Is it OK to Blind RT?

Twitterlife can be fun, distracting, sometimes useful — and sometimes a bit less so. I sometimes wonder how many ‘blind RTs’ we see popping up — meaning RTs to links that are never looked at, just passed on because they sound promising.

So I played a trick with this tweet yesterday:

The catch is that it’s a fake. There is no story, or top 20 list. Just a link to You Got Rick Rolled, the immortal tribute to pop icon Rick Astley (I like the pie chart the best).

Seventy-five people clicked on the link and saw Rick in his glory (my apologies to all, in particular to Sarah Hutton who called me out on it). At the same time I got at least nine RTs on the link without comment, which reached up to 26,276 people.

Sorry guys, but I think you got RickRolled too.

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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20 Responses to Is it OK to Blind RT?

  1. Ben Colclough says:


  2. Mark Hodson says:

    Love this. I thought Nomadic Matt had some credibility?

  3. Jody says:

    Brilliant. And shows why you should always check links before RT-ing.

  4. Roger says:

    Very interesting experiment, and the results are fascinating on several levels. The incredibly low click-through rate, even on an original-sounding article title shows that Twitter promotion can have a success rate similar to spam email, at least in cases where the title is more PBS than TMZ. Working for a travel site in the past I’ve seen 200 RTs and only 300 pageviews, so it’s obvious that many people are just RTing because they think they should.

    Even Jody here in the comments exposes something similar, suggesting that you should “check links” rather than recommending only things you think others will appreciate.

  5. Authentic Seacoast Resorts says:

    As always, well done! For your next experiment, how about those folks who retweet #TT and #FF lists even though they don’t follow the people they are recommending. Thanks for helping keep it real out there. Much appreciated.

  6. Sharon Miro says:

    Yes, real genius…and so indicative of what is the worst part of travel blogging, and those that do it. What a great game of “gotcha”.

  7. Kirsten Alana says:

    Brilliant. Just brilliant!

  8. sjs says:

    You’re fortunate enough to have a lot of followers and even have ones that trust you enough to retweet you almost automatically, and you not only break this trust, but boast about it on your blog.


    You could have at least not outed them.

  9. Cailin says:

    haha nothing wrong with a good Rick Roll

  10. Spencer Spellman says:

    Well played. I only wish I would’ve thought of this first :) . I posted the link on FB and asked if people do this and of the several that commented, only one DIDN’T blind tweet.

  11. Lanora says:

    Good job, Robert! I’m sure I *meant* to RT your story, but I must have been distracted by something else in my feed. Lesson learned.

  12. Robert Reid says:

    Sorry you’re upset about the post SJS.

    I never tried to target anyone personally, nor am trying to accuse anyone of ‘bad Twitter skills.’

    It’s fair to say that someone might RT someone automatically because they trust them. And it makes me look a little mean, it’s true.

    I just think people, maybe, shouldn’t automatically RT. Ever. Twitter is, relatively, new — and I think we should rethink that practice.

    NO OFFENSE is intended to anyone in particular. I make mistakes all the time too.

  13. Stephen Chapman says:

    Interesting experiment. I’ve often wondered how often this happens.

    I’m guilty of it occasionally, it’s usually when I’m browsing from a mobile and I see something that looks interesting but don’t have time to read… it’s a social bookmarking of sorts, I’ll read it later.

    I tend to disagree that this is really something to frown upon, everyone will find their own use for Twitter and develop their own tweet policies.

    Is it OK to Blind RT? I say yes.

  14. Jack - says:

    Well done :-)

    I’ve been guilty of doing some blind RTs myself…

  15. Jul says:

    I love that you did this. I’m tired of my twitter stream being full of retweets of crappy articles with catchy titles.

  16. Bob Berwyn says:

    Yeah, amen to that last comment by Jul. I never click on stories with a numbered list, anyway — boring! And since my 12-year-old follows me on Twitter, I check every link before I RT it.

  17. Sally says:

    Two confessions:
    1. I sometimes use blind RTing as a way to bookmark sites like Stephen Chapman mentioned — but usually only of articles by people I know & trust… and, okay, sometimes articles with interesting titles. (But the most interesting titles for me involve unicorns and cookies. Life lessons? BOR-ing!
    2. I used to have a crush on Rick Astley… and after watching that video, I suspect I still do. I mean, who could resist? That voice, that hair, those dance moves!

  18. Liv says:

    I never retweet something I haven’t read. I don’t want my twitterfeed filled with rubbish & I don’t expect my followers to either!

  19. Katie says:

    Very interesting! I never RT something without reading it first – and then I only RT if I really do think it is worthwhile, either for me personally or for my followers.

    I do think people blind RT just because they know and/or trust the person they are RTing. I occasionally see somewhat lame posts being RTed very often and I’m guessing that is probably why.

  20. lara dunston says:

    Agree with Jul and Liv.

    There should be a rule to NEVER blind tweet. EVER. I get so frustrated when I click through to an article that sounded so interesting only to discover it’s simply not, it has nothing to do with the title at all, or worse, it’s spam.

    I’m way too busy and I’m sure many of my fellow tweeps are – which is why we tweet, right? ;) I want to read things that are worthwhile but I don’t want my time wasted. Unless I know the person who tweeted the crap personally, then I’ll block them.

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