When we think the contents of retweets, we think interesting articles, witty or funny comments and links. Usually when something is retweeted, we take a look at it before moving on to the next one. However, there is a extra benefit from being retweeted heavily, mainly that they will stick in the collective memory of users more and while it's something that media outlets experience on a regular basis, due to their familiarity with the medium, other areas are catching up.
One area that appears to be benefiting from the speed and reach of Twitter is scholarly work, as a new study found that heavily tweeted articles were eleven times more likely to be highly cited than less tweeted articles. The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) analysed a three year period and studied the impact Twitter, blogs and social bookmarking tools had on scholarly articles. They also attempted to see whether a metric could be specific enough to predict which articles would be highly cited or not.
A total of 4,208 tweets that analysed 286 distinct JMIR articles were analysed between July 2008 and November 2011. From the findings, the author of the paper Gunther Eysenbach said that it was possible to predict what articles would be highly cited within the first three days. He concluded that "social media activity either increases citations or reflects the underlying qualities of the article that also predict citations, but the true use of these metrics is to measure the distinct concept of social impact".
Since there isn't a proper metric to measure the impact of tweets, they came up with a new one called the twimpact factor (TWIF7), which measures the cumulative number of tweets that cite an article gets in seven days.
Considering that the journal and articles analysed focus on the web, it's quite possible that they would be retweeted by those who would be more savvy with social media. While it's still early days, it could mean that reports and journals - that usually take years for their respective disciplines to pick up on - could be streamlined and picked up a lot faster. It mightn't be an immediate process but it could mean that breakthroughs in research could be highlighted a lot faster and be acted upon quicker.