10 uses for Twitter favourites (and the signals that they send)

How to get more out of Twitter etiquette

Twitter is home to 284 million monthly active users producing a flood of 500 million Tweets each day. That’s a lot of scope for retweets or favourites – two very different responses.

Every other button on social media has one clear function. However there’s more than one purpose behind the Twitter star and this has lead to several strategies for how to put it to best use. When someone favourites your Tweet their reason may be less obvious than first appears…

Twitter-favourite star

Twitter favourite star

And if you don’t have a strategy for using Twitter favourites then that sends out a message too.

How you can use Twitter favourites

  1. Click the favourite button to bookmark a Tweet for reading later. When you then access your list of favourites within Twitter what you have in effect is a reading list. This is most useful if you are part of the 80% of active users on mobile as it enables you to save longer pieces of content for a device with a larger screen.

    You can use this IFTTT recipe to save your favourite tweets to Pocket. Other actions include sending to Evernote, Facebook or a range of popular services. If you need a primer in using IFTTT take a look at the post A beginner’s video guide to ifttt.com.

    The website favatron.com also offers a free bookmark and read later service for Twitter favourites. It can provide an email summary of each link, create an RSS feed or add favourites to Readability or Pocket.

  2. Turn a Tweet into a testimonial. Favouriting a Tweet can highlight it as a stand-out comment that you choose to represent you. When these favourites are taken together they can give reassurance to customers during the buying process or generally endorse your authority.

    Within Twitter the list of your favourites becomes a list of testimonials that any follower can click on. This list is only visible to those who seek it out, but there are methods to create a showcase for all to see:

    • Display testimonials in the sidebar of your website with the official Twitter widget. You can find instructions in this helpful how-to. On WordPress you may prefer to use a plugin such as Tweet-stimonials.
    • You can distribute your favourite Tweets as an ebook using the website Tweetbook. This makes particular sense for testimonials but it’s also relevant for many of the other ideas on this page.
    • Embed a tweet wherever you want to display testimonials. The Twitter styling reinforces their authenticity, giving it a greater impact. To embed a Tweet click on the icon with three dots that lies below the Tweet then copy the code.
  3. Use a favourite to give a quick thumbs-up or show of appreciation where the reason is clear enough without a comment, as with a Facebook ‘like’. This gives quick feedback or encouragement to the person who sent the Tweet.
    A retweet informs all your followers while a favourite is a quieter nod of approval – only two people know that it happened, the ‘favouriter’ and the ‘favoritee’. It’s possible for anyone else to follow the trace below the Tweet but that takes more clicks than most of us are willing to spend. So it’s a way of saying you like it without disrupting your followers’ timelines.Although they seem a less public acknowledgement than a retweet favourites do remain as a chronological feed on your profile, unlike retweets which sink beneath the waves of the Twitterverse.
  4. Privacy or clutter?

    Earlier this summer Twitter began adding other people’s favourites into your timeline. Previously a Twitter favourite was only notified to the user who made the original Tweet. In response to complaints Twitter explained that these favourites appear only when no new tweets are found after the user twice refreshes their screen. So this is Twitter’s attempt to show something that could potentially be of more interest than displaying nothing at all…

    To some people this move simply meant clutter but many people saw it as an outing of something they wrongly considered private – in fact favourites have never been private, being only a click or two away for anyone to find.No matter how great your need for privacy there’s no setting to hide your favourites, unless you make your whole stream private so that everything is hidden.

  5. Add your latest favourite tweet to your email signature with the website wisestamp.com. It’s designed to work with most webmail services including Gmail. This would be particulalry effective for showing your latest testimonial but it could be used with many of the other ideas on this page.
    WiseStamp email signature Twitter favourites

    The process is a little convoluted but the results are effective

    To display Twitter favourites WiseStamp needs the RSS feed URL of your favourites, but when Twitter tightened its API in 2013 it stopped providing RSS. However you can obtain the information with these ingenious instructions. When you’ve created the body of your signature on WiseStamp add the app ‘Blog – RSS feed’ and enter your feed details.Of course the free version includes WiseStamp branding but you can go pro for £38.08 per year (for the land that invented favorites, that’s $57.60…).

