Report: Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted on Twitter

If I wanted to make sure this post did not go viral—according to the standards put forth by Hubspot viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella in "The Science of Retweeting"—I could promote it on Twitter by posting something like this:

was bored watchin the game on tv and saw this thing about RTs...made me lol after i had really bad stomach cramps

Note the lack of punctuation, the use of of slang and abbreviations, the limited vocabulary, and the awkward overshare—all traits that Zarrella can now definitively say would turn Twitter users off. How? Because the avid Twitter-er and author of the upcoming The Social Media Marketing Book spent nine months analyzing roughly 5 million tweets and 40 million retweets (which are usually symbolized with an "RT" on Twitter). He noted when they were posted, which words they used, whether or not they included links, and more. Then, he says, he compared the two groups to get the first "real window" into how ideas spread from person to person: "Retweets may seem like a small idea...but many of the lessons [they teach us] will be applicable to viral ideas in other mediums."

The full report is 22 pages, and won't be available until tomorrow (UPDATE: It's here). But Zarrella offered me a sneak peak—via Twitter, no less. Below, his nine most effective ways to get retweeted on Twitter:

1. Link Up (But Don't Use TinyURLs)
In Zarrella's sample, links were three times more prevalent in RTs than normal tweets (19% to 57%), suggesting that their mere prescence could help buoy your bon mots. (Not sure whether that holds true for sporadic use of French terms.) But choose your URL shortener carefully: Newer, shorter services, such as,, and, were much likelier to get retweeted than older, longer services, such as TinyURL. Ouch.


2. Beggars Can Be Choosers
Although conventional wisdom suggests that SPAMmy pleas, such as "PLEASE RETWEET," would be generally ignored, Zarrella found the opposite. "Please" and "retweet" were his third and fourth "most retweetable" words, preceeded only by "Twitter" (duh) and "you." Also worth noting: "Check out" and "new blog post" were Nos. 19 and 20, respectively.


3. Avoid Idle Chit-Chat
Okay, let's face it: We all occasionally tweet about "boring" activities, such as sleeping and watching TV. But alas, these are the types of words and phrases Zarrella dubs "least retweetable." "There are a number of '-ing' verbs, including 'going,' 'watching' and 'listen-ing,'" that were not retweeted very often, he writes. Translation: Unless you've got a really interesting life—Shaquille O'Neal, anyone?—do not legitimately answer Twitter's "What are you doing?" prompt.


4. Don't Be Stupid
So much for abbrevs and emoticons. :-( Zarrella's RTs not only have more syllables per word than normal tweets (1.62 vs. 1.58), but they're also more intellectual: Per a Flesch-Kincaid test, comprehending RTs requires 6.47 years of education, while normal tweets require just 6.04.


5. Semicolons = Satan
A whopping 98% of RTs contain some form of punctuation (compared with 86% of normal tweets), with colons, periods, exclamation points, commas, and hyphens leading the way. (Where you at, question mark??) But Zarrella really sticks it to semicolons, calling them "the only unretweetable punctuation mark."


6. Break News
This one's kind of a no-brainer, but original content is way more popular than stuff we've already read: The words in Zavella's normal-tweet sample were each found 89 times in other tweets, on average, while words in the RTs were found just 16 times.


7. Use Proper Nouns Properly
Most RTs were heavier on nouns, proper nouns and 3rd-person verbs, suggesting that headline-style tweets—such as "Lindsay Lohan Escapes From Rehab Facility"—are more likely to go viral.


8. Bottle Those Emotions
Sorry guys, but nobody wants to promote your f—-ing, stupid feelings: Tweets about work, religion, money and media/celebrities are more retweetable than those involving negative emotions, sensations, swear words, and self-reference.


9. Tweet at 4 p.m. on Friday
'Nuff said.


Click here to follow me on Twitter.

[Graphs and data via Dan Zarrella]

Add New Comment


  • Ian Tomlinson

    So the formula is simple.  Tweet at 4pm on a Friday with good punctuation and a link to something interesting.  Ask it to be retweeted and you're sorted!  Interesting article, and as a geek liked the graphs!

  • donald ukponu

    Hi Thanks for sharing this blog post.Very informative and educative to carry any twitter campaigns

  • Fredrick Mutooni

    The research was not easy one . The research is an eye opener . Now I see why Friday tweets are at the lowest level. Thanks

  • Sue@YujuUK

    Working full time I'm a first thing in the morning, and then mid evening tweeter. Think I'll have to start scheduling my tweets to go out at peek times. Great advice, thanks x

  • DetroitLions

     I’m wondering what would be revealed by segmenting based on the industry
    of the person who originally tweeted. It could very well be that the
    newer shorteners would be utilized sooner by a more tech savvy crowd;
    which could result in speaking to a more tech savvy audience, who might
    be more likely to retweet. Also, a person who would be first to
    discover a new shortener would likely be the same person who would be
    the first to discover other news and information.

  • Simple SEO Group

    Not 100% sure how accurate this study is but if it is true then great work!

    As Jason Walker pointed out,

    "RT is a popular RT word, because people who don't use the RT button will put "RT" in their RT to show they're RT'ing someone else ... DUH! "

    So there are a few small problems but overall great post thanks for sharing!!

    Simple SEO Group | Small Business SEO

  • Jason Walker

    This article is flawed.

    First, colons, periods, hyphens & slashes are in URLs, so they'll naturally be RT'ed more, if URLs are RT'ed more. Semicolons aren't RT'ed often because they're not USED often, because people aren't sure how to use them properly; I've already had this discussion with people.

    Second, Fridays are good because of many reasons: the end of the work week & the Follow Friday trend being the most prevalent; 4 PM is good for similar reasons: the start of "rush hour" & the end of the workday for some, the start of the lunch hour for others in different time zones (unless this info is adjusted for each time zone).

    RT is a popular RT word, because people who don't use the RT button will put "RT" in their RT to show they're RT'ing someone else ... DUH!

    Personally, I would hope the rest is a matter of common sense; if I care whether or not my tweet is retweeted, it's going to be a tweet phrased properly about something important, not idle chit-chat with poor grammar. Don't RT me complaining about my frickin' cough or the frickin' game; RT my upcoming show tomorrow night or my book on Amazon. Then again, I think we all know that common sense isn't as common as they'd like us to believe.

  • Linda Selkirk

    This research makes me feel much better about the future of our language skills. As a writer and social worker currently and a former English teacher, I often find myself at a loss trying to fit big ideas into small spaces - particularly Twitter. Frankly I never thought I'd see the day I would use "u" or "nite" - happy that I can now back up being somewhat more verbose with some hard data. Thanks, as always, for the info.

  • Val Lyashov

    Really useful article. I have constantly had issues with getting social marketing off the ground for a number of clients wanting to expand into the area.
    SEO in Australia

  • TravelScotland Sjhgjh

    I doesn't use twitter often... That's why I am not much aware of re tweets. but it seems to be interesting and let me try... Thanks for sharing the information :) cheers

  • Rajina Prashanth

    Thanks Dan for sharing this. i am not getting retweets as i expect, but i think this theory will help me. :)