What is #FollowFriday on Twitter?

@Whitehouse takes part in #FollowFriday, Feels...

Yes, even the White House is paying it forward!

There are still a lot of people who ask me this question, both new Twitter users as well as veterans.  I thought I would write a post that would hopefully serve as a resource for the entire Twitter community to better understand this phenomenon.  It also serves as a conclusion that I have reached on how to #FollowFriday that will ideally serve as advice for you as well.

If you have been on Twitter for awhile, you have probably noticed the messages on mainly Fridays (although they start coming on Thursday and last until the beginning of the following week…) that have a #FollowFriday or #FF followed by a list of peoples names, all beginning with an @ sign.  What gives?

I also was really confused by this at the beginning.  But I was also intrigued by the amount of people doing it without any written rules anywhere.  Welcome to the viral world of Twitter!

FollowFriday has been traced by Mashable to a single tweet from Micah Baldwin (who you should note is the VP and Lead Evangelist for Lijit Networks, who powers the search box on this blog), on January 16, 2009 that said “I am starting Follow Fridays. Every Friday, suggest a person to follow, and everyone follow him/her.”  And that’s it!  After that, it was the viral nature of Twitter that took #FollowFriday to where it is today!  Micah writes in detail about how it started by sending out his message to a few people, including Chris Brogan, to get the trend started here, and you can see his article reviewing the beginnings and the viral growth that followed on the Mashable site here.

My own experience with #FollowFriday is that, ideally speaking, it is a great weekly habit of paying it forward in Windmill Networking terms and recommending your followers to follow someone that you respect.  But over time, and as your followers (and hopefully your #FollowFriday mentions) increase, it begins to take up time as you sort through all of your tweets and start broadcasting the #FollowFriday messages.  Additionally, if you think about your Twitter Brand, it could become diluted if you are sending out tweet after tweet thanking someone for their #FF mention or sending out your own with lists of usernames.  But on the other hand, you hopefully feel the need to reciprocate every #FollowFriday that is sent to you.

So what is my recommendation here?  I always tell people that social media and Windmill Networking is about adding “The Personal Touch” and being real and genuine with people.  This is why I am absolutely opposed to Automated Direct Messages on Twitter.  On the other hand, if there are things that you are doing manually that you can automate in order to make better use of your time, I am totally in favor of using them.  The delicate balance of being personable, however, needs to be preserved.

There was a great post recently that explored the same topic of what to do with #FollowFriday.  The approach taken by the author, Chris Garrett, was to figure out how not to feel bad if you have the need to not reciprocate someone’s #FollowFriday mention.  How do you make it fair without overlooking people?  He asked his Twitter followers and got the following responses – my comments follow after the dash :

  • Don’t do #FollowFriday’s in the first place – I think that the Pay It Forward mentality of #FollowFriday is great and has its place if done in moderation in a personable way.
  • Categorize your #FollowFriday mentions – I have done this in the past and think this is one solution, so that people know whether or not to follow one of your #FollowFriday mentioned based on their categories.  But it still doesn’t help you manage the madness.
  • Only recommend new tweeple  - But this will require work to sort through hundreds if not thousands of tweets to glean this information.
  • Only recommend your most interactive tweeple – This is what I was doing, but once again, requires you to sit down and spend time analyzing your Twitter stream from the last week.

I believe that #FollowFriday, just like Windmill Networking, needs to be a truly personable and Pay It Forward activity.  So starting this week, with my reasoning below, I am going to enact the following policy which I believe will be the perfect combination of remaining personable, giving depth to my recommendations, as well as paying it forward for those that I believe are worthy of mention to my followers:

  1. I will not reciprocate every #FollowFriday mention that I receive.  I find, as you get more followers, that some people are sending me a #FollowFriday in order that I would brodcast a reciprocating one to my follower base, which is larger than theirs.  This is only a minority of the people doing so, but I believe that they do exist.  Plus, pure reciprocation is not personable and does not give my followers any background on why I am mentioning them.    I do appreciate receiving mention, especially if they fall into the 2. or 3. category below.
  2. I will, however, go out of my way to thank those that sent me a #FollowFriday, especially if they are people that I have had interactions with.  In other words, before sending me a #FollowFriday, please get to know me!
  3. If I reciproacte any #FollowFriday, it would be for those people who went out of their way to send me a personable recommendation with the proper background.  These are truly worthy of noting and thanking.
  4. So will I still send #FollowFridays?  Yes!  But I would like to start doing so in a way that is meaningful and provides depth.  I had the fortune to be on the receiving end of what I thought were ideal #FollowFridays last week from my follower Brian King (he has one of the greatest logos which you can see on his Twitter page) as well as my good bud Bradley Will.  They both sent me recommendations through Mr. Tweet that had depth and also serve to recommend me to more users on Mr. Tweet.  And I will start doing a few #FollowFridays a week recommending others through Mr. Tweet.  Why?  Not only does Mr. Tweet force you to submit a recommendation one at a time, but the recommendation also becomes part of their database and helps recommend the person you write about to others!  Isn’t that how #FollowFriday started?  If you aren’t a member of Mr. Tweet, you absolutely should join up and start recommending others!  It is the closest thing that I have found to LinkedIn Recommendations in the Twittersphere.

