Today is Friday, which means that on Twitter, a lot of people are posting names and then putting an #ff after those names. You’ll also see, very likely, a lot of chatter about what to do on or with “Follow Friday.”

The more I see this chatter, the more it makes me think that Follow Friday is one of those things in the online world that can create great feelings or hurt feelings. It can be used really effectively or it can be abused. So, since I have a bit of time today, I thought I’d take a moment to talk to you about this whole phenomenon.

Follow Friday matters to new people

I don’t know about you, but when I had reached, oh, about my 2-month marker on Twitter, I really came to dread Follow Friday. Why? Well, once I finally figured out what it meant (I suggest that you start to follow this person’s tweets), it seemed to be just another reminder of how insignificant I was in the online world. Nobody, and I mean nobody, mentioned me on Friday. Ever. I even remember making a quip about it. “Which will happen first? Will I get hit by lightning or mentioned on Follow Friday?” I was that frustrated, that discouraged. Luckily, no one responded to that tweet!

I didn’t know a whole lot of people at that time, so I would always mention folks who I really did appreciate, like Jay Baer and Ann Handley. One week, I mentioned a person and a bit later in the day I saw them tweeting about how much they hate Follow Friday. That was REALLY discouraging. Not only was I not getting mentioned, but in mentioning other people, I was apparently just creating misery. Awesome, right?

It seemed to me like Follow Friday was a way to recognize a person’s efforts. It mattered to me that I wasn’t being mentioned. It mattered to me that other people in my stream were retweeting every time they were getting mentioned. I felt bad. I have not forgotten that feeling.

Some problems with Follow Friday

There is a really good sentiment behind Follow Friday, but there are a lot of pitfalls with it too. I didn’t understand these pitfalls when I was new, so I thought I would outline what I’ve learned.

A lot of people do what I did. They mention big big names in the Twitter-verse. This causes a lot of problems. First, it’s really hard for those folks to respond to every single person who mentions them on a normal day. On Friday, they are likely completely buried. Second, if they thank 1 person but not another, that second person is going to feel even worse. And of course, if you are super new, these really big names aren’t going to know who you are. Follow Friday can look a lot like name dropping. If you say, “#FF @problogger @copyblogger @chrisbrogan @notsethsblog & @jasonfalls, and if you do that consistently, it’s going to just not have the desired effect.

A lot of people mindlessly retweet every time they’re mentioned, which really clutters it up. As an example, let’s say that someone tweets out a big long list of names for Follow Friday, and one of them is me. Now let’s say I just retweet that. That means that alllll of those people on that list are a) perhaps going to retweet my retweet and b) they’re going to assume that I know them and also am recommending them. This is not always the case, I’d wager. I think a lot of people just like to retweet when they are mentioned on Friday. If your name is with them, then you luck out.

Follow Friday is also hard because it’s hard to please everyone. If you list a dozen people in one tweet, person 13 may feel like he or she is left out. If you include that person, someone else may wonder why they didn’t make the cut that week.

These are all reasons why Follow Friday has kind of left a bad taste in different peoples’ mouths.

And e’er the twain shall meet

So if on the one hand Follow Friday can be really meaningful to a new person yet really annoying to other people, what can we do about it?

Here are some tips for you. Maybe you have more ideas to share – let me know!

I really like the way that Tristan Bishop (@knowledgebishop) does his Follow Friday mentions. Rather than just listing a bunch of names, Tristan takes the time to individually tweet about a handful of people. He tells his followers why he appreciates that person and why he recommends that other people follow that person. You can really tell that he is being genuine, and if you are lucky enough to get mentioned by him, it really brightens your day.

Suggest someone that seems to be having a hard time with Twitter but is definitely working hard at it. Knowing that someone is seeing their dedication and appreciating it can make a HUGE difference.

Make lists of people throughout the week if you want. Keep track of posts that made you laugh out loud, or people who said really insightful things during a chat. Come back on Friday and instead of just saying #ff, link to that person’s blog post (the specific one you liked). Make it a double win for them.

Most importantly, don’t feel like you have to do a Follow Friday tweet. If you are doing things right, people in your community know that you appreciate them and they know exactly why. If you can’t put a genuine feeling behind your #ff sentiment, or if you are worried about leaving something out, don’t do it. Nobody will call he Karma police on you and say, “Oh man, look at that non-Follow-Friday-er!” I promise.

Does that help?

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