Last week the comedian Richard Herring tweeted a firm but polite message to his followers about requests for retweets and why he doesn’t retweet many links people ask him to. “I am afraid I get asked to RT so much stuff for charity or whatever that I have to refuse all requests or my timeline'd be nothing but,” he said, before adding, “Also if all charity stuff gets RT then it would have no impact. Like to save it up for causes I am involved with.”
A fair enough explanation, it seems, although judging by the exchanges that followed, not all of his followers agreed.
Requests for retweets is something I’ve noticed a rise in lately, whether it’s retweets from people I follow with a message such as “Hi @celebrityorkeyinfluencer, I’m running this race in memory of my mum, please RT,” or “Hi @writerorjournalist, I’ve written a piece o the history of Eintracht Frankfurt. Any chance of a RT?”
Given the amount I get, I can only imagine the volume of requests fired at celebrities or well-known tweeters and, in the politest possible way, it’s probably a bit of a drag to go through them all.
I’ll make an effort, generally, to read most pieces or requests fired at me, but I won’t always retweet, often because I don’t feel it’s appropriate or I don’t find it interesting enough. It’s my feed and, sympathetic as I am to a lot of the requests, I also like to maintain some form of quality or brand control (although those of you who follow me may disagree given some of the rather random stuff I tweet).
But what of those requesting the RT? It’s clearly important to them, but is replying to a large number of celebrities or influencers the best way to go about it?
In the real world, if somebody kept running up to you and constantly asking you to tell others about their views on a topic or ask for money for charity, you’d probably get fed up quite quickly or tell them to sod off.
Kate Bevan, who has written an excellent summing up of why she doesn’t retweet, says some of these requests can amount to little more than chugging.
For those who follow the habitual retweet requester as well, it can get a bit irritating, especially if you follow the same people. It’s a horribly delicate balance – on one hand, you want as many people as possible to see your link.
On the other, it’s a bit irritating for your followers and for the person you’re asking for a RT from, even a bit rude, especially if it’s something they don’t want to tweet but feel uncomfortable not doing so.
One of Twitter’s strong points is the lack of rules. Everybody uses the service in a slightly different way and gets something different back out of it. But, gradually, accepted etiquette has developed. And in terms of general politeness, I’d say that continually pestering for a RT goes against this (even if it’s really not my place to say).
But it is, as mentioned, a balancing act, especially when it comes to flagging your content to the right people. I will @ or Direct Message selected people if, and only if, I think they may find it interesting. And I'll certainly never ask for a RT - if they think the link is good enough, chances are they'll RT without being asked.
That said, if you're just after hits and traffic, then the scattergun approach will probably increase your page views, but in the longer term, how many of those who've retweeted will continue to do so?
I'd argue that rather than adopt a scattergun approach with key influencers and celebrities asking for RTs, it's worth taking time to build relationships with them, replying and interacting to their other Tweets.
That way, any occasional request comes across less mercenary ("oh, you're famous or influential, you'll send me traffic) and more friendly and meaningful ("I know we've chatted a fair bit on here in the past, so I thought you might be interested in this link."). It may not work every time, but building up a relationship is a lot better than an unsolicited request.
Ultimately, somebody's Twitter feed is, as much as anything, a reflection of themselves and their own personal brand. And just as a news website wouldn't post an unverified story that's been sent in by a reader, so it's up to an individual Tweeter to curate content for their own individual feeds, and some of the RT requests just won't fit.
As Richard Herring said, retweeting every charity-related request will diminish the impact of the causes he puts a lot of effort into - and that's just one example of a tweet request not fitting a specific brand.
That's not to say there aren't times and places for asking for a retweet but they are, I think, few and far between.
Now, if you could all retweet this post, I'd be very grateful.