The favorite and retweet buttons have distinct purposes they were intended for in Twitter, though of course not everyone uses them as our Twitter gods intended they be used.
This is how you accomplish two things: 1) Sharing a tweet you found worthy of sharing. 2) Promoting the author’s tweet for more visibility. Retweeting is a way of saying, “Check this out, I like it!”
A favorite is more like a bookmark. Instead of having to scroll through your timeline, a favorite is always available at https://twitter.com/favorites or under the Favorites button in your client of choice. You can use this to reference a tweet when you want to, or view a link in the tweet later on a different device, and then uncheck it when you don’t want to remember it later. Favoriting is a way of saying, “I want to look at this tweet later.”
Neither is a Like
Don’t treat twitter like the book of faces. Favoriting a tweet isn’t a way to tell other people that it’s a great tweet, in fact it won’t show up on your timeline and only the author will be notified of your favorite. Someone would have to be stalking you to check out your favorites, and while that’s a possibility, it’s not as noticeable as a retweet. Likewise, if you want to save something for later, retweeting it WILL make it show up on your “Me” page, but it can still get pushed further down the timeline, so it’s not as memorable as a favorite.
This isn’t obvious and it took me a while to figure out the difference, but there is one. I don’t expect anyone to change their behavior based on this – in fact, the twitterverse will disappoint me if the twitter announcement of this post isn’t favorited by everyone – but I just had to say something 🙂