Retweet: The Infectious Power Of Word Of Mouth

Word of Mouth, the Holy Grail of Marketing
Word of mouth marketing is one of the most desirable activities to brands, why? Because research on trust shows that consumers (folks like you and me) trust the opinions of people we know more than anyone else. It makes sense of course, think about the next time you’re going to buy a car, who’s opinion are you going to trust, those of your friends or the opinion of the sales guy representing the product?

[Information within Microblogging communities like Twitter encourage rapid word of mouth –of both positive and negative content]

Twitter, Although Small, Continues to Demonstrate Influence
Twitter, which I’m seeing informal stats of around 5 million users, has continued to show it’s viral capabilities, with last week’s Motrin mom’s brand punking of an advertisement to news being spread about natural disasters faster than traditional news, this toolset allows content to spread faster and farther than we’ve ever seen. Watching how Al Gore’s Current TV integrated tweets live on their TV broadcast and how CNN and CSPAN mentioned this microblogging service during the election months is a nod to it’s power. In some ways, long form blog posts like this seem so much slower and plodding compared to how quickly information can come and go in Twitter.

[Within the Twitter community a “Retweet” is a social gesture indicating endorsement of an idea]

The “Retweet” How Information Quickly Spreads
As a result, the most powerful activity within Twitter is to watch the “Retweet” phenomeneon. A retweet is when one individual copies a tweet from someone in their network and shares it with their network. It’s perhaps the highest degree of content approval, it means that the content was so valuable and important that they were willing to share it with their network –causing it to spread from one community to the next –retweets are the core essence of the viral aspect of content spreading. Early research from Peter Kim indicates that twitter users are brand sensitive, and spread information. Since content can be shared, consumed on mobile devices, this information can rapidly spread faster than any other infectious technology we’ve ever seen.

How to Measure and Monitor the Coveted Retweets
Expect to see social media measurement tools appear that measure the spread of retweets, URLs, and other commonly repeated content to look for how information is passed from a source to a node, to an entire community. In fact, in a very primitive way, you can see those that are repeating the content of others, for example Tim O’Reilly’s content. See this search query showing “Retweet @timorielly“, or “RT @timoreilly” (an abbreviated version).

You should do the same query for your brand, products, and those of your competitors, start with this query “retweet yourbrand“, and change out yourbrand. At some point we can expect a service to appear that will track a tweet from a single source, then track how it is retweeted, then by who (and their number of followers) then to create a numerical value of the velocity of that single original tweet as it cascades through a community.

Impacts to Users, Brands and Vendors

Twitter Users: If someone retweets your content, be and feel honored, it means that your content was so important or interesting to them they are willing to share it with their own trusted network. If you need some guidelines on how to retweet, read this handy guide.

Brands: Companies should pay close attention to how information spreads and should do searches on their product and brand to learn what type of information is being spread by who.

Vendors: Social media measurement companies like Cymfony, Buzzmetrics, Radian 6, Buzzlogic, and others should start tracking the retweet stream around a brand and product to monitor and map out community and content hotspots. It’s possible to create some type of “Digg” or “Delicious” tool that maps the social voting and bookmarking based off the data gleaned from Retweets and TinyURLs.

I’ll echo Shel Israel who posted similar thoughts that retweeting is the most powerful single aspect of Twitter.

Update: some stats are starting to appear about retweeting, see the Retweetist.