Did @PhilBaumann Just Save Follow Friday?

by Neal Wiser. Follow him @nealwiser

Could a solution to the FollowFriday conundrum finally be at hand? I’m not sure, but @PhilBaumann has a great idea.

following

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have read my April post, Follow Friday, too Much of a Good Thing? In that post, I discussed some of the many Pros and Cons of #FollowFriday, especially why so many people are becoming disenchanted with the meme, and offered some recommendations that I feel would improve the FollowFriday experience. Unfortunately, while many people do seem to be making better recommendations recently, my personal FollowFriday experience still leaves me frustrated.

Dude, what’s your Problem?

Just to be clear, as I stated in my previous post, I love the concept of FollowFriday; a day set aside for Twitter users to recommend to their followers other people whom they enjoy following. It’s a great idea that helps users find new and (hopefully) fun and interesting people. And while it’s certainly the quality of followers, not quantity that counts, I’ve met many great tweeters through FollowFriday and, if you participate, I’m sure you have too.

packing-recos
Just Names. Endless names.

Unfortunately, as with all things “internet,” there were no rules about how to participate and regardless of whatever etiquette may have emerged, it’s far from universally accepted. As a result, people made up their own rules and, subsequently, made recommendations in ways that suited them and not necessarily their followers at large. Consequently, their resulting tweets are often filled with endless lists of names. No explanations. No qualifications. Just names.

Additionally, FollowFriday tweets can flood your tweet-stream. They clog the flow and make finding interesting or important tweets difficult, if not impossible. And of course, those names may not be real tweeters at all, but the addresses of fake accounts that are designed to lure unsuspecting tweeters for sinister purposes. Just take a look at your own tweet-stream on Friday and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.

It’s all Academic

From a purely academic perspective, the wide variety of recommendation styles that have emerged is fascinating. In my previous post I identified the most prominent of these styles, and named them as follows:

  • Blind Recommendations
  • Packed Recommendations
  • Clustered Recommendations
  • Pretender Recommendations
  • Automated Recommendations
  • Recommendation Rings
  • Recommendation Phishing (or Phriday Phishing, as I now like to call it)

While I am sure there are more permutations and that new ones have emerged since April, I have since stopped keeping track (leave a comment or tweet me @NealWiser if you know of new ones). However, one thing remains clear; for many people, FollowFriday just does not work as intended.

FollowFriday Today

Despite all this, FollowFriday is thriving. Micah Baldwin, the “father” of FollowFriday recently provided some interesting stats on his site Learn to Duck:

  • #followfriday tweets hit a high of ~240,000
  • #followfriday blog posts hit a high of 746
  • #followfriday Flickr photos hit a high of 10 (really? photos?)

Clearly, FollowFriday remains a popular phenomenon and while I have noticed some improvements in how some people make their recommendations, there are still far too many who simply don’t exercise good FollowFriday etiquette. Proper etiquette could include (but is certainly not limited to) the following:

  • Limit your recommendations to only the absolute best people.
  • Explain why you recommend someone.
  • Spread your tweets throughout the day via scheduling services like Tweetlater (currently rebranding themselves as SocialOomph, Futuretweet or Hootsuite.
  • If making multiple recommendations, send them in small, logically organized groups.

Thank God, It’s FollowFriday (Not!)

Regrettably, I’ve come to dread FollowFridays. Not only for the above-mentioned reasons, but also because I feel that if someone recommends me (and I’m genuinely honored if you do), I feel an obligation to reciprocate, even if I don’t have to or want to. Additionally, and I’m sure many of you will agree, my schedule is so consistently packed that I have little time or energy to make yet another list, provide reasons for each recommendation, then tweet it.

I’ve tried developing systems to simplify the process. Two examples I used:

  • I used TweetLater’s Keyword Alert email service to provide me with a record of everyone I’ve tweeted with that week as well as tweets where I am mentioned. Surely, if I’m tweeting with these people, they must be worthy. Unfortunately, this required me to scour each day’s emails and pick out candidates one at a time. Furthermore, the TweetLater email doesn’t list my DMs, and aren’t those with whom I DM, by virtue of having a deeper interaction with me, better candidates?
  • I also modified the search process. By using the Mentions and Direct Messages columns in Tweetdeck, I didn’t have to sort through a week’s worth of daily emails. However, I still had to scour through long lists of tweets and record both the names and rationale for each recommendation. Still too much work.

I’ve tried other solutions as well, but they all suffered from the same problem; too many steps.

