If you’re still struggling to understand why Twitter might be a useful PR tool, you should probably take a moment to understand the concept and implications of the phenomenon of re-tweeting. It’s a very simple premise:

  • John finds something he likes on the internet, so he writes a Twitter post about it with a link.
  • John’s friend Sarah follows him on Twitter, she reads the post and thinks it’s cool, so she posts it on her own Twitter stream for her followers to see (and because she likes to follow etiquette, she references John in the post so that he gets credit for finding something cool). This is a called a re-tweet.
  • Sarah happens to be quite popular and has a couple of hundred followers on Twitter, they all see the Cool Thing that John wrote about and, say, 10% of them re-tweet the post onto their own Twitter feeds.
  • See where this is going?

In the same way that the simple concept of forwarding an email gave rise to the viral marketing industry, re-tweeting turns Twitter into a hugely powerful word-of-mouth network – if you’ve got something interesting to say on Twitter, your message can reach a massive audience very quickly.

It should be easy to see how you can use this to your advantage: if you’ve gone to the trouble of building up a strong Twitter profile and earned plenty of followers, then you can confidently expect that whenever you have something particularly worthwhile to say it will be re-tweeted by a large proportion of your followers.

On top of this, tools are emerging to help you track the re-tweeting phenomenon, which can be very helpful for buzz monitoring and other research. Two of my favourite re-tweet oriented tools are:

  • Retweetrank.com makes it easy to find out which Twitter users get their posts re-tweeted the most, and to find out how you (or any other) user compares to the top dogs.
  • Retweetradar.com highlights the topics which are currently generating the most re-tweets across the whole of Twitter, using a simple word-cloud. The site also shows the top ten re-tweeted users and links.

As Twitter seems to be enjoying explosive growth at the moment, and is finally focusing on developing a sustainable business model, it’s likely that the platform will turn out to be more than the passing fad that many of us expected (guilty as charged – I was very sceptical initially). Anybody who continues to ignore the PR potential of the site is in real danger of losing ground to more savvy competitors.

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