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Are you harnessing the power of the re-tweet?

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Brands & Campaigns

This post is by Ben Whitford, contributing editor of SmartBrief on Social Media.

Korean researchers just published an important new analysis of the way people use Twitter, notes the lead story in this morning’s SmartBrief on Social Media. Boffins at Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology vacuumed up Twitter’s entire database to study the way people relate to one another online — and their results offer a startling snapshot of the ways in which the site is changing how we interact and share information online.

One of the group’s key findings is the extent to which Twitter is shrinking the world we live in. Offline, we’re supposedly six degrees of separation from anyone else on the planet — but on Twitter, the researchers found, any user can connect to any other user in just four follower-to-follower jumps. (Now if only Kevin Bacon would sign up …)

What does all this mean for marketers? Well, the biggest implication of Twitter’s interconnectivity is that re-tweets have the potential to broadcast your original message to a huge audience. Think about it: Just three re-tweets could theoretically carry your original message to the farthest-flung corners of the social network and reach even the most remote Twitter-user.

That’s good news for those who’ve been calling for marketers to use re-tweets, rather than new followers, as the critical metric for social ROI. It also gives marketers an incentive to think carefully about the timing of their campaigns. The Korean researchers found that half of all re-tweeting took place within an hour of a message’s original posting, so it might be worth timing tweets to coincide with peak Twitter use (generally around lunchtime EST), or even engaging in a little Guy Kawasaki-style repeat tweeting.

What do you think — are social marketers better off focusing on acquiring new followers, or should we be spending our time crafting messages that are likely to recirculate? And what are your top tips for boosting a message’s “re-tweet appeal?”

Image credit, iLexx, via iStock