Twitter Crash Course: How to “Retweet” Like a Pro

What is a “retweet”or “retweeting”?

Have you ever received an interesting email and forwarded it to your friends?  You know, like a funny joke or a breaking news item that you thought would be of interest to your friends so you hit the “forward” button on your email client to pass that message on. That’s kind of what “retweeting” is except in this case it applies to Twitter messages rather than an email.

With an email message, your friends can see who wrote the original email in the email headers. However, on Twitter, you need to add the following text immediately preceding the repeated message: “RT @username” to denote who you received the original Twitter message from.

You can use “RT” or “Retweet” to let your friends know that the message is a retweet. The “@username” is the Twitter ID of the originator of the message.

Here’s what a retweet will look like (I’m using Thwirl as my Twitter client):

retweet example

Why Bother to Retweet?

Retweeting interesting messages has many benefits for both the person being “retweeted”, the person doing the “retweeting” and the Twitter community as a whole.

The benefits to the person being “retweeted” are as follows:

  1. The original message will be passed on to a different circle of friends that would otherwise not see that message at all.
  2. Because the username of the originator is being passed on in the form of the “@username” attribute, that person may gain new followers as a result of people being interested in the type of message being forwarded.

These benefits are obvious, but what are the benefits of the person doing the “retweet”?

  1. Increase your profile. By retweeting, you demonstrate that you know how to retweet and that you are a more advanced Twitter user to your followers. This will help you retain your followers who may think of you more highly than someone that merely posts meandering Tweets about mundane things. (Like when you brush your teeth for example!).
  2. Build goodwill with your followers. If you retweet good content, you spread goodwill to your followers who appreciate receiving useful news or content. Again, this increases the retention of your followers.
  3. Build goodwill with the originator. Every time you retweet, the originator is notified of your message. Meaning, the person being retweeted will get the message in their “@ replies” inbox. This will increase the chances of the originator following you (if they are not already following you) or they may very well return the favor and retweet some of your more interesting tweets!

What are the benefits to the entire Twitter community?

Well, when the majority of Twitter users are accustomed to “retweeting” important news items to a point where news is spread very quickly from the original source to the entire Twitter community, then Twitter could possibly supersede regular news channels.

Think of a flock of sparrows or a school of fish. When the first sparrow or fish senses danger and reacts, the entire flock or school reacts as well. The message or news is spread very quickly making the entire flock or school better than any single sparrow or fish.

How to Retweet?

If you are using, retweeting involves copying the original message, pasting it in a new Twitter message, then adding the “RT @username” before the original message.

Most “pro” level Twitter users, use dedicated Twitter applications like Twhirl or TwitterFon on their mobile device to access their Twitter account. Most of these services have a “retweet” button that automatically adds the “RT @username” prefix to the message.

Here’s three simple steps to “retweet” using TwitterFon:

Step 1:

retweet twitter tutorial

Step 2:

retweet twitter tutorial

Step 3:

retweet twitter tutorial

How to Increase Your Probability of Being Retweeted?

If you want to make it easy for your followers to retweet your messages, you need to remember something very important. Twitter only allows 140 characters. Therefore, the message that you want retweeted needs to be shorter than:

140 – (Username Characters + 5)
(the 5 characters is for the “@” the “:” and spaces)

If your message has more characters than the number above, when your follower tries to “retweet” you message, they will be over the character limit and therefore will not be able to retweet your message without editing it (which they probably won’t bother to do).

So some simple rules here if you want your message to be “retweeted” are:

  1. Keep your tweet short. Use the formula above to find your character limit
  2. Make it useful, unique and relevant
  3. “Retweet” often yourself

When to Retweet?

There’s no rulebook for this. You just need to have a general feel for what your followers want.

Personally, I feel that you should only “retweet”:

  • time-sensitive, breaking-news-type of messages,
  • links to useful resources that can add value to your followers, or
  • very entertaining messages that are either funny or insightful quotes.

Like I said, there’s no hard and fast rule for this. Just make sure you do not “retweet” too many times in a short space of time. This applies to normal “tweets” as well.
I get pretty annoyed when someone tweets too often. They appear to be “conversation hogs” to me because we all get a 140-character limit and excessive tweeting feels as though the person is trying to monopolize my conversation.


Retweeting is a good thing. Its good for you and for the whole Twitter community. If you are already accustomed to “retweeting”, good on you! If not, there’s no better time to start than right now. Why not retweet this message to spread the word about retweeting? ;)

Retweet this:

RT @brianwong: Twitter Crash Course on How to Retweet Like a Pro


brian-youtube.jpg Follow Me On Twitter

What’s Next?

How about automating your Twitter account?

Try this software: TweetAdder


Great news! The developer of TweetAdder software offered a 20% discount code for my blog readers. Just go to TweetAdder and enter the code “BRI20” while checking out to enjoy the 20% discount. This is a very limited time code so grab it quick before it expires! :)


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10 thoughts on “Twitter Crash Course: How to “Retweet” Like a Pro

  1. jon

    Great summary Brian. Did you know that when the airplane went down in the Hudson River, New York it was tweeted in MINUTES? It took 1.5 hours for it to be listed on Google search. (even though the news was posted at the same time)

  2. Brian Wong Post author

    Twitter does have a lot of potential. I guess that’s why they turned down the offer from FaceBook to buy them at $500million.

    During the Mumbai terrorist attack, if you searched #mumbai on Twitter, you would get a minute by minute report from Twitter users on the ground in India. Totally different perspective from regular news channels. Amazing!

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  5. Jay Ludke

    Easy, summary. If you use “Retweet” link under someone’s existing Tweet, can you add your own intro. comment … or does it just post the message? For example if someone is Tweeting a URL?

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