James Mayes

Blog: What is #ff – and how do I get it right?

In Community, Twitter, Twitter Tips on March 11, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Follow Friday, to use the full name, has been around some time.  Like most things on Twitter, it gets different usage from different people.  I’ve seen a few things recently which I think are somewhat at odds with the original concept, so I wanted to put down a few thoughts on both the idea itself (those new to Twitter might well find it useful) and also the current usage I see.

The first follow fridayIt started early 2009 when one man was considering the issue of who to follow – how to find good people. Now, we have Twitter’s Who to Follow? function to answer this. Whether that tool is effective deserves a post in it’s own right. Regards Micah’s original Follow Friday, I believe the intent was simply to recognise and recommend good people. If you want an indication of current usage levels, check out the stats via WTHashtag.

I’d like to think recommendations from people I know and choose to follow, human curation at it’s best, will beat Twitter’s automation every time. However, I’ve recently been seeing examples which don’t quite stack up.  If I see a #ff tweet with a name or two, and a guide as to why they deserve my attention, I’ll most likely check them out. You’ve given me good reason to.  If, however, I see a tweet which is simply “Top people for a #ff …..” and a list of eight or ten names, there’s no way I’m going to check each of them out.

In addition, if you were offering your #ff tweet by way of recognition to the individual, I think they’d prefer to stand out on their own, with a good reason, than simply be a name on a list. Short version? Less is more.

So why am I writing this post today? Purely because I’ve seen what, in my humble opinion, is a horrible use of #ff. It came from someone I’ve followed for a while, someone with thousands of followers and someone who knows his/her way around Twitter very well (no, I’m not into naming & shaming).

I’ve checked back: it’s not a one-off, it’s a regular pattern. The offence? A string of tweets that fall into the “list of names, no reasons” variety. Not a few tweets either – I stopped counting them at 73. That’s 73 tweets, not 73 names. On the first five tweets, there was an average of eight names – so that’s  584 people who just got honoured by a #ff tweet. I’ve included a brief shot of how this looked. Now imagine 73 of those tweets hitting your TwitterStream. Tempted to unfollow?

Am I going to go and check 584 names to see who might be worth following? Of course not. Do you think those 584 people feel special, singled out? I sure wouldn’t.

Please, do use #ff – I think it’s a great aspect of the Twitter community. Just think about why you’re using it.

Oh, and to the person who inspired this post?  I’m reasonably sure you read my blog regularly. If you feel this Follow Friday usage is appropriate, I’d love to hear the reasoning. After all, this is only my blog, my opinion – by expressing thoughts like these, I regularly learn from those who take the time to comment. If you’d rather remain out of sight, I do, of course, completely understand.

  1. Thanks for clarifying this, James. I thought it was just a way of saying ‘Hello, it’s Friday!’ to your Twitter Pals, so thanks for doing this blog :o)

  2. Yikes, I’ve been called out on the carpet! That’s O.K. James. I look at it this way; I’ve given you fodder for your blog! :+)

    As one of my Twitter contacts jokingly replied, “You own #FF.” Well, I wouldn’t exactly say that, but yes indeed, I do a fair share. Another one of my contacts holds a contest with me to see who will give the first shoutout on Fridays (our little inside joke.) I’ve come to realize this, either people either like #ff or think it’s a waste of time and a stream clogger.

    I won’t defend my reasons about why I participate in #FF, but since you have taken the time to blog this, I certainly feel that I should offer you my viewpoint.

    I initially started it as a way of saying, “thank you” back to the folks who gave me the #ff wave. From there, it just exploded. It was a few more names every week until finally, it turned into those 73 separate “shout-out name strings” that you counted and mentioned.

    There are many folks in my network who actually look forward to seeing their name mentioned, even if it’s ensconced amongst a bevy of other names. What I found especially funny was when one of my #ff connections asked me to switch up his name from time to time so he can be mentioned with different #ff groups of people so his exposure would increase, and yes, I do that for him.

