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 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 an observer’s position and one that experiments with communication types and strategies on Twitter. I find myself always fascinated by how different wording, format, language or tone trigger different responses and a variety of social engagement approaches.
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.
– 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 with interesting opinions — kind 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!”
– Favorites are at public display on each user’s profile. The user is giving access to his/her favourites list to everyone that wants to read it.
– Let’s take this tweet farther! – Triggering third-party services (such as IFTTT) to further take the favourite and transport it to Evernote, Pinboard, Buffer etc. This is most commonly used by hardcore Internet users with a solid background in keeping records or communications automation.
There are many profiles on Twitter that consist of the sentence “Retweets do not mean endorsement”. The opinions of the correctness of such statement are quite polarized. Some users regard RTs as an 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 to take a look.”
I can relate to both of the opinions 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!
– I share this opinion – Whether it is a cool and funny status update, a quote from a famous person or simply an opinion one share, an RT, in this case, is assign of an agreement.
– I want you to take a look – Retweeting something that one finds important to share, but not particularly empathizing with the opinion stated.
– RT, ergo sum – Some users solely retweet status or news updates. They do not offer a personal opinion or attach any sentiment to the RT.
– I’m awesome. – This is a more exhibitionist approach to bookmarking. Many users RT flattering tweets aimed at them or include their achievements, recommendations, gratitude etc.
– Did you see what this guy tweeted? – It is usually observed in situations with negative contexts, such as receiving a hate tweet or exposing misbehaviour 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.
– You retweeted me, I retweeted you. – And so the story goes.
– My followers’ eyeballs add greater reach to your tweet – In this category fall all paid or voluntary retweets that aim to help a publisher reach greater audience, website traffic or subscriptions.
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 its 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 cases, the user can apply at least one of the meanings behind a fav 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 to share their observations with me and contribute to this post.
Image source: Twitter Support
Copyright © 2014 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.