Then, On FollowFriday, August 21, my friend Phil Baumann gave me an epiphany. With a single tweet from Phil, the dark clouds of my FollowFriday despair parted and a golden ray of hope shown down upon me from on high. Could this really be a solution to FollowFriday?

Who is @PhilBaumann and What’s his Big Idea?

Phil Bauman is a friend, fellow blogger and Registered Nurse who blogs about the impact of social media on health care (check out his excellent blog, Phil Baumann Online). He’s also appeared on panels at several social media conferences and, to put it mildly, Phil really knows what he’s talking about.

Interestingly enough, Phil was motivated by Facebook’s recent acquisition of Friendfeed. According to Phil, “With FriendFeed’s future in doubt, I looked for ways to more creatively use Twitter. One of the things I experimented with was to… view my Favorites as a substitute for Follow Friday recommendations and as a way to share tweets that I find interesting without bombarding my followers with Retweets.”

As is appropriate for something involving Twitter, Phil introduced his solution by tweeting it.

phils-tweet

Phil’s idea to mark tweets from people he would want to recommend on FollowFriday by favoriting them was not only elegant in its simplicity, but tweeting his recommendations was just as simple; he just tweeted the URL of his Favorites page.

To be sure, no solution is perfect. For me, Phil’s idea does suffer from a few drawbacks, such as:

  • Not every tweet I Favorite comes from someone I necessarily want to recommend (don’t worry; I’m not referring to you).
  • I Favorite a lot of tweets for a variety of reasons, but while publicly available, they are not necessarily tweets I planned on sharing.

Regardless of any potential limitations, Phil’s tweet is important because it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it uses an existing Twitter feature in a new way. And while there are variations, such as pointing people to your Following page instead of your Favorites page, as mentioned above, you may not necessarily want to recommend everyone you follow either.

On the other hand, Twitter could easily resolve the issue by creating a FollowFriday feature similar to Favoriting where a user clicks a button on a tweet to place that tweeter on their FollowFriday list. Then a link to that page could be scheduled to automatically tweet every Friday. Or an entrepreneurial app developer, such as PowerTwitter (get their firefox add-on here) or Favstar could add a similar feature to their respective apps.

While Phil’s solution may not be the perfect solution to FollowFriday (and if you don’t use your Favorites often, I suggest you try it), it does help us tame the FollowFriday beast. But perhaps more importantly, it is both a testament to how incredibly flexible the Twitter platform can be and proof that innovation on Twitter never ends.

Comments

  • September 4, 2009
    richrecruiter
    @richrecruiter

    Good idea. It also helps you decide if want to continue following Phil (in this example).

  • September 4, 2009

    Hmmm… maybe it is just me, but I am still not liking this solution. Two reasons.
    1. I use my favorites page as a place to save ‘testimonial type’ tweets other have posted because of something I have done for them.
    2. I would rather see people give me their reason WHY they recommend someone to others to follow. The favorites list I see here doesn’t really tell me why Phil thinks others should follow them.

    I still look at the followfridays that come through my tweetdeck column on Fridays, but I only read ones that have one or two usernames and a statement of recommendation. I am also the first to admit that this practice has totally changed since it’s inception and the way I use it (along with many others it seems too) has changed as well.

    It’s very hard now to find good followfriday tweets amongst the lists and lists of names and I appreciate reading other people’s ways of trying to improve what could be a great method of building connections on Twitter. Thank you for your post.

  • September 4, 2009

    Why would you feel it necessary to recommend someone who recommends you? You don’t follow back most of the people who follow you. Most people recommending you would NOT provide enough value to your followers to be worthy of a reciprocal recommendation.

    The same goes with following. It’s why I and most serious tweets follow far fewer users than we are followed by.

  • September 4, 2009

    @Rich – Good point: you might decide not to :)

  • September 4, 2009

    Interesting idea, I love when people are able to make use of the existing infrastructure. But as other comments here indicate, most people use favorites for various reasons and not all of their favorited tweets might be suitable for recommendations. If someone has a blog, I like the idea of putting followfridays there and then just putting out a tweet or two on Friday directing them there. Of course, not everyone has a blog (why not, doesn’t everyone have something to say!)

  • September 4, 2009

    I’ve been using Mr Tweet to recommend no more than 4 people I follow and give an explanation as to why. People then can recommend me through Mr tweet and you can also find people you might want to follow based on what your followers say about them. As long as people give a sentence explaining WHY they follow Mr/Mrs X, I don’t mind. I hate the big list tweets though.

