For business users of Twitter, retweeting has been a popular technique almost since Twitter was founded back in 2006. Fast forward eight years, and the venerable retweet now has serious competition from its close cousin the favorite.
The ability to mark tweets as favorites has also been around for years, but the use of it only started to pick up in earnest in 2013. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that favoriting had quadrupled in use from a year earlier.
And now, in late 2014, favoriting seems to have hit an all-time high, at least with small-business users, due to a move Twitter made this summer. In late August, Twitter opened up its analytics platf\orm to all 284 million active users. One of the metrics it tracks and reports on is the number of monthly favorites—right underneath the number of retweets and other metrics such as engagement. Suddenly everyone on Twitter had an easy way to see how many of their tweets have been favorited and compare those numbers month after month.
After the launch of metric-sharing, favoriting seemed to accelerate even more in popularity. It’s now gotten to the point that with my own Twitter account, the number of my tweets that have been favorited is now running neck and neck on a monthly basis with the number of my tweets that have been retweeted.
Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon, what it means for you and whether favoriting is a technique you might want to leverage more.
Learning to Favorite
If you’re not familiar with favoriting on Twitter, it’s extremely simple. When you're signed into your Twitter account, you'll see a star icon under a tweet. Simply click on the star (the star then turns gold), and it favorites that tweet.
The tweet you marked as a favorite then appears in the list of tweets you’ve favorited (check here to see your favorites list). To “unfavorite” a tweet, you simply click on the gold star on any tweet and it's removed from your favorites list. Favoriting is certainly as easy to do on the Twitter site and with most apps as retweeting.
Smart Ways to Use Favoriting
Favoriting can be used for a number of purposes:
- To “save” tweets for later reference. Let’s say you want to follow up on tweets from people who mention your brand. Your favorites list is a nice ready way to quickly find them later.
- To show you liked the tweet. If you liked what a tweet or articles said, you can express approval without necessarily retweeting it.
- To engage with people or get their attention. If you’d like to engage more often with followers, favoriting will alert them that you're paying attention to what they tweet without necessarily exposing all your followers to that tweet the way a retweet would. It’s a more subtle way of engaging than retweeting.
If favoriting of tweets sounds like a good idea, then you may think the next step is to use an app that would automatically mark tweets as favorites. Think long and hard before you jump in to automating this activity—aside from the obvious fact that automation like this involves zero personal engagement, there are a few risks that come with automatically favoriting.
First, you could inadvertently favorite tweets that make negative references to your brand or contain information that you would find embarrassing (such as porn tweets). That means you’d have to take the time to review all those auto-favorites and individually unfavorite any you don’t like. In that case, automating isn’t saving you time—unfavoriting is as much work as manually favoriting items in the first place.
Second, if you overdo it, you could get your Twitter account suspended. Here's why that could happen: There are several third-party apps that will automatically favorite tweets based on keywords you select in advance. One app offers a free plan that will automatically favorite up to five tweets per day, or 150 per month. But this app's top paid plan will favorite up to 400 tweets per day, or 12,000 per month!
The problem with industrial strength favoriting like this is a big one: It’s considered spam. Twitter’s rules define spam to include “Randomly or aggressively following, favoriting or Retweeting Tweets.” You don't want to get busted just because the app over-enthusiastically liked others tweets.
But favoriting of tweets certainly has its benefits, and it’s one more way for you to engage on Twitter with customers and clients. If you’re not tweeting or not making wide use of favoriting, you and your staff may want to start deploying it as another arrow in your Twitter quiver.
Read more articles on social media.