The Meanings of a Favorite and Retweet

Twitter’s popularity in the past couple of years has grown exponentially. Although this platform is trying hard to position itself as a first choice for the news and media aficionados, it is just as much a communication platform. So, the offered Favorite and Retweet functionalities become major engagement trigger on this social network.

In the following lines I will be reflecting on the various meanings a Favorite and a Retweet bearing with their respective execution. I do that mostly from the position of an observer and one that experiments with communication types and strategies on Twitter. I find myself always fascinated by the way different wording, format, language or tone trigger different responses and a variety of social engagement approaches.

Favorite:

Favorite on Twitter
Favorite on Twitter

This post, in its original only Favorite version, was published initially on Medium. Here I expand a bit more on my observations.

Twitter’s Favorite (or Fav, as it is dubbed colloquially) is the most “ambiguous” functionality on the social network… It can be interpreted in various ways and one is almost always left with a choice on how to perceive it. In that sense there is always a slight subjectivity in the interpretation of a received Fav.

Bookmark

– To read later when the user has time  —  very much replicating services like Instapaper, Pocket and others.
– To keep it in one’s records and find it quickly by using the Archive functionality.
– To be able to call it and remind someone what they said before — “I got you now!” where “now” is “later”.
– To follow a conversation that has interesting opinionskind of eavesdropping, if there can be such on an open channel.

Empathy or Cold Blood

I love it — The user genuinely does.
I share the same opinion— Sometimes (not very often) this happens, too.
I fav it, cause I fav everything my friend says— This is what friends are for… sorta.
I fav it to gain points with the one that published the tweet — The user must keep his/her fingers crossed.

Ending a Conversation

– I read your tweet. — “Yo, let’s end this convo here!”

Sharing Favs

– Favorites are at public display on each user’s profile. The user is giving access to his/her favorites list to everyone that wants to read it.

Services Trigger

Let’s take this tweet farther! – Triggering third-party services (such as IFTTT) to further take the favorite and transport it to Evernote, Pinboard, Buffer etc. This is most commonly used by hardcore Internet users that have a very strong background on keeping records or communications automation.

Retweet:

Retweet on Twitter
Retweet on Twitter

There are many profiles on Twitter that consist the sentence “Retweets do not mean endorsement”. The opinions of the correctness of such statement are quite polarized. Some users do regard RTs as of endorsement (even when “+1” is not placed before the tweet).  Others still insist that re-sharing means nothing more, but as I have recently encountered on Filip Lipev profile, “RTs mean take a look.”

I can relate to both of the opinion on a strictly contextual base. Both make sense sometimes and sometimes they don’t. So a level of ambiguity is also observed with the Retweets, just as much as with the Favorites. But let’s take a look of the different meanings an RT can bring up in a retweeted user!

Agreement

I share this opinion – Whether it is a cool and funny status update, a quote from a famous person or simply an opinion one shares, an RT in this case is assign of an agreement.

Recommended Reading

I want you to take a look – Retweeting something that one finds important to share, but not particularly empathizing with the opinion stated.

Information Sharing

RT, ergo sum – There are users that solely retweet status or news updates. They do not offer a personal opinion or attach any sentiment to the RT.

Ego Booster

– I’m awesome. – This is a more exhibitionist approach to bookmarking. Many users RT flattering tweets that were aimed at them or include their achievements, recommendations, gratitude etc. 

Snapshot

Did you see what this guy tweeted? It is usually observed in situations with negative context, such as receiving a hate tweet or exposing misbehavior on another user’s part. In this particular case the goal is to keep the tweet live even if its origin decides to delete it.

Payback

You retweeted me, I retweeted you. – And so the story goes.

Greater Exposure

My followers’ eyeballs add greater reach to your tweetIn this category fall all paid or voluntary retweets that aim to help a publisher reach greater audience, website traffic or subscriptions.

Conclusion

As you can see, both Favorites and Retweets leave quite a room to interpretation. At the end of the day it is up to the user him/herself to decide which means what and act accordingly or leave it.  And while the business approach to social media reactions has it is own logic and patterns, on a personal level the pondering over the meaning a fav or RT bear can be quite a trip. In most of the cases the user can apply at least one of the meanings behind a fav or an RT.

Naturally, not every tweep has pondered on it or has exactly the same chain of thoughts. So what is your opinion on Favourites, Retweets and their meaning? Anything you would like to add?

Special thanks to Thomas Vander Wal, Ilia Markov and Slavka Kabakchieva for sharing their observations with me and contributing to this post.

Image source: Twitter Support

Copyright © 2014 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.