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Conventional twitter wisdom has it that being retweeted is a measure of value. This sounds very reasonable as

  • being mentioned (=retweeted)  is a form of recognition and entails visibility as it, usually, includes the twitter name of the originator
  • retweeting distributes a piece of information virally
  • and, therefore, retweeting  is used as a measure of one’s twitter status by many twitter ranking services

But, let’s take a closer look :

There are two elements in every tweet (those retweeted included, of course): the who element and the what element.

The who element is the source or the channel  of the information compressed in the 140 characters.

The what element is either the tweet itself, or the content it points to. Usually it is the latter.

Retweeting tends to preserve the what but not the who. And even the what most likely will  propagate  changing form (=pointer) in the process.

After two or three retweets  (X retweets Y, who retweeted Z etc)  the very size of a twitter update makes it necessary  to drop some of the @ references: If Z is not in the social graph of X, but Y is, then X will most likely keep Y in the retweeting chain and not Z.

Also, if the retweeted message contains a short url, there is a high probability that some retweeting down the road, one will be tempted to use his favorite short url service and not the original. Let alone those that will drop the retweeting completely and present the information as their own discovery!

There are two cases of undeniable benefiting:

  • If the tweet retweeted is someone’s statement and not a pointer, the retweeting process will most likely preserve the reference to the originator.
  • In all pointer cases, the content pointed benefits from the incoming traffic, regardless which  short url service was used, if any. And this is great, because it makes twitter work like a social bookmarking service. Retweet equals Digg!

But where is the personal value derived from retweeting? And how much is it?

Being a reliable information source within your social graph is acknowledged by retweeting, but the opposite is not necessarily true: retweeting some random piece of info that one comes across does not yield value to the originator. At least significant one.

What I am trying to say here is this: worthy content will surface in Twitter and benefit from it. People will not benefit equally. So chose wisely where you put your investment in this service.

Screenshot by imjustcreative

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