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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.)