Ten things to think about when Retweeting (RT) by Matt Holland

Ten things. Really?  Yes.  Now that I am almost convinced of the value of the Library Twitter account I can see there is more to it.  So here are my thoughts on Retweeting.

#1 Feed me …

Trying to feed a hungry Twitter account takes a lot of material.   Always on the look out for that new report from the Nuffield Trust or the King’s Fund, the latest release of statistics from the HSCIC , or a new consultation from NHS England?  The 2015 NHS Confederation Conference was an unplanned windfall of Twitterable material to pump into the revitalised health care library Twitter account.   A drought is on the horizon as the Summer approaches.

The lack of material and the search for new material leads us to the tricky problem of the free and the unfree.   Material that might be interesting to your followers that is free to access on the open web.   Clearly costs have been incurred in researching, writing, publishing and promoting it.  These are not passed on to us in pounds shillings and pence.    However, we are entering the Twitter information economy once we dabble with Retweets.  The currency is metrics.

#2 How to be a virtual door-to-door salesman without really trying

In your search for free content to post on your Twitter account you find something and actually Retweet it.   You are now whatever the Twitter equivalent of a door to door salesman.   You got the job working for the content marketeers.   Putting other peoples free content in the way of your users or subscribers.

How can that be?   Content marketeers post free content to draw people to their websites, expose users to their paid advertisers or try to induce them to register or even subscribe to a service to see more of whatever it is they are selling.   If you Retweet their content then you are part of the Twitter economy.

#3 Retweet with care

The current state of social media is reminiscent in some aspects to the early years of ITV, commercial television in the UK. The 1950s  if your broadcasting history is not up to scratch.  It was all selling.  No limits.  No difference between advertisements and programmes. In fact some advertisements were programmes, or as we now understand it advertorials.  Nearly every programme was a game show, cheap to make and thought to deliver viewers advertisers wanted to reach.

Back to the point.   The Twitter sphere is not journalism, although it’s used by journalists and publishers, think tanks and advocacy organizations.   You have to have all your source evaluation antenna fully turned on to avoid Retweeting the mad, bad and advertiser sponsored / written content.

#4 It’s all selling now

Whatever business you think you’re in,  even the humble health care library Twitter account,  you are in the business of driving up traffic on your feed.   No point in shouting in an empty room or investing in failure.   So one way or another you have got to sell it to you end users.  Add it to your signature,  all your publicity, put it on the side of the free library pen.  Once you start it’s hard to supress your inner double glazing sales person.

#5 Read all about it … not

Magazines have always have a problem with Libraries, electronic access to content and pricing strategies.  Working in a previous role in Higher Education I have encountered the unusual, improbable and mad magazine pricing strategies.  Seeing content going for free that could have been sold to the readers in some other way probably brings a tear to the magazine editor’s eye.  If you are going to Tweet your top health care story for others to Retweet – and publicise your story/magazine – don’t put it behind a paywall or Register to read the rest of this story.  #RTFail

#6 Your Retweets add value

However, humble the health care library Twitter account is, or we think it is, Retweeting adds value. It’s a gift, an acknowledgement, a contribution to their Twitter statistics.   Not something to lose sleep over, but just as we might glance at our Twitter Analytics, other people are doing the same.   For those communication practitioners who are using Twitter as a professional communication channel, Retweeting is going to mean more to them.

#7 Go to the source

You don’t just want to Retweet any old thing, although on a slow day you might Retweet more than a good Twitter day,  just to keep the traffic up.   I am not saying I have done this.   I just recognise the temptation to do it!   More often now, if the 140 characters is too cryptic, I go back to the source of the Tweet to see what it is and if it has value.   After all, a degree of curation, from a  professional point of view, is what will add value to your Twiter feed.   There are two slight irritations. The first is the absence of a Twitter button.  Getting rarer these days but it does happen.   The second is the lack of planning of academic /  journal publishers.   You discover the article is really relevant after all and you hit the publishers Tweet button, only to find that it pastes in all 340 characters of the article title into your Tweet. That leaves you to do some very radical editing.   Hmmm … a new publishing standard for all articles? A long title.  A sub-title. A Tweetable title?  In this instance Retweeting the original Tweet makes sense.  You know now why the 140 character truncated title was a bit cryptic.

#8 I am not Retweeting that … !

Just as Retweeting has an effect,  not Retweeting has an effect as well.   Choose to refuse to give the oxygen of publicity to irritating Tweets and Twitter practices.  This Tweeter would pick out two. First the inclusion of eye catching, but pointless, stock images.   Twitter advises that Tweets with photo’s get noticed.   It doesn’t point out, as far as I can see, the need to relate to the topic of the Tweet or to add information value.  No Retweets from me.

Second, you can get round the character limit by including low resolution images of text to say the things you couldn’t be bothered to summarise.  But wait one moment, isn’t that a blog entry?  In this instance the medium is the message, and it’s 140 characters.  This won’t get a Retweet from me either.

#9 … and I am not Retweeting that either …

Is sometimes good to remember that some health care libraries aren’t allowed a Twitter account  because a rogue Twitter account is (some) Corporate Communications departments idea of  a nightmare.   Who knows what they might be getting up to in the library?   Well not much as it happens.   Steering clear of the political,  anything that might look like endorsement,  staying out of any discussion and not supporting good causes, however good they are.  It’s the evidence and nothing but the evidence.

#10 Would you read this stuff  … ?

The ultimate test of the success of Twitter is would you subscribe to your own account?   Its all that stuff about marketing and understanding and finding your audience.   Anyway “Would your read this stuff?” is the question you need to ask just before clicking the Retweet button.

Matt Holland, Librarian,
NWAS LKS is supported by NW Health Care Libraries Unit (HCLU)
June 2015

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