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PLoS One. 2018 Oct 18;13(10):e0206076. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206076. eCollection 2018.

The Why We Retweet scale.

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Keck School of Medicine of USC, Los Angeles, CA, United States.



Twitter offers a platform for rapid diffusion of information and its users' attitudes and behaviors. Insights about information propagation via retweets (the message forwarding function) offer observable explanations of ways in which modern human interactions get organized in the form of online networks, and contextualized in the form of public health, policy decisions, disaster management, and civic participation. This study conceptualized and validated the Why We Retweet Scale to contextualize retweeting behavior.


Twitter users were identified using clustering algorithms that consider a users' position in their network and invited for an online survey. Participants (N = 1433) responded to 19 questions about why they retweet. Exploratory factor Analysis (EFA) was conducted on a scale development sample (70% of original sample), which informed the Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) on a scale testing sample (30% of the original sample). Varimax rotation was used to obtain a rotated factor solution, which resulted in interpretable factors. Demographic differences among scale factors were analyzed using one-way ANOVA or independent samples t-tests.


The final model (χ221 = 28, RMSEA = .03 [90% CI, 0.00-0.06], CFA = .99, TLI = 0.99) represented a parsimonious solution with 4 factors, measured by 2-3 items each, creating a final scale consisting of 9 items. Factor labels and definitions were: (1) Show approval, "Show support to the tweeter"; (2) Argue, "To argue against a tweet that I disagree with"; (3) Gain attention, "Add followers or gain attention"; and (4) Entertain, "Create humor/amusement". Demographic differences were also reported.


The Why We Retweet Scale offers a useful conceptualization and assessment of motivations for retweeting. In the future, communication strategists might consider the factors associated with information propagation when designing campaign messages to maximize message reach and engagement on Twitter.

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