On Twitter, the retweet is emerging as the best indicator of relevance for users of the service.

Whereas successful community-building used to be about getting followers, the realization is dawning that big numbers do not guarantee mindshare.?  Thanks to myriads of mass follow tools available, the power of an immense following has diminished. (Some industry thought leaders have even wondered aloud if Twitter should abolish follower count altogether.)

At present, retweets are the best barometer for assessing one’s value on Twitter. A retweet is arguably more important than the original tweet. Tweets by themselves may be viewed with suspicion: is the content really that good? A retweet, though, is a third party endorsement. Someone else has come along and said, “I like this, so I’m sharing it with more people.”

A retweet is also what makes Twitter viral. By itself, a tweet is merely a mass broadcast message — much like a phrase uttered through a megaphone. But when someone repeats what you said with their megaphone, your message has suddenly become social. Imagine what happens, then, when you get a retweet of a retweet of your original tweet. Retweets don’t just qualify as word of mouth; they qualify as loud word of mouth. The retweet possesses the power of amplification. The more something is retweeted, the more audible it becomes.

Most importantly, retweets show that someone has derived value from your content. Just because you gain traffic from Twitter doesn’t mean it’s good traffic — visitors sometimes only stay five seconds. As well, a reply on Twitter is not necessarily sent because your audience likes your content; sometimes, people just want conversation. A retweet, though, means someone really did like your content, and they endorsed it.

Whether your audience is large or small, Twitter’s value is in sharing your message. Therefore, one’s first consideration should be getting retweets–or providing content that inspires them. Retweets are Twitter’s barometer for social relevancy. They are the easiest way to go viral. Most importantly, they show that someone likes your content.

Image via Teacher Dude. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Greece License.