  6. Favourites can form a collection of work that you endorse. Whenever you tweet about a new article that you’ve written add a star to you’re best work for current and future clients. I’m going to add a star when I tweet about this article!
  7. Use favourites as a curation tool to catalogue a particular type of Tweet. For instance, adding a star can create a log of Tweets with the same hashtag, such as a unique tag created for a marketing campaign. By favouriting you’re also giving an acknowledgement to everyone who participates in the campaign.
  8. It’s possible to hit the star with irony – some people use it in response to something that has clearly offended them. This has been compared to smiling at a person yelling in your face. Such passive aggression isn’t recommended for clear communication. But what it shows is that a button can be put to a sophisticated use that not all users will be aware of.
  9. ‘Thank you’, ‘You’re welcome’, ‘Cheers’… Adding a star is a cooler alternative to creating more noise with text that your followers have to read too. Although clicking the star takes less effort than typing, it’s enough to show your acknowledgement.
    On the other hand, there are times when you may prefer to say more than a star does, and it’s good for SEO to include the original link in a reply. So choose the right button at the right time.
  10. The popularity of Tweets can be taken as a sign of good writing – the best Tweet gets the most stars. You can use use Favstar.fm to rank Tweets and Tweeters by the favourites they generate. People have even been using the tool to source writers and comedians.
  11. When there’s nothing more to say you can add a friendly star to signal the end of a conversation. It’s like closing with ‘It’s been nice talking to you…’.

With so many separate uses it would make sense for Twitter to create at least one extra button, such as a dedicated read-it-later button. That would at least free up the favourite button for other uses. As it stands, if you want to collect a single type of favourite you have to show discipline where you add a star, or be prepared to delete the ‘wrong’ types from your feeds.


10 uses for Twitter favourites (and the signals that they send)
10 uses for Twitter favourites (and the signals that they send)
Twitter favourites have more than one purpose, from a bookmark to a Thank you. Choose the best strategy to get more out of Twitter etiquette.
  • Hi Donald, This is a brilliant discussion of the many possible uses for favorite Tweets (yes, i’m from the land that invented “favorites”). I especially like the idea of incorporating the favorite tweet into the WiseStamp signature (I’m a big WiseStamp fan).

    You do have to be careful though that you don’t mix the different formats. For example, you don’t want a sarcastic favorite to appear in your WiseStamp signature. Oops! ;-)

    • Good point about the signature, you don’t want something negative popping up :) Glad you like the post, thanks for commenting, Carolyn

  • Cate Russell-Cole

    Thank you for an intriguing post. I have become very immune to having my tweets marked as favourites, as I am finding that quite a number of people are repeatedly using them in a spam like manner to draw attention to themselves. They are favouriting just any tweet. If I see it reoccur, it’s the block button for them.


    • I’ve never heard of that before, it sounds quite strange. I can’t see what they’d hope to gain, it’s not like anyone would favourite them back. But of course if you detect something troll-like then banning is the answer.

      Thanks for commenting, Cate, glad you found the post interesting

  • Nice article Donald, one of my favourites is the hashtag # using it not only collate your own posts but to search on a topic to see if anything of interest is currently streaming. Great for keeping conversations going as well. Loved some of your refreshing suggestions, thanks.

    • I’m pleased you like it, Joan, thanks for commenting

  • Hi, Donald,

    Great post, and will be using favorites for sure more and more, so thanks for the encouragement. Lots of possibilities, and you covered a lot of good info, sharing this with friends.

    I used to use WiseStamp but found that I can have a great signature within Gmail, and I know HTML, so it’s easy for me to have one if I so choose without the fee.

    But the integration would pull in different tweets, so I do get that unique part of it.

    Awesome post, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend, Donald.

    Talk to you soon.
    – Carol

    • Yes, gmail does tick a lot of boxes with it’s own signature. I’m surprised there’s not an add-on within gmail to take care of this feature too.

      Thank you for commenting, Carol. Glad you like it. Have a lovely weekend too.