Please retweet to spread the word about please retweet

Dog begging
Begging by Eric J Paparatto Photography licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Tweets that include the phrase “please retweet” are four times more likely to be retweeted than the average tweet, according to data from 2011.

It’s old news, but I was shocked when I recently included the magical phrase in a pair of Twitter posts that ended up with 802 and 349 retweets. Those are by far my most retweeted tweets.

It’s about so much more than the retweet

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should start inserting “please retweet” into all of your tweets. Would you continue following someone if she always asked you to retweet her? Offline, do you maintain friendships with people who constantly ask for favors?

Five years ago, Joel Mackey wrote a thoughtful blog post against asking followers to retweet. Read that now to understand why you shouldn’t overuse this approach.

So why did I ask people to share my tweet with their friends? Well, I experiment. Often. On Twitter, I play with different voices, tenses, questions, words, etc. Here are a few observations from this experiment.

  • Who? Many of the retweets came from journalists, journalism students and journalism teachers. That’s great news. It means that my message reached people who could take advantage of the internships mentioned in the tweets.
  • Grammar: People are forgiving. Read that second tweet again. The word “are” is missing. Not one person pointed out the error, despite the fact that this was a tweet about journalism. Hey, where are my copy editor friends?
  • Impressions: Twitter showed these two tweets a total of 351,108 times. Thats about 50 times more than number of people who follow me.
  • Followers: I gained 50 followers directly from these two tweets and their 1,151 retweets.
  • Conditional: I’ve used the magical phrase a few times since these two tweets, with nowhere near the same results. The conditional clause “if journalism students follow you” might have something to do with it.
  • Clicks: For the tweet that received 802 retweets, people clicked on the link only 807 times. I suspect some people retweeted this one without clicking on the link, a habit I strongly discourage. You can’t tell what lies behind a link until you click on it. Retweet blindly and you could help spread a virus.

One thing that I’ve taken away from this experiment and a similar tweet posted in September, is that the people who follow me like to spread the word about opportunities for journalism students. Because of that, I will reserve the use of the phrase “please retweet” for those types of messages.

Please retweet

Do you think your followers want to tell their friends about how they can get more retweets? If so, share this post on Twitter, and see if your friends hit the RT button. I’ve already included “please retweet” in the title.

I want to know how your “please retweet” experiment works. Leave a comment, or start a chat with me on Twitter @ksablan.

2 thoughts on “Please retweet to spread the word about please retweet

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I’m not a fan of Pls RT call to action unless there’s a strong reason to add it (the way you used it = OK). Otherwise it’s very similar to “Pls click my click” – a terrible & amateurish call to action ;)

    As for that old study, it doesn’t really matter that it’s old, it’s pretty useless anyway. Like most of the studies published these days. If you check more studies about the same thing, you find out different results. Best time to send an email, best time to share on social media, etc.

    I have recently read an article written by Guy Kawasaki – How to Avoid Looking Clueless – and he expressed my thoughts exactly: “Don’t Ask People to Reshare Your Posts – The only time it’s acceptable to ask for reshares is when a post is philanthropic in nature.”

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Adrian.

      Your point about when to use Pls RT is an important one. Just because something “works” doesn’t mean you should use it, and certainly doesn’t justify abusive behavior.

      Yes, all studies should be taken with a grain of salt. I use them as inspiration more than anything else. It’s important to measure your results. In particular, the “best time” varies so widely that I always tell people that the best time is the time that works best for your followers/subscribers. Do the work to find that out. No external study about other people and companies can provide that information for you.

      That article is wonderful, Adrian. For anyone reading this comment, here is a link to that post: How to Avoid Looking Clueless

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