Retweet Definition: What Retweets Are and How to Use Them

A Guide to (Properly) Using Retweets on Twitter

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If you're new to Twitter, or to Twitter sweepstakes, you might be wondering what a "retweet" is. Like a lot of Twitter jargon, it's a strange-sounding term that may be confusing at first. But don't worry, soon you'll be using it like a pro.

Definition of Retweeting

A retweet is when you republish a post that another Twitter user has written. It is a way of amplifying the signal so more people hear the original message. It's easy to remember the term "retweet" since it sounds a lot like "repeat." A retweet can be abbreviated as "RT." 

Etiquette: When and Why to Retweet

You might want to retweet a political statement you agree with, a tip you think your followers might need, or a link to an interesting article.

If you see a tweet that ends with "Please RT," the poster is asking you to share the post with your friends and followers. You should only do it, though, if you think the post would be of sincere interest to the people who follow your Twitter account.

You also might want to retweet something you disagree with along with your own opinion on the subject.

Retweeting can benefit your followers and also help build a relationship with the original poster, who easily can see who has retweeted him or her. That poster may be more likely to retweet your posts in the future, exposing your writing to a broader audience. People who post and repost effectively can build a following of millions of people.

Examples of posts people tend to retweet include links to helpful articles, funny or inspiring tweets, sweepstakes announcements, and breaking news. Twitter also lets you add commentary when you are retweeting, which allows you to give your retweets a personal touch. After all, your followers also want to hear what you have to say.

Retweeting causes a ripple effect. When your friends retweet your retweets, and their friends do the same, and their friends, and so on ... well, it can help a worthy post be seen around the world in a very short amount of time.

However, be selective about what you retweet. Sharing everything you read can quickly become overwhelming for your followers. Think about what your audience really wants to read before you share a post.

How to Retweet

To manually retweet another writer's post, use the abbreviation RT followed by the original poster's name and message. For example, "RT @TwitterUser" would indicate you are sharing information originally posted by @TwitterUser. To manually retweet, copy the text you want to share, and post it with this format:

RT @twitteruser text of the original message.

Twitter, and most clients like Tweetdeck, make it even easier to share an interesting post by putting a retweet icon underneath each tweet. Usually, this icon looks like two arrows forming a square.

If you click on this icon, it will set up the retweet for you, with the content of the original post, the poster's Twitter handle, and the RT abbreviation.

When you retweet, you have the option to add your own comments. Twitter has changed its system so your comments no longer have to fit in the 140-character limit for a Tweet, so you have some additional room to speak your mind.

Retweeting to Enter Sweepstakes

Retweeting is an integral part of many Twitter contests. In fact, you can enter many Twitter sweepstakes with no more effort than a simple retweet. For example:

"We're giving away 25 fun prize packs! Follow and retweet this post to enter ABC's #SuperSweepstakes before 6/25 for your chance to win!"

Many sweepstakes also award bonus entries for retweeting their posts. Retweet-to-win sweepstakes often track entries using hashtags.

Twitter's Spam Policy

In the past, Twitter has had problems with sweepstakes retweets clogging its service. For example, a Moonfruit contest that nearly broke Twitter is an example of how sweepstakes RTs can go wrong.

In order to prevent this, Twitter has specific rules governing sweepstakes in general and retweeting in particular.

Twitter's guidelines state:

"Posting duplicate, or near duplicate, updates or links is a violation of the Twitter Rules and jeopardizes search quality. Please don’t set rules to encourage lots of duplicate updates (like saying, 'whoever retweets this the most wins'). Your contest or sweepstakes could cause users to be automatically filtered out of Twitter search."

For this reason, many sweepstakes encourage entrants to come up with their own unique posts to enter. Retweeting sweepstakes posts occasionally should be fine, but don't do it too often.