What Does Retweet Mean on Twitter?

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In late 2009, Twitter's developers noticed a trend on their growing social network: members were repeating other users' tweets in order to share funny or interesting messages with their own followers. Eager to encourage this spread of content, Twitter launched an official retweet system. With a single click, you can show your followers a message from another user, providing attribution without the need to copy and paste text or type out the original poster's name.

Retweet a Post

  • When a tweet on your timeline cracks you up and you have to share it with all your friends, just click the retweet icon -- represented by two right-angle arrows pointing up and down. Everyone who follows you will see the post from its original author, with your name appended as the retweeter. Change your mind after remembering that your parents follow your account? Click the icon a second time to erase the retweet.

    Twitter's official smartphone apps -- and most unofficial Twitter apps -- also have a retweet button. Some unofficial apps don't use Twitter's retweeting system, which can cause a retweet to incorrectly appear with your profile image and name, but they should include attribution of the original poster.

Recognize Retweets

  • Any time you see a user you don't recognize in your Twitter timeline, you're probably looking at a retweet by someone you follow. Manual retweets, written out in the pre-2009 style, bear the signature RT at the front of the post, but those generated with the retweet button pass along the original message unaltered. Look for a line indicating who retweeted a post. On Twitter's website, retweets also bear the retweet icon alongside the message.

    If someone you follow simply changes their username and profile image, you may not immediately recognize them. Unlike most social media sites, Twitter allows users change their usernames on a whim.

Add Your Own Flair

  • Twitter's retweeting system simplifies basic retweets, but it doesn't provide a way to customize the message. To add a line of commentary, write a retweet out the old fashioned way: start a tweet with "RT," add the original poster's @username and paste or type the post as you want your followers to see it. If you change the content significantly, change the tag to "MT" to indicate a modified tweet.

    Some Twitter apps and the official Twitter desktop client, TweetDeck, have built-in buttons for adding a comment to a retweet. Other than their convenience, however, these buttons work identically to writing a modified tweet manually.

Retweets in Twitter Culture

  • Overall, Twitter has a very open culture -- you can follow any account that doesn't protect its tweets, and most users won't bat an eye at seeing replies or retweets from complete strangers, so feel free to retweet any post that catches your fancy. In fact, as of January 2014, almost 30 percent of all posts on Twitter were retweets, and another 25 percent were replies.

    The one situation where you shouldn't retweet is if you have permission to view a friend's protected tweets. Twitter doesn't even allow the option to retweet a protected tweet, so if you see a post without the retweet icon, don't circumvent the system by sending out a retweet manually -- you may be violating your friend's privacy.

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