  • September 4, 2009

    I am not a huge fan of followfriday either, I would be much more inclined to participate if we had a stronger, more uniform way of doing it and definitely a cap on the number of people you can recommend, 2 at most.

    The new way is ok but as you mentioned, is no good if you use favorites for other things (I use them as mini bookmarks for things to “read later”)

  • September 4, 2009

    interesting point.. I have written about followfriday several times on my blog.. Sadly is has turned into people simply listing their entire kitchen sink of followers, instead of listing 1 at a time, with reasons, with say a max of 5 – 10 recommendations per week…

    Scott Stratten of @unmarketing, does a video of his favourite five… I may well adopt another approach of simply listing my five for the week on my blog…

    Whatever peeps decide to do, I really hope that we can keep the true essence of followfriday, whereby people do refer others to their top people.. As that to me is one of the key things about both online and offline networking..

    ps… if you want to high five me and give me a followfriday… it will be much appreciated….only joking…..

    best

    Mark

  • September 4, 2009

    That sounds like no idea at all, to be honest. Like you say, you might favorite a tweet but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’d recommend your follower to follow the tweeter.

    My own solution is to add a pertinent hashtag to a twitter user’s name that I FF.

    e.g. #FF @sciencebase (#science)

    I’d not be recommending them if I didn’t think it worth your following them and adding the hashtag means my recommendation gets found way beyond my twitter pool. Now, if only people would adopt the idea stop all the FF stuffing…

  • September 4, 2009

    @David – It is an idea (it may or may not be a good one or one that fits everyone’s needs) but I do agree with Neal that it may help reduce some of the clutter that #ff brings.

    I don’t see sharing Favorates as a replacement for #ff, but I do think that Favorites offer a way to curate tweets. There is value in recommending one person with a description – but viewing a favorite tweet give me a sense if that follower is someone worth a look. It’s unfortunate that Twitter hasn’t yet made the feature as usable as it could be.

    You can use RSS to import favorites as another way to track curated tweets. So I think Favorites offers more uses than the current starring feature.

    Think outside the tweet. :)

    @PhilBaumann

  • September 4, 2009

    I guess until we have something akin to OpenID that brings with it our credibility then we’re stuck with these kinds of hacks. KudosID would be very useful. But, even that would end up being gamed, abused, and spammed, I suspect.

  • September 4, 2009

    I avoid Twitter like the plague on Fridays, no point in trying to civilize the masses they are out of control. It has gotten so difficult to have a small conversation on Twitter let along a quality one. No one is listening they are just flooding the joint with affiliate links and “send me a gift” Auto Direct Messages. Ugh!

  • September 4, 2009

    Interesting idea. My friend Robert has been doing it for a few months now to curate tweets. https://twitter.com/scobleizer#/favorites?user=Scobleizer.

    The problem is that there is no date bias, or ability for someone to parse through the favorites to understand WHY someone should be followed.

    I still think the best solution is: “I think you should follow @nealwiser because he writes about twitter and @philbauman because he favs a lot #followfriday”

    Its simple, easy and clear.

  • September 4, 2009

    @Micah I agree with you and sharing Favorites isn’t a full recommendation-engine (it’s not a substitute for ff) but we have to remember that ff was developed during a time when people wanted to know how to connect with others. That may still be important, but I also agree with Neal that ff has gotten a bit polluted. It’s a nice gesture but perhaps it’s become over-used.

    But if I look at a list of favorites, and take a little time to look at the authors, it’s not much effort to decide to follow or now. Of course, maybe these days that’s too much work :)

    We shall see if Twitter does something with the Favorites feature and make it more accessible. Let’s just hope they at least don’t destroy the RT.

  • September 5, 2009

    A couple months ago I switched to use MrTweet to make recommendations on Fridays. It’s an elegant solution because you are prompted to say why you recommend the person. I select 5-10 people on the my list and make my recommendation. I don’t worry about reciprocation, and though I appreciate the #FF I get, I no longer feel like I have to respond in kind.

  • September 5, 2009

    I’ve always preferred to follow people I know and socialise with. As soon as your follow list starts to get huge you can’t possibly keep up with everything anyway, you start to miss out on things that people you actually know are saying.

    I guess it depends how you use Twitter, some people seem to want it to push the whole world’s information at them at once, whereas I prefer to keep up to date by browsing my favourite news sites once a day or so. If I am looking for something I still think Google is the best way to go, if I want to chat with a friend then IM tools are surely the top choice.

    I do like twitter, but I can’t help but feel some people get overwhelemed by it because they just can’t decide what it is for!

