Please don't actually use Retweet and Favourite for polls on Twitter

These are not what these are supposed to be used for - don't do it

The whole twitter poll meme of getting people to vote on a binary thing by either retweeting post or favouriting it started as a joke. I hope.

Certainly the majority of the time I have seen it being used, as well as any of the times I have used it it has been as a joke, for example;

Clearly I wasn't conducting an actual poll and in fact if I remember correctly this was my half arsed protest at someone genuinely using this method in an attempt to get feedback on an actual social issue.

Judging my the lack of favourites or retweets the other thing we can see is that my followers are horrible people!

I also seen it recently (in joke form) with this tweet;

Joking aside I want to take some time to explain why this meme works and why it is a bad idea if you are actually polling people.

The way Favourites work

Right now if you favourite something the person who made the tweet will get notified, the people involved in the tweet will get notified and you will have it added to your favourites list.

In some clients there was occasionally a more public notification that someone had favourited something, but it wasn't for everything and I haven't seen that in a long time.

The way Retweets work

Right now if your retweet something everyone you follow will see it unless they have opted out of seeing retweets or have blocked the person you are retweeting.

It will go into your public timeline as an action you have performed.

The way the joke is meant to work

The idea then is you pick the item you want to win and assign it to the "retweet if" portion of the tweet. Your followers will see the tweet and will following along with the joke and retweet it.

The problem with actually using it

Hopefully you can see the issue with using it for anything even semi serious – Retweets will propagate through people's timelines and gain more traction the more people that vote, favourites will stagnate since voting for them doesn't increase the visibility of the poll.

When it is a stupid joke this is fun, but when it is a serious issue or is going to be used to drive something then you have to consider that we generally like to follow people who are like us, which means they share roughly the same type of opinion on at least some things.

This means the followers of someone who retweets something are statistically more likely to agree with it (and then retweet it themselves)


The easiest thing I could think of would be to start a Straw Poll and share the link out, asking for retweets from everyone who answers.


I am sorry I have had to go on a rant about a jokey thing. I honestly do like the joke! It is just that some members of Joe Public think it is an actual thing!

Recent posts View all


What are the square brackets in my Rails migrations?

Let's look at what these little square brackets are doing in our Rails migration files

Web Dev

Setting a minimum TLS version with CloudFlare

How to set a minimum TLS version on CloudFlare and why you should consider it