Are you breaking Twitter’s new Golden Rule?

There’s one thing that Twitter users have been grumbling about with increasing volume over the last couple of years, and the outcry has just reached deafening levels. But the people committing this Twitter crime – manual retweeting  –  are often blissfully oblivious to their perceived wrongdoing.

Let’s fix that.

What’s a manual retweet?

Back in 2010, Twitter introduced its own button for retweeting things. This saved everyone copying and pasting a tweet, adding ‘RT’ and pressing send.

Some people didn’t get the memo, and are still doing this:

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Why does it annoy people?

Manual retweets get on people’s wicks for several reasons:

1. You see the same old thing again and again

One of the big benefits of Twitter’s native retweet functionality is that it stops the same thing coming up in your timeline more than once. When you retweet manually, you’re subjecting people to content they might well be sick of. This leads to unfollows for you.

2. It makes it hard to count the number of RTs

Twitter counts up the people retweeting the proper way and gives you the total in your mentions feed, like this:

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But it doesn’t know to count manual retweets, so those get left out. When something’s been retweeted thousands of times, this gets frustrating, especially since the manual ones come up separately and hog your entire mentions column. You may not have had this problem yet, but if you ever happen to tweet something that goes viral, you’ll know instantly what I mean. You’ll miss genuine messages in a sea of manual retweets by people who can’t be bothered to change.

3. You get the credit

This is the big one. Credit-stealing is a huge issue on Twitter and manual retweeting is perceived as a way to do it.

Here’s how it should happen:

- Jareth tweets a photo
- Sarah retweets it with the retweet button
- Toby retweets Sarah’s retweet, and Twitter adds 1 to Jareth’s retweet count. Jareth is happy.

Here’s how it happens if you manually retweet:

- Jareth tweets a photo
- Hoggle manually retweets it
- Ludo retweets Hoggle’s retweet
Hoggle’s retweet count goes up by 1, and Jareth gets nothing. Jareth is sad and starts stealing babies to cheer himself up.

It irks people to tweet great content and then see a follower get hundreds of ‘their’ retweets by breaking Twitter etiquette.

When are manual retweets OK?

Only really in one instance – when you’re adding something (usually a comment) or modifying the tweet (to fix a typo, for example – although MT for ‘modified tweet’ is meant for this).

Here’s an example of a manual retweet that wouldn’t annoy anyone:

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There’s no other way to comment on a tweet, so this one’s fine.

Nothing-y comments will probably still vex people, though:

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If you’re about to say “But I use Hootsuite, and that retweets manually, it’s not my fault!” – go to Settings > Preferences > ‘Use Twitter web retweets.’ Sorted.

Should I care?

People on Twitter get annoyed by all sorts of things. It’s a very grumble-happy community. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter one tiny bit if you manually retweet – but now you know that you’re annoying people, you may want to stop. Or Jareth might come and steal your baby.

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7 thoughts on “Are you breaking Twitter’s new Golden Rule?

    • I agree. I think usernames should be exempt from the character count – it can be really annoying trying to reply to someone with a long username because it eats so many characters.

  1. The case of HootSuite is interesting. As you mention it does sometimes manually RT. However – looking over my own Twitter timeline, RTs I’ve done through the desktop web version of the platform have appeared as intended and not a manual RT. Perhaps mobile versions are at fault?

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