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