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The Problem with Follow Friday

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Every Friday, I see this influx of tweets labeled #FF or #followfriday. While I think it is great to acknowledge your favorite followers, I do think that almost all of people using the #FF tag aren’t making the most of Follow Friday. Essentially, most people are just clogging Twitter.

The Follow Friday trend was started in 2009, and the basic social networking concept does make sense. I’m following some cool people. I announce to everyone that they’re cool and you should follow them, too. A percentage of my followers makes the effort to follow the people I’ve recommended. All this time, other people are doing the same thing, and some are even recommending you. So, everybody gets new followers and your popularity spirals outward as you’re introduced to new people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet.

Today, Follow Friday is one of the most popular trends on Twitter, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t really work the way it was set out to work. On Fridays, lists of names with the #FF or #followfriday tag have become white noise in many cases.

Why? Here’s the breakdown, as I see it:

  • Most people follow hundreds of people, but are only friends (either in real life or online) with a small percentage.
  • When someone you know well recommends people, you might follow them, but when a follower that you don’t know well recommends someone, you don’t know how good that recommendation is. So, chances are, you don’t follow their recommendations.

Something else to consider: do the people who follow you based on a Follow Friday recommendation actually care about your tweets? Are they clicking your links, retweeting your messages, and replying to you? In my experiences, the answer is no most of the time. Even when a few people recommend me, I don’t see a huge influx of followers, and the new followers a I do get usually don’t say hello at any point.

So how can we fix this? I think that Twitter users everywhere can make Follow Friday better by doing two things:

  • Recommend with a Reason

The days of effectively listing as many people as possible that you like are over. That doesn’t mean you can’t show lots of love. You can! I think you should do it in one of two ways, though:

  1. Have a theme to your recommendations. Make your recommendations all mommy bloggers or all foodies or all photographers or whatever. Having a theme means that people who are specifically interested in that topic can follow your recommended users, while others on your list who aren’t interest in that niche can skip over your recommendations for the week.
  2. Recommend one person (or one person at a time in multiple tweets), and tell everyone why you’re recommending that person. I’m recommending @John because he retweets interesting links about art. I’m recommending @Jane because she posts really great inspirations quotes. I’m recommending @Bob because he’s a weight loss guru that really helped me lose a few pounds.

In other words, don’t just throw your recommendations to the world and hope that they stick. You’re obviously recommending someone because you enjoy following them on Twitter, but that might not translate to other users on your list. Give your followers reasons why they should follow the person you’re recommending.

  • Get to know the people you follow.

What’s the point of following someone if you don’t actually connect with them. Before you follow anyone on one of your friend’s recommendations, take the time to look at that person’s tweets. Are you really interested in following? Remember, Twitter is about quality over quantity. When you take the time to follow someone because of someone else’s Follow Friday recommendation, introduce yourself in a non-spammy way and begin a relationship with them. You don’t have to retweet everything they say or reply to every post, but be a true follower, not someone who’s just looking to boost numbers.

Follow Friday is an awesome tool if you use it correctly. If you make some real connections on Twitter, you could end up with not just a new follower, but a new friend, a new business partner, or a new reader for your blog.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. To find out her #FF of the week, follow her on Twitter at @allison_boyer – and don’t forget to say hello!

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.


Feedback

14
  • RhondaRanae

    Hello Allison,

    I like the suggestions here. I am new to blogging, social media and, specifically, Twitter, so the clarification on what Follow Friday is and how to improve it was welcomed.

    The points that you make about getting to know the people you follow also struck me. I follow a number of people who write very engaging material that I enjoy reading about social media, internet marketing, blogging, etc., but I have never connected with them on a personal level. I hope that they don’t think I am only interested in boosting numbers by following them. I feel like I am a true follower of theirs, I just haven’t reached out and said hello because in the vast scheme of things I feel so insignificant compared to who they are and their popularity. Perhaps I should reconsider my thought process.

