You’ve probably seen this at the bottom of, well, everything on the web in the past decade:
Clicking on that link will open up a window letting you tweet a link to this very post. There’s a good chance you’ve done that once or twice.
Publishers like it. You’re tweeting about their “content!” (Publishers call their articles “content” instead of “articles” or “news stories” or “writing.” Movies and songs can also be “content.”)
I want to argue that this is not the right way to use Twitter to share something you found online. First, a short history lesson.
Ages and ages ago, Twitter didn’t have a “retweet” button. Instead, if people liked something they saw on Twitter, they’d make a new tweet, prepending “RT” and the author’s username. You’d see a lot of “RT @ev blah blah blah.” It was a good way to share what someone else had to say, but was awful in a bunch of ways. Your timeline would often be filled up with dozens of people manually retweeting the same thing. There was no good way to gauge how popular a tweet was. Eventually Twitter added native retweet functionality into its system and there was much rejoicing.
Sharing an article using a little Tweet button is, I think, very much like the old manual retweets. A big news story breaks and you get dozens of people clicking that little Tweet button and sharing the article. This is silly. That publication has a Twitter account that certainly tweeted about the article. Why not retweet that instead?
Here’s the “canonical tweet” for this very blog post:
Here’s a post in which I argue every basically website is using its “Tweet this article” button wrong & I’m right. https://t.co/XjCNo8NiJH— David Ely (@davextreme) May 12, 2017
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js<p>There are a few advantages to this approach. If you retweet this post, people in the thread will see my tweet, not your tweet talking about my article. Anyone who hits the reply button will be bothering me, not you. Anyone who “likes” it will be incrementing my ego, not yours.</p>
There is a little bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here. I can’t tweet out a link to my post until I’ve published it, but I can’t embed the tweet until I’ve tweeted it. It’s common knowledge that the word “tweet” dates back to prehistoric times when we’d use a bird’s beak to etch short messages into wood, and this sort of thing was very hard to do back then. Fortunately we have Twitter on computers now. A sophisticated publishing system could easily post a tweet, then fetch that tweet’s ID and sub in the proper embed code.
Failing that, you can do it the clumsy way, as I have, and make up a little footer that I paste into the post with an edit after I’ve published it and tweeted about it. You’ll see it at the bottom of this post.
Here’s a little Markdown template you can use. I chose a few little unicode arrows but you could get fancy and use Twitter’s own images if you wanted. Just replace the 111s with the long number at the end of your Tweet’s permalink.
[↺ Reply][reply] [↻ Retweet][retweet] [♡ Like][like] [reply]: https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?in_reply_to=111111111111111111 [retweet]: https://twitter.com/intent/retweet?tweet_id=111111111111111111 [like]: https://twitter.com/intent/like?tweet_id=111111111111111111
So now, wherever you might be reading this, you can use Twitter as the comment system for this post, and people might actually see it instead of ignoring it like most comment sections. You can retweet or like right from the page or your RSS reader. I’m sure almost no one else will ever go through the effort, but it’s a thing I’m doing. Now back to writing about Superman or whatever.