rule. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to do without losing the “flavor” of the tweet.

    George

  • February 18, 2009

    Had an RT today, I just checked Retweetist and see it is my third. I regularly RT funny or useful updates. I shorten them if I have to make them fit, and I add my own comment if they are short ones.

  • February 18, 2009

    Great formula “140 – (username + 5) x interestingness = probability of RT” , this seems to hit right on the nail when tweeting.

  • February 18, 2009

    Great post.

    The key is to also focus on building relationships on Twitter through content, RT and reciprocation.

    120 is the new 140! http://bit.ly/3pYFYo

  • February 18, 2009
    EgOiStE
    @egoistetx

    I completely agree with the “please retweet” requests. Mashable is one of my favorite blogs and twits but that’s my one main pet peeve.
    I think your detractors are missing the point of your article here. The assumption is that everyone on twitter just wants to chat. There are also PR/marketing/News/ etc twits out there whose main function is to get information out, not tweet back and forth, per se.

  • February 18, 2009

    Absolutely spot on with the formula, I hadn’t considered the reduced tweet to allow for the retweet…now I just got to find something retweetable to tweet :)

  • February 18, 2009

    You’re on the right track with your formula but for it to be anywhere near accurate it has to take into account the number of followers a person has (and therefore their audience size). The more popular twitter users are going to get retweeted more often despite not always having something interesting to say.

  • February 18, 2009

    @EgOiStE I’m one of these “PR/marketing” twits and I see Twitter as a communication tool But it’s both ways – I can learn about the target audience of my clients by engaging them. If I just wanted to “get information out”, I’d set up an RSS feed like Techcrunch…

  • February 18, 2009

    Excellent post. Sometimes I forget to leave space to be RTed but I’ll keep it in mind from now on. I wish others would also, as often there is not space for me to RT some fantastic Tweets!

  • February 18, 2009

    My current thinking on the rt is:

    Not everyone who follows you, follows everyone you follow. So when you rt, it’s cool because it takes that update that perked you’re interest to a wider audience.

    They are cool for meme watching. That is, it’s pretty easy to notice something trending if you see a heap of RTs going down on an update.

    As for the formula, it’s pretty interesting approach in terms of concept but would also suggest checking out http://danzarrella.com/as it looks like he’s doing some of the maths.

  • February 18, 2009

    This post is interesting, and this is how I “retweet” it. Benefit works in both ways: we give benefit, people retweet :D

  • February 18, 2009

    It never even occurred to me that the size of my user id would effect my experience on twitter, but now I’m starting to wonder if I didn’t pick a crappy id! ;-)

  • February 18, 2009

    I really like your formula: 140 – (username + 5) x interestingness
    Some guys just tweet, although that is very interesting, but there’s no room to place “RT” and I am likely to be so lazy to retweet that.

  • February 18, 2009

    Based on the list of most retweeted list, the real secret is to have a ton of followers, post links and don’t bother talking to people.

  • February 19, 2009

    I love your mathematical formula! And it looks like Brian Solis’ comment is right on –
    120 is the new 140! LOL

  • February 19, 2009

    A very concise explanation of how to get RTed. It’s easy to misunderstand the importance of RTs, but especially when you’re just starting out on Twitter (and don’t have thousands of followers), this can be a good way to reach a wide audience quickly.

    I also agree that asking for a RT is not a good strategy – kind of like emailing a website owner and asking for a front page link. It’s not likely to be successful very often, and it’s going to alienate people in the process.

    Essentially, RTs should be seen as a gift, not an obligation.

  • February 19, 2009

    Great good what to see how good you are in twitter becuase if you have alot of RT its becuase people love what you write and what you say.

  • February 20, 2009

    Cool, many things to learn, thank you:)

  • February 20, 2009

    Great post! It’s all about being social, helping each other out, and lending a hand. The law of attraction takes care of the rest. Why be selfish???? :)

    Chris

  • February 20, 2009
    obvious olly

    “tweet something great & you’ll get retweeted.” … ok. Thanks for that news alert.

    Obvious Olly

  • February 20, 2009

    amazed how many people knocked this post when the principle is so true.

    I know if I see a good tweet from someone and they’ve used all 140 characters that it can be frustrating to have to change their tweet in some way to retweet it. Might not sound like a big hassle (and it isn’t) but there have been numerous times when I’ve simply passed up the opportunity to retweet something because I was going to have to change the tweet to do it.

    Nice work Louise

  • February 20, 2009

    - Darren. I don’t think it’s so much *knocking* the post – it’s more the idea of almost deliberately *designing* a tweet just for the sake of getting it re-tweeted. If twitter is all about the conversation, then a natural flow of that will be RT’s from people that enjoyed what you have to say.

    Offering a “formula” to retweeting kind of takes away that flow, which then takes away the experience a little bit. Forced conversation would just appear a little stilted.

    But hey, we all have different opinions, right? :)

  • February 21, 2009

    Excellent article. If I may add another piece of empirical wisdom as a researcher:

    Tweets sent between 9 and 10 AM EST are the most likely to be retweeted, as are ones sent on Monday or Thursday. Most importantly, the “magic work” seems to be working its magic – there’s overwhelming evidence tweets that contain some iteration of “please” get retweeted at far greater rates.

