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21st December 2018

To 2018 – the year of the quote retweet

2018, eh? It’s been… a year… hasn’t it?

When we emerged, fresh faced and innocent from 2017, we had no idea that people would start eating dishwasher pods, Elon Musk would have a very public tantrum about his tiny submarine and that it wouldn’t actually come home.

And, crucially, for the most part, self-expression on Twitter still came in the form of reaction GIFs. You know, GIFs? Really tiny looping films of Barack Obama dropping a microphone or a cat typing like its life depends on it? Silly cat.

People were so keen to use them to convey certain emotions (surprise, “nope”, “oh no you di’nt”) that Twitter integrated a GIPHY keyboard back in 2016 (remember 2016? When all the celebrities died?).

But 2018 had something else in store for us: the humble quote RT.

Traditionally used as a way to share something somebody else has said and tear it to absolute shreds, the quote retweet (QRT) has gained a new lease of life this year.

Celebrities like Ariana Grande have been serving brands and Twitter devotees alike a wealth of tiny, ambiguous soundbites that can be shared and construed, well, however we like.

These quote RTs have arguably taken GIFs’ crown when it comes to sharing a relatable thought or emotion (relatability, we must remember, is still Twitter’s lifeblood).

It’s not clear whether Ari et al are sharing these micro-tweets with the intention of making them QRT fodder, but that’s certainly what they have become.

For brands, it’s an almost comically quick way to piggyback off an influential person to put an irreverent spin on a message and also show a solid understanding of the current Twitter landscape.

The crowning example of this came from Burger King UK, which got more than a million likes for a simple Kanye QRT.

It’s hard to pin down the appeal of the quote retweet and also what will work and what won’t, but for me there are four key elements to consider:

1. Simplicity. Burger King UK got 1m likes (that figure again: ONE MILLION) for three words. If your message has been through three layers of approval and legal, being tweaked each step of the way, it’s not going to be the perfectly pithy comment it needs to be (imagine if BK’s tweet said “Kanye’s perceived lack of judgement in recent times could be attributed to his loyalty to a competitor fast food outlet, although these claims cannot be proven.”)

​2. Relevance. The beauty lies in taking completely a completely irrelevant tweet and tying it back to your brand or service in a funny way. If anything, a quote RT is a way to create relevance, so there is no excuse for not tying this back to your brand messaging or personality in some way


3. Relatablility. When you think about behaviour on social media, we’re all just trying to curate a feed that reflects who we are (or think we are) as a person. As such, any quote RT not only has to strike a chord in terms of relating back to the brand – it also has to “say something” about the person who you’d like to share it


4. Timing. This is the most fascinating aspect of the quote RT. Burger King, for example, capitalised on Kanye’s comments while they were topical – but the quote RT does not demand timeliness. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a comment from years ago – as long as it fits, that’s the key

There are so many great examples of quote RTs out there already, but I must admit I can’t get over the fact that Next hasn’t capitalised on this yet:

Lastly, and I am sorry for this, I absolutely couldn’t sign off an article about quote retweets (really sorry) without shamelessly promoting one of my own QRT successes (no honestly, I apologise)…