My Twitter Retweeting Policy

This is another one of my “write to refer people to later” posts.

Because I have a fair number of Twitter followers, I am often asked to retweet posts, many relating to charities, fundraising events, petitions, Kickstarters, etc. So here is my general policy on that sort of retweeting, and other things you have to know. This is specifically aimed at Twitter, but also works with other social media.

1. I don’t do a lot of solicited retweeting of any sort, so that’s a baseline fact you work within.

2. I am rather more likely to grant a retweet request, particularly one involving a charity, Kickstarter or otherwise involving money, if it’s from someone I already know. If you are a person I don’t know, and from my point of view you’ve randomly popped up asking for a retweet, your chances are not hugely good. Please note that following me on Twitter does not mean I know you, even if I’ve responded to you at one point or another.

3. Part of the reason for this is that I don’t just retweet blindly. When I’m retweeting something, particularly relating to charity/fundraising, the message now comes from me as well as from you (that’s why you sent it to me, after all — to take advantage of my notability with my Twitter followers). That means I need to check out the thing and decide whether you’re legitimate or some sort of scam. This takes at least a little bit of time. Sometimes I don’t have time. And by “sometimes” I mean “often.”

4. My “replies” queue moves quickly, partly because people often respond to things I write, and partly because people talk about me (and put the “@” sign in front of my name) on Twitter. I am not always watching my Twitter feed; I turn it off when I’m doing work or when I otherwise don’t want to be distracted by it. I don’t always scroll down to see what I’ve missed. There is an excellent chance I will not see your retweet request.

5. Point four, incidentally, is not an invitation to pester me on a repeated basis for a retweet, until I give you one. Repeated pesterings for retweets is far more likely to encourage me to mute or block your account, particularly if from my point of view you’re someone I don’t know asking me to help you do something I have little knowledge of.

6. In a general sense, with me and probably with anyone else that you want retweets from, you should probably assume that the same factors that encouraged you to ask for a retweet are also what recommend us to others hoping for retweets, and thus we get a lot of retweet requests, and can’t fulfill all of the requests without taking a non-trivial chunk of time out of our day, or annoying our Twitter followers with incessant retweets asking for money (or whatever). Please remember that we and our Twitter presences don’t exist for the sole purpose of being a conduit for retweets.

7. Likewise, if I or anyone else does not retweet your request, before you file us over into the “dick” column, keep all the above in mind. Also keep in mind that when you asked for a retweet, you’ve asked for a favor. A favor is not a thing for which you should have an expectation. If you do have an expectation, and are thereby offended when that expectation is not met, then you probably need to reassess. I will not feel bound by your expectation, and if you feel I should be, I can pretty much guarantee I will disappoint you.


26 Comments on “My Twitter Retweeting Policy”

  1. Before anyone asks, yes, if you find this retweeting policy mirrors your own thoughts on the matter, feel free to link to it or repost it (with the latter, please include credit and a link back to the original).

  2. I personally would feel weird and awkward asking somebody I don’t know to RT something for me just because they have a bigger follower list than I do. Heck, I feel weird and awkward just adding a little “please RT!” on my OWN tweets in the hopes that one of my hundred or so followers might do so.

  3. I usually just evaluate the number and quality of retweets and then turn retweets off if they reach the annoying level.

  4. Picture a xkcd comic with JS looking fierce while the stick figure runs away yelling “Retweet!”

  5. I’m with Sheila and heck, I at least have some tiny connection having commented here fairly regularly. I guess I’s rather build my own following and encourage them to retweet things (and build a following that values what I do so that they’re likely to. I can see asking you to RT something if I know it’s also an interest of yours, but otherwise the practice just strikes me as an odd one.

    Incidentally, as one of your Twitter followers, I appreciate that you don’t just blindly retweet things. It keeps the volume of my stream down a bit and also means that if you do, I can trust that it’s something you really find interesting, valuable, etc.

  6. I would say your policy is just social media common sense except that the fact you had to write this policy means someone must have lacked this sense in the first place. Have you considered simply writing a general policy on how you expect people to act while online (which to me always falls under the general advice of “don’t be a dick”).

  7. John,

    When I post #FridayFlash pieces I usually try to include a RT request, but even then I can’t just straight out ask for it. I have to phrase it as “RTs always welcome” or “Feel free to RT.” To me, at least, it feels weird asking for a favor from someone I don’t even know like that.

    Surely there is already a bad out there on the Internets called the ReTweets, right?

    All the best,

  8. This isn’t really directed at general “RT Please!” notes, although I tend not to retweet those, either. This is aimed at the folks who specifically ask me to retweet.

  9. Excellent and very quotable. Except you forgot to include the “false dichotomy” RT demand. Something like: “RT if you love freedom” (or puppies or God or America, etc.). Putting a virtual gun to my head, loaded with tortured logic bullets, is guaranteed to earn my non-compliance. (In this case, the gun is loaded with the TLB’s, not my head… in THIS case.)

  10. Honestly, your 22k followers isn’t even enough to make it worth a while for someone to ask for a retweet. I know it sounds like a huge number (and naturally, it dwarfs my own follower count), but when you factor in that it includes dormant accounts, spam bots, people from different timezones and people who follow so many accounts that they’ll probably miss your retweet, you’re already down to a fraction of those who even see the link, much less will want to click on it, or then act upon whatever the linked site offers.

    This is not a slight against John, but unless someone has hundreds of thousands of followers, getting them to retweet a single link one time just doesn’t seem worth it.

  11. This just makes me glad I have never joined Twitter. Do people actually request strangers to distribute stuff for them? The mind boggles.
    Sigh. Socially inept — that’s me.

  12. Clyde Wisham: “Do people actually request strangers to distribute stuff for them? The mind boggles.”

    Given how many (most?) religions etc have been spread, I’m a little boggled that you’re boggled. Twitter is just another route for memetic dissemination. Why *wouldn’t* people use it in similar ways to other such routes?

  13. Also, I suspect that the ‘retweet’ phenomenon is a bit of an equivalent to people on here (and elsewhere) who start off a post saying: ‘I know this is off-topic but…’.

  14. Joost – the factor you’re missing is that the fraction of the 22K followers who act on the link or whatever will probably also retweet it which allows it to spread to the follower lists of all those people.
    A retweet request is a bit like deliberately sneezing on somebody in the hopes that they’ll catch and spread your cold. (Only, you know, where the cold is something potentially nifty instead of a week of yuck.)

  15. many of you seem to hold an elitist or at least an uneducated view of the actual value of the RT… in particular the ‘stranger’ RT. Thank goodness for it during the wild fires that raced thru San Diego several years ago. That’s the only way we could get any information. Amber alerts. Abducted loved ones returned to their families. The Arab Spring. Ruthless Dictators overthrown by the simple words, ‘ please retweet’…by strangers…now soul friends.

  16. I love your final paragraph. I’m going to use it on my 20-year-old son, replacing “retweet” with “use the car” or “borrow money.”

  17. I have un-followed several people because I got bored of all the charity retweets. I follow people because they are interesting to read, and I am merciless in pruning my electronic input to only that which brings me joy.

  18. Mr. Joost, Ms. O’shea: Mr. Scalzi’s Twittah feed shows 65.7 thousand followers, not 22 thousand. Still not quite Justin Bieber numbers, but hey, at least Scalzi can spell.

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