  • September 5, 2009

    I also dont look forward to #FF due to all of the “noise” and clutter it generates in my TweetDeck. When I post a #FF, I always state why and include a link. http://twitter.com/CarlaRose/statuses/3759102127

  • September 5, 2009

    I just joined twitter in July and even i had started to dread #ff as well because I loved following a lot of people and I’m followed as well, but I didn’t want to recommend a lot of who i follow just because and I saw that there were really no real etiquette about #ff.

    I am loving @PhilBaumann idea. thanks so much

  • September 5, 2009

    Thanks to everyone for the great comments (and to those who RT’d). One of the things I DO love about FollowFridays is the discussion that it always generates. Lots of food for thought.

  • September 7, 2009

    My wife @BridgetChumbley is still relatively new to Twitter and blogging. I think she had a fabulous way of doing a #followfriday with real teeth. Some serious value to who she thinks is worth following and why. Check it out:
    http://www.bridgetchumbley.com/2009/09/fun-friday-followfriday/
    Now this is a serious #followfriday!

  • September 8, 2009

    I think that Follow Friday is one of the most annoying days on twitter. I try my best to not even look at Twitter on Fridays.

  • September 8, 2009

    Interesting idea. I scaled down my #followfriday recommendations earlier this summer. What I now do is pick 3 people each week. I recommend each in separate Tweets in which I describe roughly the topics upon which they Tweet or why I follow them. This way I don’t clog the stream and the names are given a context. It’s still hard to choose which ones to pick, as there are so many great Tweeps to follow, but it seems to work for me.

    Doing it this way means that I can’t always be reciprocal. This can feel a bit awkward if Tweeps X & Z have given me #ff recommendations, but the point isn’t to recommend on a quid pro quo basis anyway. In many cases I’ve already recommended them in the past, or they’ll turn up in the rotation at some future date. Hopefully they already know they’re appreciated from my replies, retweets, etc. And since I only do 3 each week my followers can see that I’m only recommending people with whom I actually interact.

  • September 8, 2009

    A lot of good points and ideas here.

    I agree that #followfriday has become a little cluttered. If you do a a search on #followfriday you will see people use it daily, not only on Fridays.

    I also notice many that use #followfriday in some ways that I don’t support. They get a #followfriday recommendation and then they Retweet this recommendation. Instead of send the friend that recommended either a #thankyou or return the favor by giving the #friend a #followfriday with some thoughts why you recommend this #friend.

    Like Neal my favorites don’t necessary comes from people I want to mention on #followfriday.

    It can be ok to have TweetLater (now SocialOomph) to send you an email every time your username is mentioned. Dough it works ok to just use search.twitter and look up your Username there. Also with TweetDeck’s search option it is fairly easy to keep track of your mentions.

    I liked the approach Dale’s wife had taken, thought that was a neat and cool idea. Maybe something I need to try out.

    Cheers.. Are

  • September 10, 2009

    Two of my favorite Tweeters @philbaumann and @nealwiser. They are great Tweeters and thought leaders. I do agree with Neal about #followfriday. What I try and do is:

    #followfriday @somebody because….

    This explains why people should follow them. Not just a bunch of screen names. That’s worthless.

  • November 15, 2009

    Thanks for the information. Just found the blog. Could find a bunch of ‘very useful’ tips. Subscribing right away..!!

  • December 9, 2009
    Bevena Blackmon
    @bblack223

    I find it easier to track my #FFs, RTs, and mentions by opening a separate twitter tab and tracking “real time results” for @bblack223. That way I can always separate those that are responding to my tweets and get back to them quickly. I have a saved search of @bblack223 that I pull up daily to track this.

  • December 20, 2009

    Thanks for the awesome post. You put some time into that one.

  • April 18, 2010

    Awesome post, extremely truthfull, the #followfriday technique is so saturated now that its pointless, I made a blog for follow friday blog.train.xc0n.com in hopes to get the follow friday posters to use the twitter app that I created at train.xc0n.com where instead of using the follow friday hashtage, one could slimply click join, it follows the 50 people in front of you, and the next 50 people after you follow you, getting you 50 garunteed followers plus whoever follows you back from following them. Win win for everyone involved, I just can’t seem to get people to catch onto the idea because all the other data phishers who spoiled it for the others.

  • June 14, 2010

    Great to use a twitter tool to accomplish letting tweeters know who you recommend they follow. How about using follow-friday public lists, tweeted on Friday? As you discover someone to follow, add them to the list. Recommendations would have more longevity too, as new people join and follow you.

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