Thoughts on Follow Friday

Last night I was pondering what the feelings about Follow Friday are now, after seeing many Follow Friday recommendation tweets over the past couple of years. If you are not familiar with it, Follow Friday is a tradition on Twitter where people will tweet suggestions of people for others to follow, generally including the tags #FollowFriday or #FF in the tweet. I remember when Twitter lists came out and many articles I read said that Follow Friday would go away. They said it would no longer be needed- people could just follow each others’ lists. But that isn’t what happened at all. In fact, Follow Friday is probably as strong as ever. Then when Twitter’s “Who to follow” feature was introduced, I heard rumblings that Follow Fridays would go the way of the dinosaur. Once again, that proved untrue. So, I was wondering what people actually think about Follow Friday recommendations, both posting them and seeing them in their tweet stream.

Obviously, I wasn’t doing a scientific study; it was just whipped up really quickly on a Friday night because I was interested to see what people thought! I tried to cover as many different options as I could, but left each question with an “other” option and a field to explain in case I left out important choice options. This is where I got the best data in terms of satisfying my curiosity, more so than the number results. I closed the survey this morning after getting 98 people to take it. Thank you all very much for participating and spreading the word!

The results:

First, I asked participants if they regularly posted Follow Friday recommendations on Twitter. Of the responses, 25%  said yes, 65% said no. The remaining responses were divided almost equally between “What is Follow Friday?” and “other.”  In the comments left, several expressed that they do them as time allows, when they remember, occasionally, or sporadically. Not much of a surprise here, though I didn’t expect to get any responders who didn’t know what Follow Friday was, and I got 5 of them. Shows what I know!

Next, I asked, “If you answered yes that you do regularly post Follow Friday recommendations, why do you do so?”  The responses to this question were not what I expected at all. A whopping 74%  of those who post Follow Friday recommendations answered ” To let the people that I’m recommending know that I value their content.”  Only 13% answered “To help out Twitter newbies.” In retrospect, this choice should have been worded differently. The comments left on this question are what made me realize that I should have worded it better. I should have said “To help other tweeps find good people to follow.” Oh well, it was late, and it is what it is. There were also three “other” responses and one “I thought I was supposed to.”  One comment I found particularly interesting was this: “It’s as much a mini-award system as just a means to recommend tweeps although that is certainly important too.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but I would have to agree. Especially when (according to this non-scientific, quick study) nearly three-quarters of those who post Follow Fridays regularly do so more for the impact on those they are recommending than those they are recommending to.

After that came a question that dealt with how people that tweet Follow Friday select people to recommend. Overwhelmingly, the response was that  they carefully selected tweeps to recommend each week (87%) rather than using a standard list of tweeps each week, rotating lists, or choosing at random. In the comments, some indicated that their recommendations were based on people they had interacted with that week, newly followed, or those who had posted something interesting, amusing, or inspiring that week. One commenter said that they based their recommendations around a subject area or Favstar info (the people whose tweets they have favorited the most). I thought that this was interesting, and I was glad to see that people make thoughtful suggestions.

The next question dealt with the consumer side of Follow Friday. The question was “When you see Follow Friday recommendation tweets what do you do?” The results indicated that 40% scan them briefly and move on, 34% read them with interest and check out the profiles of those recommended, 13% ignore them, and the rest responded with “other.”  No participants indicated that they instantly follow everyone who is recommended. Some of the commenters indicated that it depends on who is making the recommendation whether they will investigate further or consider following. Several said if it was just a list of names with a Follow Friday hashtag they would ignore it, but if there was a reason given or something to spark their interest they would check out the tweep(s) recommended. This comment pretty much sums up the sentiment from several of the others: “Many lists from the same person with no explanation are ignored. A few FFs from close friends or people who are very interesting to me will catch my eye. Tell me why I should follow them and I’ll pay attention.”

The next question asked: “Have you ever followed someone due to a Follow Friday recommendation?” Only 14% of responders said no, almost 75% said yes, and approximately 10% said  only when they were new to Twitter. The remaining percent answered “other.” From this I can see that Follow Friday has worked as originally intended for the majority of responders. At some point, they saw a tweeted recommendation and followed someone new because of it. There wasn’t much to report in the comments on this question.

Finally, the last question dealt with what participants felt the overall effect of Follow Friday is. This is another question that I should have worded the answer choices differently as is evidenced by the comments, and the number or people who selected “other.” The majority of responders (30%) chose “Essentially a feel-good, pat-on-the-back exercise that clogs Tweet streams.”  I think this number might have been a little higher if the part about clogging tweet streams hadn’t been there. A few commenters indicated that feel-good pat-on-the-back exercises were fine with them. Roughly 25% responded that they thought the overall effect of Follow Friday was that “People find the most interesting people to follow, quickly.”  The next most popular answer was “Other” at 22% and following that was “A lot of white noise to wade through on Twitter” at 18%. The remaining responders selected “Zero” as in they did not believe that Follow Friday has any overall effect.

I thought the comments on this final question were the most revealing. That is why I chose to include them all here in their entirety.

