Twitter’s Project Retweet will amplify how influence drives content


Twitter has just announced the first of a series of changes to how retweeting is incorporated into the Twitter platform, called Project Retweet. This is significant in how influencers make content popular, one of the key themes of the upcoming Future of Influence Summit.

Retweeting (forwarding someone else’s tweet to all of your followers) has become central to how Twitter is used. This user-invented behavior means that Twitter has become an extremely strong amplifier of the dissemination of interesting content.

It also provides a very good indication of people’s influence and credibility. While Twitter follower numbers are very crude a proxy of influence, it is far more effective to see how much people are prepared to forward someone’s messages. High follower numbers does not necessarily result in lots of (or any) Retweets. However if someone is consistently and diversely retweeted, they must be saying interesting things, or more often, pointing to interesting content.

Tools that measure or analyze retweets include Tweetmeme, Retweetist, Retweetrank, and Retweet radar.

The first stage of the launch is to provide retweet facilities on the Twitter site (up to now retweet is built into all Twitter clients but not Twitter itself), and to provide an API for developers to use.

The new structure for retweets and API will provide a better platform for retweets to be valuable, including making sure the original person is credited, not taking up the precious 140 characters with a string of retweeters, and giving people the option to opt out of others’ retweets.

As importantly, it will allow deeper analysis of retweets and what they imply. Raw retweet numbers are of limited interest, as the degree of aggregation means that the content it points to is usually about Twitter or ‘cat downloads porn’ type stories. Matching Twitter attention profiles with retweets will enable far richer filtering, as well as deeper insights into how influencers drive content and behaviors.

As Silicon Alley Insider says:

Who cares about retweets?

If you believe in things like the value of the “passed link” — a sign that something is interesting enough for someone to share with their friends — it could be an important way to mine Twitter for popularity data and see who the key Twitter influencers are.

That’s the sort of stuff that could be interesting enough for Twitter to even sell to its corporate clients.

Mashable provides a good overview of Project Retweet.

Expect more insights into influence and content amplication at Future of Influence Summit!