    Thanks for the great article,
    RhondaRanae

  • Lonny Dunn

    I have noticed that there really is not alot of activity anymore on Follow Fridays. As a matter of fact, Twitter could possibly be victim of it’s own lsuccess. The fail whales and “Overcapacity” issues which many internet analysts predict will cost Twitter endusers may be the cause. Twitter veterans know that there is a liklihood that it will crash on Fridays so they actually do most of their work on Thursday. This of course pushes them to get their work out of the way on Wednesday, so you might say FF starts on Tuesday night by some!

    To think FF is going to be a bonanza of following by some is not true either. We manage upwards of twenty accounts, some of which are simply test accounts. We name them various things, to appeal to diff classes of ppl, and demographics. I am not saying that we are the only team with analytics, but it is interesting to be able to manage mutliptle streams of information, and add topical factual information to conversations like this. Having said that, we do run tests, keep track and ascertain follow rates as well as different follow and unfollow patterns based upon what we are testing any given week.

    For instance, whether it be on Follow Friday or any other day, someone with over 125% Following Ratio is unlikely to follow you back. SIZE DOES NOT MATTER! LoL …Doesn’t matter if they only have 45 followers. If they follow only 30 ppl? They likely will not follow you back. Also, if they do follow you back, they may Unfollow you in the near future. We know this to be statistically true, as we track them specifically for this ……We like to call this the narcissistic crowd, b/c likely they have an inflated image of their importance. Unbeknownst to them, the liklihood of any of their followers actually seeing a Tweet in realtime is so low, that they have a better chance of being struck by lightening twice in the same spot!

    I mention this group, because it is highly unlikely that they will follow back, and if they do, they will unfollow. So if you really want to participate in Follow Friday, and find followers, don’t follow anyone over 125% ratio.

    We have found certain occupations to be extremely picky whom they follow. I won’t go into all of them, for fear of isolating them, but just to give an example, because I am a writer, writers tend to look over profiles, examine whom they follow and are looking for inspiration. They don’t follow back unless they feel you are going to provide some mental stimulation. As a whole, I would say about 25% of them will follow back, you won’t know unless you ask them.

    There are other demographics that have their idiosyncracies as well, but let’s examine timeframe for a moment. Twitter is definately a 9 to 5 thing. Our tests indicate however, that there is still a large segment that follows after 5pm US time, and if you appeal to the international crowd, you might find that when you wake up your account has grown by a large amount with this group. Also, the young single group is largely unavailable during the day, as they are in school, so they get on Twitter hard and strong from about 3pm till 10pm. There are always exceptions to these rules, I am basically generalizing based upon tests, retests, and keeping records. We have to base our tests on responses to certain topics, and comments directed at tweens, or topical tweets that identify the demographic, since the age is not available publicly or anywhere.

    I have noticed that Following on Friday is more of what you indicate in your article. A quasi “advertisement” of hey this is who I follow…It has become so mainstream as to be meaningless. I will quote from today. We used my account today for a Test. Our goal was to follow ppl starting at 4am, and follow only “active” tweeters who have Tweeted in the last 24 hours. That was the main criteria, but also not to judge or pre judge the follower, and to follow exactly 1,000 people early this morning so as to be “fresh” for both followed and the account. We ran this same test using 500 with 4 other accounts today. So far, the number of followers is only 100. Honestly, there were more followers from other sources than those we followed on Friday. Using these test accounts today, we have mathmatical, statistical proof that the efficiency quotient is 9.98% call it 10% of the numbers followed to followed back….Follow Friday?? You tell me.

    Now, 900 ppl chose not to follow back on Friday…Could they all be new and not know what Follow Friday is?? Are they judgeing it based upon the profile?? or the Name?? Probably not. b/c we monitor the same numbers across an entire spectrum of names accounts and sizes. The number is always the same. About ten percent efficiency.

    One thing that improves this number is extremely unfortunate because of Twitter follow limits, and that is to actually Unfollow some regular followers to bring down the ratio, but the potential loss of those followers is not often worth the gain.

