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Thank Me Later: The Role of Gratitude in Social Media

Good manners are great- like social alchemy, they lubricate the processes of every day life, giving a little advantage to those who use them effectively.

But as with all things, they require balance.  Perhaps it’s because it exposes their ritual, arbitrary nature but gratuitous deployment can breed suspicion or come across as weakness.  I think it’s much the same with the gratitude that some people demonstrate in social media.

On Twitter, responses and retweets are what it’s all about.  For me, it was these instant responses that made it clear what social publishing had become today.  Naturally, one feels a twinge of gratitude when you see someone has retweeted something that you were trying to get out there- it’s nice to know that they valued your contribution too.

There’s definitely a time and place where it’s appropriate but thanking every retweeter is unnecessary and may actually harm your integrity if it becomes a habit.

My reasons for this follow below:

  1. Thank between the lines
    A retweet almost carries with it an implicit note of thanks by attributing the content to the original poster.  Saying thankyou for them thanking you just doesn’t quite ring true to the dynamic.
  2. You are worthy
    Too much gratitude gives a sense of over-humbleness and almost insinuates that you don’t believe the content you’re publishing is worth wider attention.  You should have confidence what your send out to the world otherwise it can seem weak and insecure.
  3. Kind regards
    Over the long run, there are much better ways to show your thanks to that user than to say it out loud- this is a good thing.  Your gratitude to them is borne of their engagement with your feed and likewise, it pays to know who listens to your account and properly interact with them.  Advance the debate, ask for their thoughts; take thins up a notch!  This will build a far more meaningful relationship.

Far be it from me to say “THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD TWEET, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG” but if this generates some good discussion on the topic, I think it could use it.

At the moment, feeds are cluttered with tweets that are, by definition, irrelevant to almost everyone following and if I get some people thinking about why they’re doing things, then the post was worthwhile.

Oh, and before I forget, thanks for reading…

By Max Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is founder and MD of Augur, and has written for publications including the Guardian, Sifted and TechCrunch.

8 replies on “Thank Me Later: The Role of Gratitude in Social Media”

Surely it depends. If someone is voluntarily helping you to propel a thought or campaign, or helping you to find whatever it is you need, surely it’s just down to common courtesy.

And personality. If you would say thank you in person because you’re polite and friendly, surely the same applies on line.

If, however, you issue edicts and tell the rest of the world what to do because you consider yourself a bit of a guru, then fine. Never say thank you and people will continue to RT for as long as you’re relevant/provide something they want. It works at it’s very best for those with humongous self belief.

I guess it depends on what ‘brand me’ you want to project!

Hi Max – When I was first getting into twitter I read up on a few blogs about Twitter etiquette. These were mainly US blogs, where re-tweeting was listed at “good etiquette”. Over the past few years I’ve seen a divide in this etiquette. In my experience, many our friends across the pond thank for RT’s and UK folks tend not to. Do you think this is because Americans are generally more positive than us Brits?

Thanks for the comments guys (Disclaimer: Thanks in proper blog posts is appropriate!)

@Kerry I couldn’t possibly comment on the differences in protocol between the US and here. Suffice to say that I think sometimes too much positivity can seem arbitrary and/or superficial, often less is more.

@Claire- Without getting into the topic of when it’s appropriate to *ask* for a retweet, I absolutely agree about thanking people if you’ve asked them to RT for a bigger purpose e.g. a information about a missing person.

And in that case, I might even not recommend a DM for it because it may catch people’s curiosity and they’ll go and look at what you were thanking everyone for, increasing the exposure further. All good things.

But when someone retweets a user and they just go “thanks @jonny, @bill, @fred, @andy for the RT.” it only builds a relationship in the most shallow way.

I think it would be better for everyone if the response was more of a “Glad you found it interesting, what are your thoughts?” than the above model. Something about acknowledging the exposure you’ve been given seems cynical and dirty by comparison.

I’ve always felt odd about thanking people for RTs. Surely you say thank you when someone gives you something interesting/funny/useful or is helpful. Saying thank you for RTs sort of suggests that they RTed it for a reason other than that they just liked it. I agree completely that it’s different if you’re RTing for a charity or bigger cause. But apart from that I have to say that I find it slightly grating.

This is an interesting subject for sure! However, in general my view is that I like seeing a thankyou @Rimmergram for the RT. 1. it’s good manners and 2. it’s additional profile for me.

I do think that the Brits are more reserved than the Americans. however, I find on Twitter that it’s the techies that I follow that tend to publicly thank for a RT, and that includes the UK guys. I’ve also had a number of analysts publicly thank me for RTs and I personally don’t think it devalues it in any way. I think the note of caution here is to be selective in what you re-tweet. I wouldn’t RT anything that I wouldn’t want a “thanks” back for!

I try to thank everyone who RTs me – whether that’s lots of people in one tweet, or individually depends on when i’ve seen it pop up in my mentions stream.

The key thing for me is that it’s an acknowledgement of advocacy for a thought or piece of content you’ve shared.

People are essentially self-dramatising by re-sharing your content, to me they’re saying ‘I think xxx about xxx subject’ and online that’s incredibly powerful.

It is much easier for somebody to publish a tweet than it is for them to ring up the head of marketing at a brand and congratulate them on their latest product.

By including an act of advocacy in content we are publishing, we’re pinning a badge to ourselves for everyone to see, that is defining our online identities.

If a user thinks that something i’ve done or shared is worthy of that, I think I should take the time to say thank you as they took the time to re-share it in the first place.

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