So today is yet another Follow Friday on Twitter. That's #followfriday to those of you who already know.
To those who don't know, a quick lesson in Twitter hashtags. Hashtags -- twittered words preceded by the # sign -- create groupings of a particular subject. You include a hashtag in your tweet when you want to create or add information to a topic. Say #travel #writers #parenting. Then when someone does a general Twitter search including your hashtag, your tweet appears under that search.
Follow Friday -- and it's corresponding hashtag #followfriday -- allows you to recognize those people you follow or those who follow you in some small yet significant way. When you add a #followfriday to a tweet with someones name, you're saying, "Hey, I dig this person. You should follow them too."
What this also means is every Friday, Twitter swells with hundreds, nay thousands of recommendations. It would require amazing time, patience and diligence just to blindly follow them all. The whole thing quickly becomes overwhelming and annoying. Most people stop paying attention. I know I certainly have. And many will even unfollow you if your Friday stream simply spews out list after list of recommended people.
So really then, what is the purpose of Follow Friday?
It's A Great Way To Reconnect With Those I Haven't Talked To In A While
I currently have a following of over 3000. While not the largest on Twitter, by far, it's still huge. To stay in touch with all these people would be impossible, and it's more likely I'd have a nervous breakdown before reaching them all.
Every so often, though, perhaps once a month, I take a Friday to recognize all those who have given me a personalized #followfriday recommendation. These are people I know beyond casual Twittering. We have become involved to whatever extent in each others personal, professional or Twitter lives.
@fogandthistle I met Rachel through YouBeMom when I posted to ask if anyone else was on Twitter. Since then, Rachel has introduced me to many of those she follows. I bought one of her beautiful papercut nightlights for Lila, and we have plans to meet in NY this September to discuss a project we'll hopefully be doing together.
@worldlyjohn A web developer and winner of the Social Action's Change the Web Challenge. We met when he twittered a request for input on his Change the Web Challenge entry and have since kept in touch. Turns out we will both be at Burning Man this summer. He's also about to move to my old neighborhood in Brooklyn and start his own web development firm. I'd like to hire him to redesign my websites.
When I #followfriday this group of people, I make sure to list them separately and give a specific reason why I so much appreciate them as part of my Twitter community.
Show Appreciation To Those Who Have Recommended Me
This is perhaps the largest group of people in my #followfriday group. Most, I don't know well. Many, I may never know beyond the occasional superficial tweet. But I do very much appreciate that they've taken the time to let me know they like what I do.
I want to say thank you back, so I include them in a longer list of people with just names but no particular descriptions.
Builds Your Following. Builds Community.
Many people send out list after list of people they don't know and probably don't or won't ever know much about. At first, this annoyed me. Clearly these people have no interest in me personally. They just want a bit of attention, want me to follow them, but then afterward, I won't hear a single thing from them.
Then I realized, so what?
Whenever I'm included in a list of #followfridays, it's a good bet the others in the list will follow me or retweet the list. Thus, my name gets around. While the percentage of people who then begin to follow me or read my blog based on these recommendations is significantly smaller than with those people who have taken the time to get to know me, it still builds my following.
And you never know where a real life, real time connection is to be made.
Builds Your Twitter Ranking
When you #followfriday people, they usually thank you and then start #followfridaying you. The more mentions you have on a particular day, the higher your ranking in Twitter Grader, an online ranking tool of Twitterers worldwide. It's divided by country, city and you can even find your overall ranking among more than 2 million Twitterers.
What does that mean? Well, it's not the end-all-and-be-all, but appearing high on any of these rankings will bring more people to your Twitter page and ultimately to your website. It is also quite a thing to say in your marketing profile that you are, theoretically, one of the Top Twenty Twitterers in Argentina -- as high as #4 in the country on a busy #followfriday -- and Number One in Salta.
Perhaps by now, I've convinced you to engage in Friday mania I've grown to know and love. Here are some tips to get you involved.
So How To Know Who Endorses You?
I use Top Follow Friday. You just type in your name and out comes a listing with all the people you've recommended and those who have recommended you. I do warn, though, this list isn't complete. More than once I have noticed key people missing, but it is a good tool.
If anyone has any other tools they use, please leave your ideas in the comments and feel free to let me know how I can thank you in return.
Follow Friday Isn't the Best Method of Connecting with Big Names On Twitter
Yes, I know, Follow Friday is for making connections, but those so-called Big Names -- @guykawasaki @skydiver @kriscolvin @zaibatsu -- receive so many mentions and retweets, it's likely yours will get lost in the crowd. There are so many better ways of getting their attention -- mention them in an article and then message them directly to let them know, for example.
Unless I have a specific reason to recommend them, I save my praise for retweeting.
You Don't Have To Do It All
I never get to everyone, and I'm sure there are people I miss entirely. Like everything else with social media -- and really life in general -- you can't do it all.
Don't kill yourself over it. A solid relationship won't fall apart if you somehow forget to mention a person. By the same token, you shouldn't get all bent out of shape if someone fails to mention you. Think of #followfriday as icing. Appreciate it when you have it, but don't whine if you don't.
As time passes, you'll find you meet more and more people. You'll see your list of endorsers grow and watch as the names on your list go from just names to people you not only recognize, but with whom you've developed real, working, give-and-take relationships.
It just takes time and patience.