What Retweets Are and How to Use Them

A Guide to (Properly) Using Retweets on Twitter

 CC0 Creative Commons/Pixabay

If you're new to Twitter in general or to Twitter sweepstakes in particular, you might wonder what a retweet is. Like a lot of Twitter jargon, it's a strange-sounding term that's confusing at first. But don't worry, retweets are super easy once you get the hang of them!

What a Retweet Is

Before you learn how to retweet, you should first know the definition of the term. A retweet is a post that has been written by one Twitter user and republished by another. Retweeting is the act of sharing another Twitter user's posts.

It's easy to remember the term "retweet" since it sounds a lot like "repeat." You are repeating what the other user wrote. You can abbreviate the term "retweet" as "RT."

You can use the term as a noun:

Retweets are a form of applause for a Twitter user.

Or as a verb:

John's off-the-cuff post has been retweeted more than ten million times.

Many Twitter users retweet posts that they find funny, interesting, or provocative. It is a way of amplifying the signal so more people hear the original message. You'll read more about the etiquette of retweeting below.

How to Retweet

To manually retweet another writer's post, write a post that uses the abbreviation RT followed by the original poster's name and message, like this:

RT @twitteruser I love Game of Thrones!

This indicates you are sharing the message "I love Game of Thrones," which was originally posted by @TwitterUser.

But you don't have to retweet manually; Twitter and most Twitter clients, like Tweetdeck, make it even easier to share an interesting post by using the retweet icon underneath each tweet. This icon looks like two arrows forming a square.

Tweet with the "Retweet" icon highlighted in yellow
Tweet with the "Retweet" icon highlighted.

Image (c) Sandra Grauschopf

If you click this icon, it will create the retweet for you including 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. This gives you the opportunity to share your own thoughts along with the information you're sharing.

Twitter doesn't count the content of the retweet toward the 140-character limit, so you have some additional room to speak your mind.

Retweet Etiquette: When and Why to Retweet

There are many good reasons to retweet a post. Here are some examples:

  • Retweet a political statement you agree with so more people read it.
  • Share a helpful tip with your friends.
  • Link to an interesting article you think your followers would like to read.
  • Retweet a sweepstakes post to enter to win.
  • Retweet something you disagree with along with your counterargument.

Retweeting can benefit your followers and also help build a relationship with the original poster. A person you retweeted is 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.

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 make a post visible around the world in a very short amount of time.

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, however, if you think the post would be sincerely interesting to the people who follow your Twitter account.

Sharing everything you read can be overwhelming or irritating for your followers. Think about what your audience really wants to read before you share a post.

Retweeting to Enter Sweepstakes

Retweeting is a part of many Twitter contests. In fact, you can often enter with just 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 usually use hashtags to track entries.

Twitter's Spam Policy

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

To prevent this, Twitter has specific rules governing sweepstakes. Here's what they say about retweeting:

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 (e.g., “whoever Retweets this the most wins”). Your contest or sweepstakes could cause people to be automatically filtered out of Twitter search. We recommend setting clear contest rules stating that multiple entries in a single day will not be accepted.

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.