1. Not sure
2. Some use some of the time, but mostly noise.
3. Essentially a feel-good, pat-on-the-back exercise that doesn’t clog Tweet streams. 🙂 Nothing wrong with pats on the back.
4. To let people I know they are important to me.
5. Used to work more. But twitter getting busier and hard to follow.
6. It all depends on what type of people you’re interested in following & who’s recommending them.
7. i can not comment i have no clue
8. Some where between noise and effective tool. If it was used more thoughtfully (not just lists of handles, but descriptions of why to follow) it could be really useful.
9. Good for new people, but otherwise, it’s noise.
10. It can be very helpful, but, yes, there’s a lot of noise. That’s a problem with all of Twitter – finding the gold nuggets among the constant avalanche of tweets
11. ??
12. Depends on the person tweeting, and if they are one of my trusted people I follow.
13. Very helpful when 1st on Twitter. Once in a while I make a follow recommendation just b/c vs. FF. I start to feel obligated to do them. I could not keep up anymore.
14. It works ok and I don’t find it to be an issue
15. Pat on the back I dont mind, lots on Twitter I scan over, no bother
16. Partly C, and partly D [“People find the most interesting people to follow, quickly” and “Essentially a feel-good, pat-on-the-back exercise that clogs Tweet streams”]. Sometimes a good way to find to people to follow, and it always feels nice to be recognized in a FF.
17. I think it is over-used, but can be helpful to new tweeps; if the one doing the recommendations is reliable. Lists have really replaced the need for Follow Friday.
18. I believe this survey has a predetermined outcome. You should learn to properly compose questions that don’t show the author’s prejudice.
19. Don’t mind them. Beats spam and porn. They get misused, but Twitter in general gets misused. If someone’s only #FF & no useful content rest of week, I don’t follow or unfollow.
20. It’s a great way to meet new people who have been vetted.
21. I think FF is useful to twitter newbies, or if you have varied interests. I’ve ended up friends with people who I didn’t realize we had common interests until I’d do a FF.
22. Marginally entertaining but not so much a bother
23. I do see people follow me based on so-so and good-quality FF tweets, so I believe FF is still pretty effective.
24. Mixed. When it’s not just listing everyone someone knows, but a targeted few with a reason why (dog ppl, book lovers, etc) then I sometimes find great new ppl to follow. When I do remember to do it, I make a few lists by category of http://theoatmeal.com/comics/follow_friday.
25. It is nice, but too many #FF’s and mostly the same folks over and over. I’m flattered when I’m on the lists, but, not sure I really gained more followers because of it.
26. It’s become something of a tyranny. It’s like having to go to the spirit rally on Thurs, even if you’re not attending the game on Fri.
27. Another way of finding new people to follow.
28. On a few occasions interesting people can be found you would not otherwise find – about 10% of the time.
29. I’m not opposed to Follow Friday, per se. I don’t do it myself, but I do thank people when they recommend me. I think the best way to find people to follow is by retweets. A single Follow Friday recommendation with a good explanation is somewhat useful. Many people do lists of names, and I don’t find that terribly useful. Just my opinion.

Overall, what I learned from this impromptu survey was that while there are mixed feelings on the Follow Friday concept, many people see it as somewhat useful and/or a nice gesture. It was also my impression that many responders felt that  Follow Friday tweets without any reason given (just lists of names) contribute to the overall noise on Twitter and have little value. Results indicate people feel that Follow Friday is a tool that when used well, can be effective and vice versa. On that note, check out this really cute comic at The Oatmeal on that very subject, if you haven’t seen it already. The biggest surprise for me from this survey was to learn that Follow Friday is more often used to let the people recommended know that their content is valued, rather than as a way to help others find new tweeps to follow. That was definitely an unexpected finding.

One of the things I’ve discovered in my time on Twitter is that people use it in all different ways- and that’s okay. Some people merely consume- they use it to get news or information but rarely or never tweet. That is a valid use of Twitter, as is using it for more of the community aspect and interacting with others. Some use it to post their progress as they diet or train for marathons, keep a record of their work schedule, entertain others with music selections, announce their whereabouts (often via Foursquare or other tools), share photographs, get others involved in a cause, follow sports, keep in touch, and more. Whatever the case, each tweep has a right to use it as he or she sees fit. The beautiful part is that we all have a choice of who to follow. If someone’s use of Twitter isn’t particularly interesting to you, you are not compelled to follow along. The same goes for Follow Friday. If you find it useful in whatever way (letting your tweeps know you value their content, helping others find people to follow, sharing interesting tweeps with your friends, etc.) then use it. If not, then don’t feel compelled to. It is a personal choice.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Advertisements

, , ,

  1. #1 by Danny Skarka on January 15, 2011 - 1:39 pm

    I think you finding that Twitter I’s used differently by different people isspot on. As someone who teaches Twitter, that both interesting and confusing. “What is Twitter?” “What do you want it to be?”
    Also, I don’t think lists caught on because it requires you to use the poorest of Twitter clients…twitter.com. And the recommendation engine is a work in progress.

%d bloggers like this: