do you retweet blind?If you do then you’re in good company, for it seems an awful lot of us do the same.  That’s the finding of a new piece of research by Dan Zarella from HubSpot.  It’s fascinating because of the legal issues the publishing industry is bringing against Google at the moment because Google News includes both a headline and a short snippet of each article in their index.  The news industry is arguing that this is too much and a breach of their copyright as people don’t click through to read the full article having already read the headline.

Could Twitter be coming in for similar criticism?  The research by Zarrella is fascinating.  He analyzed 2.7 million tweets that contained links and found that 16% of those tweets received more retweets than they did actual click throughs.  Stating the obvious, but that clearly means that people are sharing tweets without having read the content they’re sharing.

All of which has some interesting implications.  I mean retweets have often been regarded kinda like an endorsement of that content, but this research shows that retweets shouldn’t be regarded as such as it’s quite possible the content wasn’t even clicked on, let alone read.

In other words, almost one in every five tweets generates more retweets than clicks. This suggests many people pass on a link without looking at it, and perhaps even worse, vetting it.

So what does this mean for you as a publisher?

RTs do not equal traffic

The obvious implication of this research is that you cannot make the assumption that lots of retweets will correlate with a surge in traffic.  Suffice to say it’s not a bad thing as it does show some engagement between you and the person giving the retweet, but if they haven’t clicked through first, then the engagement is likely to be with you rather than directly with the content being shared.  So it might be useful in a branding sense, but don’t count on it getting people actually reading your article.

Brand awareness is not to be sniffed at

If you want to be a thought leader on Twitter then retweets are never a bad thing, even if they are blind.  It does help spread your name and get you in front of more eyeballs.  If you’re forearmed with this knowledge however you can begin to craft your tweets in order to generate more retweets rather than to generate clickthroughs.  These 10 tips based on MIT research might help you achieve that.

Don’t assume a trending tweet is valid

The flipside of course is that a piece of content might be trending on topic without it being widely read, or of course vetted.  So if you’re basing a piece of content on something that’s popular on Twitter it really does pay to check it out before hand rather than assuming that other people will have done so for you.

The key takeaway – think about your headline

The key takeaway though of course is that in our social world, your headline is crucial in determining the success you achieve, whether that’s in getting retweets or in getting click throughs.  It really does pay to spend time thinking through both the headline you use, and what you want it to achieve before you start writing your content and sharing it on Twitter.

Do feel free to use the comments to share some headline tips you’ve found work well for you.