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.

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June 25, 2010 - Posted by | other | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Comments »

  1. I agree totally. One other point: People who are recommended as a FF should thank the person who recommended them, and that person only. DO NOT RT the whole FF tweet and say thanks. I don’t like people tooting their own horns like that – I’m already following you!

    Nice write-up!

    Comment by leslie | June 25, 2010 | Reply

    • Leslie, spot-on.

      After I wrote the post, I realized that I forgot to make this important caveat: please don’t retweet the #FF tweets. They just add to the spam that we already see.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Comment by readingbyeugene | June 25, 2010 | Reply

  2. Love your suggestions. And I the concept of recommending only a single person and doing it well is fantastic. Thank you!

    Comment by Mary Rarick | June 25, 2010 | Reply

    • Absolutely. I am glad you found the post helpful. If you think it will be helpful to others, please let them know as well. Thanks for the comment.

      Comment by readingbyeugene | June 25, 2010 | Reply

  3. This was a very helpful guide to #FF and I wish that I had known these tips last week. I’ve been with Twitter for a while now but have only recently started using it as a viable means to help get new followers for my blog. I only learned about #FF last week and thought it was a good idea. As someone who saw #FF being used the improper way and not knowing it was the improper way, I suppose that I have been labeled a “spammer” by some. It was never my intention to be a “spammer” but I can see how it would come across that way. Now I am a “reformed spammer” and will put your tips to work in my #FF. It’s too late to do anything about today’s but please accept my sincere apologies if you are one of my followers and I spammed you!

    Comment by JT Locke | June 25, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks JT…

      It took me a while to start doing #FF the way I am doing it now (as I mentioned, over the last few months, I’ve only recommended a total of 15 people total; I keep a track in my Follow Friday Twitter list), but I think it’s a better way. There are others who will disagree of course.

      And it’s never too late to start doing #FF the right way. Feel free to spread the word as well: the best thing that can come out of this post is that more people will make #FF more pleasant for everyone.

      Comment by readingbyeugene | June 25, 2010 | Reply

  4. Great post! I for one am changing the way I do Follow Friday. Your article makes so much sense. Part of the problem (for me at any rate, is that there is almost a sense of social pressure to reciprocate.

    I did have a tendency to do Follow Fridays individually or in small related groups. But if someone follows you on the weekend, it can be very difficult to evaluate their timeline to secide if you want to follow them because of all the #FF blocks!

    I had reached the point where Fridays were beginning to seem like a chore. This was very liberating! And I have been spreading the word. Thanks again for the post!

    Comment by Glinda Harrison | June 25, 2010 | Reply

  5. Thanks for the comment, Glinda.

    >Part of the problem is that there is almost a sense of >social pressure to reciprocate.

    A valid point, and something that I didn’t address extensively in the post. My advice is to reciprocate any #FF you receive with a “Thank You” (as an @-reply; I am not a fan of #FF retweets).

    Someone mentioned this over Twitter: if I choose to do #FF this way, will it work? By work, it means: will my followers pay enough attention to actually follow my recommendation?

    From my personal experience, the answer is yes (and as I have shown in the case above with @pourmecoffee and @atlasobscura, it is absolutely the case). Something which I did notice from my choosing to do #FF this way over the last six months or so: fewer people are including me in their #FF recommendations, presumably because the chance of me reciprocating a #FF will be very slim. But that’s okay…because pretty much all of these #FF recommendations come in these spammy chunks, and I doubt anyone followed me from those (essentially worthless, even if their intention was sound) #FF recommendations anyway. So I’d rather do #FF my way and do it right rather than feel obliged to reciprocate (as that would just add to the spam).

    I hope that makes sense. Thanks again for the comment! I sincerely hope Fridays will feel less like a chore from now on.

    Comment by readingbyeugene | June 26, 2010 | Reply

  6. Great post! Very informative and you really explained the etiquette behind using the #FF twitter verbage. Thanks for the great insight!

    Comment by Sarah | June 27, 2010 | Reply

  7. I love this post and wish it were compulsory reading for everyone on twitter. It’s gotten to the point where I dread Fridays because all I see in my feed all day long is #FF with 100’s of random handles, which is incredibly uninteresting. Thank you for this article, now to make sure everyone sees it.

    Comment by Emily R | July 9, 2010 | Reply

  8. Awesome post! This should be mandatory reading for a new twitter user. I am new and was initially confused at #FF, then flattered then frustrated with it’s spam. Thanks for the clarification!

    Comment by Mark Lawrence | July 18, 2010 | Reply

  9. Wow! Great information and so very true. A few weeks ago, I was thinking this very thing…who has time the time to check out every #FF listed in a tweet. Last week, I began giving reason for my #FF which included at least two usernames. Moving forward, I’ll be using one username per #FF tweet and no more than 3-5 per week! Thanks!

    Comment by tonibradshaw01 | July 22, 2010 | Reply

  10. Hi @eugenephoto. Thanks again for this post. I think it’s worth ‘repeating’ now and then…say, every Thursday!! Maybe #FF could become meaningful again.

    Comment by MatrixKape | August 16, 2010 | Reply

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    Comment by cou pon code | April 21, 2011 | Reply


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