    That’s all the time I have, I tweet ( Well now you know I have manage alot of peoples accounts, whom I cannot disclose ) but I tweet at ProNetworkBuild.

    Have a great weekend, I appreciate the article, and I appreciate you!!

    Lonny Dunn Editor Author
    http://Twitter.com/ProNetworkBuild

  • Allison

    RhondaRanae, I don’t automatically assume that everyone following me who doesn’t connect with me is just doing so because they want to boost numbers. Some probably are, but I hope the majority just like to read what I have to say, even if they don’t have anything to say in return. That said, don’t EVER feel like you can’t reply to someone because you’re insignificant! Almost everyone on Twitter loves to hear from you, whether you’re a big-name blogger or someone completely new to blogging. Connections start with a single hello.

    Lonny, My philosophy in regards to Twitter is very different than your own, I think. I don’t follow people in order to get a follow in return. I follow people because I’m interested in what they’re saying, regardless of whether or not they follow me back. Quality over quantity. I’m not going to follow someone just because they follow me, and frankly, I don’t want someone to follow me just because I follow them. People think of Twitter as a numbers game, but in my opinion, that’s not what it is about at all. If you aren’t making connections, it doesn’t matter if you have 30 followers or 30,000 followers. It’s like having a mailing list of 1000 people interested in your product versus spamming 100,000 people who haven’t indicated an interest one way or the other. Give me the list of 1000 any day!

  • Jason Berman

    Not sure where the research came from to source the idea for Follow Friday, but I’ve known it to be attributed to Micah Baldwin, @micah on Twitter. Not Mykl R.

    As for the practice, I don’t ever follow people based on #FF. For me and most the folks I follow, #FF became a big butt-kissing meme, that hopefully has run its course.

  • Diana Driscoll

    I usually love Follow Fridays because so many people I’ve “met” and engage with on Twitter have become my friends, and Fridays are a day to have a reason to tell them why they are special. Follow Fridays are like little warm, fuzzy thank you notes sent with the virtual hug. They lift me up, too, and are a wonderful way to wind down the work week. Life sometimes gets in the way, but I usually try to reach out on Fridays to mention and thank those special people who have been so giving to me.

  • John Mayer

    Sites like followfriday.com are trying to avoid these behaviors. It generates a ranking, and all twitter users that make more than 50 FF are expulsed of the ranking. What do you think about it?

  • Glenn

    I like your suggestion about tweeting only one person at a time with a reason why. I do not participate in #FF because I don’t want to make it easier for spammers. But one tweet at a time featuring the “creme de la creme” would work.

  • RhondaRanae

    Thanks Allison for the reply. I am going to run with your suggestions to reach out and say hello. I also agree that quality is better than quantity.

    Thanks again!

  • Arjan Salomons

    Hello Alison,

    great point in only recommending people you know or are proud of sharing them with your followers. Some people try to hard, digging up every follower they have just to get attention, that’s kind of sad..

    Luckily it happens only once a week, I’m not irritated by it though but, just like you, value the real worth of who you recommend and do so only when I think my followers value my recommendation.

    Anyway, great post!

  • Tracy Diziere

    It’s all about context as I say in my post on the same subject: http://tinyurl.com/whynoff.

  • Laura

    as much as i totally hate being “that guy” (sorry!) i am pretty sure FollowFriday was originated by Micah Baldwin in Jan 2009 with the tweet:

    “I am starting FollowFridays. Every Friday, suggest people to follow, and everyone follow him/her. Today its @jeffrey and @dannynewman.”

    I posted the Twitter for @Dummies excerpt about the start of FollowFriday on http://oneforty.posterous.com but Posterous is down at the moment. Should be there when the site returns…

    This is a good dialogue… much has changed since it was started, and some aspects of #FF are pretty problematic. Thanks for getting this conversation rolling!

    Warmly,
    Laura

  • Allison

    @Jason and @Laura – I’m just going to take out that line about who started it, since I keep finding what look like valid sources saying different people! (Will the real FF starter please stand up?)

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