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November 9, 2010

Hootsuite Complaint: Re-tweeting

This post is going to be kind of an "inside baseball" post for those who are active in the Twitterverse. But I'll try and make it entertaining enough that even if you're not into Twitter, you'll enjoy it.

At the recommendation of some friends, way back a few months ago (I barely remember yesterday, so don't expect me to remember when), some friends were raving about Hootsuite, a social media web-based platform that lets you control many of your social media outlets: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and many others. It really is a marvel, and so handy! Since it's web-based, you can access it anywhere, which makes it even better.

But there's one problem with it right now. An annoyance that I rant about on Twitter once a week or so.

It's Re-tweeting.

And no, that doesn't sound as dirty as it sounds (or as scatological).

Basically, for those who don't know, "re-tweeting" (or RT for short) is when you pass along somebody else's tweet so that your followers can see it. See, your followers might not be following this person, so they wouldn't see it.

While most of the time RTs are something you agree with, sometimes it's something that you just find interesting.

It used to be that the format of the RT was like this:

"RT @internetdweeb This twitter thing sure is fun! I wonder how many of my friends I can suck into this?"

(Let's see if the person referenced there is actually reading this blog or if she bailed at the beginning)

Since Twitter has a 140 character limit, you had to be careful when RTing, because sometimes something you wanted to RT would end up being too long.

So Twitter decided to make it easier by changing the RT function so your followers see the tweet in its original form, with a note stating that you're the one who RT'd it. Thus, there are no additional characters and you can safely RT everything!

That's a win, right?

Yes, for the most part.

The beauty of the original form of RTing is that you could add a comment, as long as you didn't go over 140 characters.

The above RT was 103 characters, so I could have made it like this:

"You're an idiot. RT @internetdweeb This twitter thing sure is fun! I wonder how many of my friends I can suck into this?"

See how that works? You can insult the person *and* re-tweet what he says! It's a win-win.

But the new RT function doesn't allow that.

Oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some Twitter applications give you a choice, either using the RT function as Twitter has now designed it or "quoting" the Tweet, which has the effect of the original RT function.

Re-tweeting in the current manner is like taking your hot girlfriend to a party. Then they let her in but keep you out. People know you brought her, but you're barred from bragging about it.

When this change occurred, Hootsuite allowed you to choose which RT function you wanted to use.

That's cool, right?

To an extent, yes.

Sometimes you just want to RT something without comment. Or you want to RT something but doing so in the old way would put you over the character limit.

Other times, you want to comment.

So you may want to go back and forth in what RT method you use.

However, on Hootsuite you have to choose which RT method you want in your preferences. Then you have to save your preferences. If you want to go back and forth, you have to go into your preferences every time to change it back.

Why do you have to do this? Why can't they make it so, when you click the "RT" button, it says "Do you want to RT or quote?"

It seems like a simple thing to do.

Come on, Hootsuite. At least acknowledge you're working on this! It would make an already great program so much better.

And yes, I realize I probably lost a lot of my readers way back there, but for those of you who persevered, or are just looking at the pictures so you jumped to the end, here's a cookie.

Thanks for your attention.

*Edit 1 (8:26 am)* - Thanks to Emily for pointing this out in response to me on Twitter. Hootsuite also desperately needs both a "reply all" button as well as the ability to add multiple users to the "reply" field without having to manually type in the extra people's name.

Thanks, Emily!

*Edit 2 (8:56 am)* - Ok, I'm a loser. I didn't remember that there *is* a "reply all" feature.

Also, you can add multiple people to the Compose field by dragging their avatar to it. Doesn't help if you don't have their avatar handy, but it's still better than nothing.

Thanks @atomicpoet for pointing these out!

*Edit 3 (10:18 am)* - @sedsimon replied to my tweet about this blog post. He's the CTO at Hootsuite, and said that I had a good point. So hopefully they will implement it in one of the next updates!

Ah, the power of blogging.


  1. I'm a member of Twitter but I rarely tweet. Seems like I can communicate better on Facebook. I don't get the appeal of only having 140 characters to work with.

  2. It's not for everybody, definitely. I like the conciseness of it, and the fact that you can follow a lot of people (and be followed by a lot of people), but you're not letting them into all of your Facebook stuff.

    But I understand your feeling.

  3. Dave, this one has me confused. As far as I can tell w/ RT'ing in my Hoot Suite account, you CAN add more than the 140 characters. It will abbreviate the post and give an link to click to open it up sometimes, and other times it shows the whole extended RT. I haven't had a single instance where RT'ing and going beyond the original 140 character limit happened. Maybe I'm missing something in translation? I'm not a huge presence in Twitter, but so far I haven't had the same experience you're describing above. (I thought that Twitter changed that whole formula when they upgraded the whole RT feature to allow for additional characters.)


  4. Hey Dawn

    I do know that there are services (and apparently, per your experience, Hootsuite is one of them) that will allow you to over 140 characters, cutting the tweet off at 140 and creating a link for the entire tweet.

    However, that involves the reader actually having to go to a web site, click on a link, etc. This is especially bad if you're reading Twitter on a mobile device. I know I very rarely click on a link to a longer than 140 character tweet.

    So no, it doesn't *prohibit* you from going over 140, but it's certainly not encouraged.

    I've never actually seen it display the tweet that's longer than 140 characters, though.

    And Twitter didn't change the formula to allow for extra characters. What they did was make it so RTing didn't actually add any additional characters in the first place.

    I don't know if that makes any more sense, though. :)

  5. LOL...this is another reason why I'm not big on Twitter. I simply don't have the time or patience to keep up w/ it, and I don't own a smart phone (nor do I intend to anytime soon) to access the internet 24/7. I don't want to ever be that plugged in. ;-)

    ~ Dawn

  6. I understand the feeling completely. :)


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