    Also worth checking out: The retweetability index – here’s Chris Anderson’s as an example.

  • February 21, 2009

    I am new to twitter and appreciate the how-to tips. I would like to follow you but not sure how to do that. I have accepted followers when I get an email but not sure how to do anything else except update. Thanks a million.

  • February 21, 2009

    I just clicked your @username to see what would happen and there was the follow button. I just needed a little time to think about it. I will consider the retweet business when I have more time.

  • February 22, 2009

    I have not been seeking to be retweeted, because personally I think when it happens to me it’s some kind of cosmic accident.

    Until this weekend. A few days ago, there was an incident where a college kid was roughed up by police after Ann Coulter finished a lecture on his campus – he says because he wanted to ask her a question.

    I know that’s never the whole story. But I thought it was worth letting the Twitter world know. And I asked for RTs, which as I said I seldom do. And after this, I probably never will again. Nobody was interested. Nobody. People will instead say what they’re having for dinner, or will talk about downloading Wil Wheaton’s book, etc. etc.

    What this means is that to be retweeted involves variables not accounted for in the formula above. People actually have to be willing to get outside of their own heads and disseminate information. Many, many people on Twitter are – including some of the (justly) best-loved. But not all. And I’m pretty sure not most.

  • February 22, 2009
    BT

    It doesn’t take a (so obvious) formula and ‘top ten tips on…’ to get RT’s! You should primarily ask yourself what is the purpose of getting RT’s and if you have anything interesting to say I’m sure it will happen on its own accord.

    There are simply too many of these not-so-useful lists out there taking up my time.

  • February 22, 2009

    “Brevity is the soul of wit” – I had never composed my retweets before with the intent on getting a “retweet” – but I do notice that the likelihood of my retweeting is increased if I don’t have to edit excessively.

    I’ve found that my blog posts are MUCH more likely to get tweeted if they’re slightly shocking and/or racy. I wonder if the same holds true of Retweets?

  • February 22, 2009

    I am soooo glad I found your article and learned not to make my tweets too long, being new to Twitter, I was not aware of the RT length issue. Thanks a bunch!

  • February 26, 2009

    I don’t mind ReTweets at all – it’s entirely likely I missed the initial Tweet! And I certainly appreciate the few times (more, please!) I’ve been RTd. But I do have a bit of a tough time limiting my Tweets to less than 140 chars. I’m VERY often bumping past that limit and having to trim & tweak to just get under.

  • March 3, 2009

    I think commenting on the tweet, like,
    “RT @name: 5 Tips for Bloggers (link) – Good tips for all bloggers, especially beginners.
    would increase the chance of it being retweeted.

    But you have to keep it short, though.

  • March 5, 2009

    Not a very mathematical equation but I really like it, it says exactly what you mean, and it’s an excellent launch pad for those who are maths geeks. Well done to the words lady :)

  • March 6, 2009

    LOVE the formula… so true.

  • March 7, 2009

    Great topic and one that I’m expanding on myself today where I’ll be discussing the Scrubbing of Retweets for maximum domain brand exposure. One topic this week caused quite an eye opening…

    TinyURL Conversion on Twitter – Stop the Conversions
    http://www.SEOConsultants.com/uris/conversion/

  • April 24, 2009

    I really like the short tweet part, this is so obvious that I missed it. Is there a way to see if a post (my post) gets retweetet? And how many times it has been retweeted?

  • July 26, 2009

    Just got retweeted. Trying to figure out who did it . . .

  • September 28, 2009

    Thtat’s probably the best twitter tip I have come across ever. I tweet my own cartoons, but when I automated it, it would fill up all 140 characters; so basically impossible to re-tweet!

    You are pretty good looking too :-)

  • October 11, 2009

    I find it very helpful to add PLS RT THIS at the end of something I want retweeted. People who have 20k or mor e followers make it habit to keep it short and sweet but interesting. Asking for a RT is just plain commen sense. For savvy internet marketers you must tell the prospect or tweeter what to do. Since you do not have that face to face interaction. It also polite to just say please and return the favor to those who don’t mind. Also remember to keep it interesting. Happy tweeting.

  • December 31, 2009

    So basically, if I have this correct, the key is to a) tweet something tremendously interesting that many people would like to read or b) ask to be retweeted. Interesting. I never would have thought of that.

    Oh and keep it short. I think we’re onto something here.

  • March 28, 2010

    I see many people using Twitter as a chat room, I don’t care, sometimes they are funny to watch. But I use Twitter for networking, to promote my murder novels, all 8 of them, so to be retweeted gets my info out to many more and I get more followers that way also. It can be annoying to see frequent retweets but unless you are on Twitter all day you only see them occasionally. I do have new friends now that I chat with also, I used to live on IRC chat, but I don’t abuse Twitter for mindless twits. I now see the benefit of the 120 rule, I will remember this, thanks.

  • May 1, 2010

    Now I get the reason some of my tweets are retweeted while other are not. I will from now post short tweets that contain my best blog content.

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