Erudite Expressions (Prints)

This Is How You Should Do Follow Friday (#FF)

I have been using Twitter for close to two years now, but I have been paying attention to it much more closely over the last six months or so. What follows below are my personal thoughts, but I always encourage discussion.

Every Friday on Twitter, I read wonderful tweets, but lately, my experience has been overshadowed with great distress. Why? Because every Friday is #FollowFriday or #FF on Twitter. In case you’re not familiar with #FollowFriday, it is a fun, engaging way to recommend Twitter users you follow to others who may not be following the user you’re recommending. #FollowFriday was started by Micah Baldwin (@micah) in January 2009, and of course, the trend has gone viral. So why do I say that Fridays cause me great distress? Because people are doing #FF wrong. In fact, I think #FollowFriday has become Twitter spam, and I hope that this post enlightens you on how to make #FollowFriday pleasant for us all.

#FollowFriday as Spam

So what do I mean by saying that #FF has become spam? It happens when a Twitter user places a bunch of Twitter handles in a single tweet, and tags the tweet with either #FF or #FollowFriday.You can do a Twitter search right now and find that you’ll find a lot of #FF tweets that look like this:

Is anyone really going to follow

If I saw this is in my Twitter timeline, I'd cringe...and unfollow

Now, honestly, do you really think that doing a #FF this way is useful? To me, seeing such #FF tweets is an absolute abomination. If I saw someone tweeting this way, my immediate thought would be: “Stop spamming my Twitter timeline.” How is seeing a bunch of Twitter handles in a single tweet useful in making me try to follow someone? Do you expect me to click on each user’s handle and press the “Follow” button? More likely, I will just gloss over those #FF tweets and follow NO ONE. While you think you’re coming across as helpful, in fact, when you recommend dozens of accounts at once, you come across as insincere, perhaps even robotic.

And even worse news if you’re doing a #FF this way? Because you’re effectively spamming my Twitter timeline, I will look at you as a candidate to be unfollowed. In fact, one of my “Twitter rules” is unfollowing someone who blatantly abuses the #FF hashtag by sending out multiple tweets in that fashion. It’s absolute garbage. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others out there who unfollow users who provide these shallow, worthless #FF recommendations. Which brings us to…

How You Should Do #FF Instead

So how should you do a #FF instead? I’ve been advocating this method for months: recommend JUST ONE person in your #FF tweet. Not ten, not five, not even two. JUST ONE person/account. And in your tweet, briefly explain your recommendation. One of the best Twitterers that gets this approach is @pourmecoffee (who gets my #FF recommendation this week for doing the #FF right). Here is one of @pourmecoffee’s #FF tweets:

One recommendation per tweet, with an explanation

Notice how only account was recommended? In this case, it’s @atlasobscura, and the explanation is succinct (odd, macabre) and absolutely noteworthy. After I saw that tweet on June 4, I went to @atlasobscura’s timeline, checked out a few recent tweets, and then hit that follow button. Simple, but effective.

Imagine what would have happened if @atlasobscura was recommended alongside a bunch of other handles? It would have been lost in the crowd. In case you are wondering, @atlasobscura gathered dozens of new followers following the #FF recommendation from @pourmecoffee:

After a worthy #FF recommendation, @atlasobscura gets dozens of new followers

Now, one could argue that @pourmecoffee is a “power” Twitter user, with great influence, and so anything he says will carry greater weight than any of your #FF recommendations. But my point still stands: the recommendation was worthy because it was stand-alone and it was well-explained. In fact, I’d like to argue that because you have less influence than “power users,” by doing a spammy #FF recommendations, NO ONE will be paying attention (in other words, if @pourmecoffee was recommending a bunch of users in a single tweet, some people would be paying attention and choose to follow; when you take this approach, you are just ignored). If you change it to recommending ONE person in a tweet, your #FF will carry so much more weight and influence.

My Strategy and Recommendations

I’ve been using this #FF strategy for over six months now. On Fridays, I recommend one—and only one—account to follow for the #FF. If I can’t think of anyone to recommend, I don’t send out any #FF tweets. Over the six months I have been doing #FF this way, I have kept a list of everyone that I have recommend. Months in the making, there are only fifteen accounts in my #FollowFriday list. You can be sure that for each #FF, I had a well thought-out reason for my recommendation.

What should you incorporate in your #FF tweet? You’re free to be creative here, of course, and that’s the beauty. But here are my recommendations:

  1. Be sincere (and thoughtful) in your recommendation. Don’t just say “#FF @username because his tweets are awesome.”
  2. If you’re recommending someone funny, find one or two of their funniest tweets and link to them in the #FF.
  3. If you’re recommending someone who has a great blog, provide the link to the blog in the #FF. If there is a particular blog post that has especially inspired you, link to that blog post in the tweet.

What About You?

I mentioned that I recommend only ONE account on a given Friday (or none, if I can’t think of a clever reason for a worthy recommendation). Below is an example of one of my #FF recommendations:

My #FF recommendation for @bencasnocha

However, you can change the mileage here by sending out multiple (my rule of thumb: no more than five) #FF messages per day (and don’t do it all at once; intersperse the #FF tweets throughout the day). Just make sure to only recommend ONE person/account per tweet; otherwise the whole point of your recommendation gets lost (note: you may recommend two accounts in your #FF tweet if they are highly related; for instance, if two journalists are reporting about the BP oil spill in the Gulf and you feel inclined to recommend both of them).

I’m sure others will chime in and say: Twitter is personal, and we should be free to use it any way we please. You’re probably right there (this is a topic for great discussion: who is doing Twitter wrong?). But what I have outlined in this post will make for a more wonderful experience, but only if others get this message and adopt it. I know a few users, who after reading a #FF recommendation with their name, immediately fire off a tweet to the likeness of “Thanks for the #FF @username! Right back at you!” It took me a few weeks to restrain myself from sending out such tweets, because they’re also spammy (if you want to thank someone, why not just send them a thank you by DM or an @-reply?). At the very least, the act of thinking about why you’re recommending someone for #FF is worth the effort; spewing out a bunch of Twitter handles is both mindless and, as I outlined above, ultimately unhelpful (and often worthless).

Final Thoughts

I hope this post has been elucidating (at the very least, I hope it got you thinking). I hope that your attitude toward #FF recommendations has changed toward the recommendation in my post. If your stance on #FF has changed (and you adopt this one-person per tweet #FF strategy), I want to hear back from you (feel free to leave a comment below). And I would appreciate it if you spread the word on Twitter on how your friends/followers should be doing #FollowFriday. Thanks for reading.


June 25, 2010 Posted by | other | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments