Social media influence: Does a retweet matter?

I was at a function once where I was left sitting all by myself at a table in a room full of people I’d spent the last three weeks with. We’d worked together, laughed together, and gotten through some pretty tough times, but somehow I got left out of the informal seating arrangements. One person even came to my table and took away a chair so that they could squeeze another person in at their table.

Sitting there all by myself? It sucked.

Working on social media can be like that sometimes. Worse still, people are yammering on about influence, making a lot of us feel like under-achievers because we don’t have 300,000 followers or get 500 retweets a day.

Measuring value?

Influence is a hot topic in social media right now, and as I was reminded recently while doing my daily sweep through my public relations RSS feeds, the retweet seems to be king when it comes to measuring influence on Twitter.

Articles abound on how to get your content retweeted more often, and tools to measure your influence on Twitter place heavy weight on the retweet. Tweet Level, one tool created by the prominent PR firm Edelman, goes so far as to argue, “trust can be measured by…how often you are retweeted.”

I don’t agree.

I appreciate every retweet. I also know that they’re a fairly low level of engagement. Think about it: how many times have you retweeted a link without even reading the whole article? Favourites are another kind of engagement that’s an appreciated but weak indicator of good content.

Social media influence vs. engagement

Danny Brown broke down the idea of social media influence in a recent post, suggesting that what many call influence is really just popularity. I confess that I’m not too worried about whether I’m a “thought leader,” “influencer,” just popular, or none of the above.

When I’m analysing my Twitter activity to see what’s resonating with my audience, I’m looking for engagement.

Yes, having people retweet me (especially if the original tweet was content from my own blog) is wonderful. But the people who reply to or retweet a tweet with a comment or question – those are my holy grail.

Because those tweeps have read the content I shared and are engaging with it.

How to build engagement in social media

1. Remember your manners

Thank people who retweet your content (with or without a comment). If you get value from another tweep’s tweets, recommend others follow them in a #FF (FollowFriday) post.


2. Tell other users they’ve influenced you

If you write a blog post and mention another blogger, let them know. And if you read a blog post that resonates with you, leave a comment and let the author know. (Us blog authors really appreciate comments!)


3. Respond to other people

If someone mentions you in a tweet, read it and respond to them. Read the comments on your blog posts and respond thoughtfully to the point the reader is making. If someone tweets a link that you find interesting or useful, tell them so.


Common sense and manners

Engaging with other people basically means: Don’t make other people feel like they’re sitting at the table all by themselves.

See, after a few minutes, the friends I’d made in that group realised I was sitting by myself. And they left their tables to come sit with me. I may forget some of the people in that group, but I’ll never forget those people. The ones who noticed, and took action.

So forget about your Klout score, or what TweetLevel tells you about your “influence,” or even what Danny thinks about how influence should be measured (although I recommend you follow Danny’s blog, he has great, and thoughtful, content).

Think about it:

What kind of magic could you create if you built a community of people who care about one another on social media?

How could your company benefit from bringing some humanity into their marketing?