I talked on Twitter a few times this week about "retweeting," or "RT" for short. It became clear there is some confusion about the practice and I wanted to expand on it.
Retweeting allows the power of the network to take place, in pretty much the same way a blog link can extend the conversation from one blogger to a great many, sometimes at a very rapid rate. If you Tweet something of interest and you have an audience of 10, or 100 or 1000 and no one retweets it, that is far as your message goes. But if you have 10 followers, and one of them has 100 and he or she retweets you, your message reaches that many more people. If of you of this wider ring... and so on.
I retweet usually retweet because someone else said something that I believe some of my followers will find interesting. It usually means I like what was said and want to give credit. It sometimes means that I really disagreed with what was said and am curious to see what others will say. Sometimes--when there's a disaster, a fire, an Earthquake or a Red Sox post season loss, a great many people retweet the information very quickly.
News of a San Francisco earthquake and more recently the China earthquake spread around the world many times before traditional news services picked it up. While sometimes this news contains factual errors, the process seems to filter for truth. In fact, many traditional news organizations now follow Twitter to get early information, often from people who are at ground zero.
Retweeting allows the power of the network to take over. It allows a solitary voice to be amplified by the voice of the crowd and it seems to me that Retweeting is the most powerful single aspect of Twitter.