To be honest with you, I have really struggled with this issue over the last several weeks trying to find a balance that works and a method to the madness.  I have also received some great feedback from my followers, especially Tom Voute.  #FollowFriday is a great idea that deserves its place, but as your followers grow, you too will also have to find a balance between thanking everyone and saving time for yourself.  I hope this advice provides value to you so that you can start your own healthy #FollowFriday habits that will both be meaningful as well as help you on your Twitter journey.

(If you want to ignore my advice and try to impersonally automate #FollowFriday, you can with the following application from the Twitter Tag Project.  But it is something that I have never done nor recommend you do either.)

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

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Comments

  1. says

    This is a great post because it considers several social media sites as part of a unit. This is how we must think of these things. As long as you see each one as independent of the other, you’ll miss the power of them all.

    Cheers, Bruce

    Dr Bruce Hoag, CPsychol
    Organizational Psychologist
    http://www.p-advantage.com

  2. says

    This is a great post because it considers several social media sites as part of a unit. This is how we must think of these things. As long as you see each one as independent of the other, you’ll miss the power of them all.

    Cheers, Bruce

    Dr Bruce Hoag, CPsychol
    Organizational Psychologist
    http://www.p-advantage.com

  3. says

    I generally use FollowFriday for highlighting those people who either:

    a.) are notable in the niche in question

    or

    b.) folks who I personally enjoy following because of their helpfulness online.

    Both aspects are important online. I like your comment: “If I reciproacte any #FollowFriday, it would be for those people who went out of their way to send me a personable recommendation with the proper background. These are truly worthy of noting and thanking.” Very good point and one that I will keep in mind.

  4. says

    I generally use FollowFriday for highlighting those people who either:

    a.) are notable in the niche in question

    or

    b.) folks who I personally enjoy following because of their helpfulness online.

    Both aspects are important online. I like your comment: “If I reciproacte any #FollowFriday, it would be for those people who went out of their way to send me a personable recommendation with the proper background. These are truly worthy of noting and thanking.” Very good point and one that I will keep in mind.

  5. brianreeves says

    The problem with #FollowFriday is the same problem that most people have with Twitter. It's supposed to be about QUALITY, not QUANTITY. If someone follows me on Twitter, I am not obligated to follow them back. That is the point…I am trying to provide the world relevant information to make people WANT to follow me. If all someone does is follow me so I follow them…we cancel each other out. My goal is to ALWAYS provide enough relevant content to be followed by twice as many people as I follow. It is a hard standard to maintain…but it is also the criteria that I use to decide who I am going to follow. If the person I'm considering has more than twice as many followers as the individual follows…I know THAT person is worth following. People that follow 1,000 people and are FOLLOWED by 1,000 people tells me that he/she is more than likely playing a numbers game and not worth my time.

    The same goes for #FollowFriday. If someone recommends me for a #FollowFriday…I appreciate it, but do not feel obligated to send one back. If they provide valuable content that MY followers would enjoy, I recommend them for a #FF. And I always post WHY my recommendations should be followed. “#FollowFriday @llangitt for great Microsoft support!” will mean a lot more than just posting ten names in a list without any context.

    I usually base my #FollowFriday recommendation on the past week's activity level. If I recall reading some great content from the individual I'll recommend a #FollowFriday. After all, isn't that WHY you would want to recommend someone?

  6. says

    Hey Brian,

    Pleasure meeting you the other day ;-)

    I agree 100% with your #FollowFriday policy and believe that that is a great standard to uphold.

    When it comes down to friend/follower ratio and quality vs. quantity on Twitter, I have a different opinion. For me, it all comes down to your objective as to why you are on Twitter to begin with. If you have a message to broadcast, the more people that see that message and potentially retweet it, the better, no? I see Twitter, as well as LinkedIn and any other social networking site, as functional social networking sites that should be used to achieve an objective through implementing your brand. If that means following lots of people on Twitter or connecting with those that you don't know on LinkedIn it doesn't matter…you are building out the same virtual network. Not to say that quality nor relevance isn't important as they are essential in helping you reach your objective. But I tip the scales a little differently.

    I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I hope to convince you all as I start blogging more about Twitter and working on my book. Stay tuned for more content!

    - Neal

  7. says

    Hey Brian,

    Pleasure meeting you the other day ;-)

    I agree 100% with your #FollowFriday policy and believe that that is a great standard to uphold.

    When it comes down to friend/follower ratio and quality vs. quantity on Twitter, I have a different opinion. For me, it all comes down to your objective as to why you are on Twitter to begin with. If you have a message to broadcast, the more people that see that message and potentially retweet it, the better, no? I see Twitter, as well as LinkedIn and any other social networking site, as functional social networking sites that should be used to achieve an objective through implementing your brand. If that means following lots of people on Twitter or connecting with those that you don't know on LinkedIn it doesn't matter…you are building out the same virtual network. Not to say that quality nor relevance isn't important as they are essential in helping you reach your objective. But I tip the scales a little differently.

    I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I hope to convince you all as I start blogging more about Twitter and working on my book. Stay tuned for more content!

    - Neal

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