Does retweeting build community online? Twitter as a real social media platform?

RETWEET @josef (Experiment)
photo credit: Josef Dunne

Ah, the re-tweet (RT). That good ol’ friend. I would say “long time, no see” but truthfully, I can’t stay that. My stuff gets re-tweeted all the time, and I am extremely grateful for that. That people will think of my stuff relevant enough to share it with their own networks makes me happy. The way I have thought about retweets has evolved quite a lot, though. I am pretty sure that’s this evolution is result of the fact that my 5th year of blogging is soon over (April 2011) and that I have thought about this topic quite a lot.

In my two most recent speaking engagements in the field of social media (WordCamp Fraser Valley and the Canadian Public Relations Society Student Chapter in Vancouver Social Media 101), I indicated that one of the easiest, fastest and best ways to contribute to building your own community online was retweeting people’s stuff. I often do that, intermingling my own tweets (pre-scheduled, for the most part) with retweeting stuff from other individuals.

But the interesting thing is, not everybody thinks this way. The reason why I retweet what I read, mostly, is because either (a) I find it valuable (b) I agree with it and/or (c) I think there’s a reason to share it with my broader network. I retweet Translink’s stuff because my own online network is fairly large and well connected. I would (and probably will) do the same for the Vancouver Police Department (which is now on Twitter, and YouTube – and apparently Second Life?).

I look for ways to make my relationships bidirectional, and I think retweeting other people’s stuff is one way. But some folks might disagree with me. What is YOUR take on retweeting?

Related posts:

  1. Twitter is unfit to be an actual emergency and crisis communication platform
  2. My top 10 tips to build robust online communities from my Power Talk at Social Media Camp Victoria 2012 #SMCamp
  3. Growing an Online Community using Multiple Social Platforms (Power Session at Social Media Camp Victoria 2012)
  4. Build online relationships, promote others as you do yourself
  5. Retweeting, contests and social media etiquette

Comments (9)

Christopher ParsonsDecember 9th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I think that ReTweeting is probably best for supporting an existing community, or passively developing one. I *don’t* think that the RT is the same as actively developing a community or community ties; you do that by contributing and communicating original information/ideas. The RT might also be seen as a precursor to active community development, where if a large group of people start retweeting each others’ work they might discover that they ARE in some kind of community. This community is only identified, however, through subsequent active communications amongst the members of the passive/developing community.
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JordanaDecember 9th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I think you can do it and it will help attract attention and build community, but if that’s your only strategy, then you’ll fail. As per usual, everything in moderation right? You have to employ all the strategies in your belt to truly succeed.

Peter (@polarisdotca)December 9th, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I feel like I belong to three different twitter communities. There is some overlap of people, of course, but not that much. If I *do* RT, it’s almost always comment+RT to introduce a tweet from one community to another. As in, “hmm, I bet my #YVR community might be interested in this #spacetweep story.”

KCDecember 9th, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I find that doing the old re-tweet + adding a bit of commentary can help in building a community. That’s because the old re-tweet can facilitate discussion.

When people use the new re-tweet, I oftentimes miss it and any chance of having further discussion stops there.

Old RT without the commentary can also be useful in just indicating that you agree with people.

So, does retweeting build community online? I think it depends on whether it makes Twitter more “social” – i.e. does it result to further engagement and conversations?

Chris (@lyteforce)December 10th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I think the RT is only as effective as the person who passes on the tweet itself. Without any context, that’s all the next person who views it uses to judge whether or not they read it. Sufficient to say, the more powerful the person’s voice is, the more likely it’s noticed.

Sometimes I wonder if I don’t dilute my own message (not that I really have a consistent message) by RT’ing to my hearts content, but I don’t ever see myself stopping – I like to share and it’s the easiest and quickest way to do so.

Stasia (@NADATODO)December 12th, 2010 at 9:04 am

I think RTing is beneficial…so long as it benefits your audience in some way, or you like it. No rules apply! (Well, no spam would be nice.)

Dianne ChowDecember 12th, 2010 at 11:25 am

I started my Twitter to basically find content for my blog, but as time developed I started to get followers through my blog so I started retweeting. But having a blog that featured events/sales that I don’t find by retweeting gives me more validation. As a result, when I do go to events and give my business card with my twitter and after people check out my twitter, it is resulting in some wonderful business opportunities. Yes, retweeting is good because you are willing to share relevant information but interacting with conversation and posting your original content is what creates a strong social media presence for you.

RaulDecember 16th, 2010 at 8:49 am

Thanks all for chiming in. I think you all have valid points, the most important I think is that RT’ing should be adding value to your community, and that’s how you slowly build it. But it appears the new RT is damaging the community building because it doesn’t allow people to see who is retweeting them. Time for Twitter to fix that, maybe?

JordanaDecember 16th, 2010 at 9:20 am

Definitely! Twitter just cut out one of the social aspects of their community in the name of what, convenience? Whoever thought of that idea was not really thinking. Perhaps the majority of users who use RT don’t add any comment, but that hardly justifies making the option to those who do harder.
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