Retweeting for fun and advocacy
There’s an interesting debate over at the New Organizing Insititute about the use of the Retweet feature on Twitter.
Matt Stempeck, the new media manager at NOI recommends that advocacy and progressive organisations use the official Retweet feature. He cites four reasons:
- You don’t have to edit or abbreviate the original tweet. With the official Retweet feature, you no longer need to squeeze “RT @username: ” into the message, saving you precious characters.
- Your followers don’t want to see the same tweet twenty times. When you use the official Retweet feature, Twitter automatically hides the duplicate tweet from your followers if they already follow the same person.
- Twitter will show the original tweeter’s avatar instead of yours. With the official Retweet feature, the original tweeter’s picture shows up and you’re relegated to a byline below the tweet.
- Twitter’s better at counting official retweets. Retweets are critical part of expanding your reach beyond your usual audience, so it’s good to know when they occur. Twitter now sends a nice little email notification when you’re Retweeted. It even tells you how many followers the Retweet went to.
However, a month later, Asher Huey the online organizer for New Partners, an environmentally-focused consultancy, strongly suggests you don’t use the official Retweet function. Asher argues that:
Twitter and most Twitter clients will not show your target a tweet in which they are mentioned if the re-tweeter uses the retweet button. However, that person will see every retweet, if people use the traditional RT.
Asher’s argument boils down to (not) using official retweets for “advocacy” – that is, online pressure tactics such as swamping the target with @ mentions. Matt’s argument boils down to the official retweet feature being more convenient for users.
Who is right?
Call me a cynic, but despite my belief that social media is a valuable online organising and communications tool, I am not convinced that Twitter is a powerful “advocacy” tool. With most organisations or individuals on Twitter who might be the subject of “pressure tactics” relying on a staff of professional social media officers, the actual target (Obama in Asher’s example, or BP or another corporation) will never actually experience the pressure.
I could be wrong – and perhaps there are many examples of Twitter advocacy being effectively applied.
In my view however, the strengths of Twitter (and Facebook, etc) are with spreading information or a call to action quickly, or increasing the commitment of supporters for a cause.