    Many people will either DM me or simply reply their thanks and tell me how much the #ff mention means to them. For me it seems like such a small thing to do if it brings them a smile.

    Oh and by the way James, I recognized the strings of names immediately in your screenshot as the folks I #ff mention, and that’s how I knew it was I that you were referencing. Even though my lists are expansive, I recognized each Twitter handle. And you are quite correct; I do read your blog regularly and appreciate the content. Further, I appreciate the opportunity to reply to your post and look forward to any comments you may have.

    • I knew you’d recognise the screen-shot – but I wasn’t about to name you unless you wanted to. Thanks for responding, I know some would have ducked it completely (like @chrisbrogan did recently!).

      Clearly we have different tastes on thus, and that’s all part of the richness of Twitter. I do note I’ve had a few supporting tweets from fellow Brits on this, so maybe it’s a transatlantic thing?

  3. Thank you James.

    Well, I don’t know if it’s a matter of cultural preference as much as individual preference for how each person uses Twitter. There are a goodly number of folks here who detest #ff, in any context, and make no bones about letting everyone know.

    I didn’t state this in my previous comment, but if I may so now. I use Twitter primarily for two reasons: 1) to provide and receive updates on issues and topics around HR, SM, SEO, SEM, Career Info, and Animal Rights; and 2) to stay in touch with the folks in my network. The #ff smiles are a bonus.

  4. I too think that Cyndy’s use of #ff is ridiculous in the extreme. What exactly is the message contained in each of those tweets and lists of names. It’s just a random list, and wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow any of them.

    I recall seeing my gran one time, with the newspaper obituary page, and she was drawing a line through each of them in the Phone Book. I said, “What are you doing gran?” She replied “I’m updating my address book”.

    I’m actually a little concerned that almost 1,000 people are following me on Twitter, because my manner of speech will have to alter as it get larger. If I was addressing a small number of close acquaintances, I’d speak in a certain fashion (which I’d enjoy). With a larger audience, I need to be more conscious and circumspect (and inevitably inane). I rarely find anyone with a large audience even remotely interesting. Even more so, anyone who is following more than 1,000 others tend to be complete dullards.

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever given an #ff, and I certainly would never recommend anyone I didn’t know personally.

    As James says, less is far far more.

    • Hi Stephen – I hope you don’t feel the need to alter your manner of speech, it’s what makes you….you. And for it I’m gonna do an #ff for you next week – he he 🙂

  5. Hi James – good call….again (you got a crystal ball or something?). 🙂

    For me I like to make #ff’s personal. That means I don’t do loads but I like to hand craft each one. Personal is cool – even in the mighty social whirl through which we dance, it’s nice to make the time to create the reason…to follow.

    Cheers – Doug

  6. Good post 🙂

    I’ve been Tweeting since 07 and have a shade under 13000 followers. I stopped #FFing some time ago though. One because I don’t like traditions – they soon lose their original meaning, but two because singling out individuals in my book is tantamount to praising one child over another.

    Instead I prefer to reward a good tweet with an RT or another comment as it happens.

    All direct communication is answered even if just with a smiley, and that to me is respect.

    There is another kind of #FF tactic though: #FF someone with a large following, get a response (preferably including your original message), and by law of average that responded recognition may lead to an increase in your own followers! This is the one that makes me sigh heavily and is usually repeated ad nauseum week after week by the same people. As I always interact they get a thanks from me but not a full response (e.g. Thanks for the #FF @Name).

  7. Hope it’s OK for me to comment, seeing as how I’m one of the “dullards” (guilty of having more than 1,000 followers, although I don’t think that’s a huge number to have accrued in 4 years) …

    I tend to agree that the #FF thing did get a bit ridiculous. The long list-of-names #FFs from others don’t bother me, but then again I also don’t bother to check them out.

    Of course, I’m always chuffed to receive a #ff and sad to say I do check out any others listed with me… a horribly egotistical habit!

    As for giving #ff, I often think about it but rarely do them any more, because I hate to single some out and not mention other good Twitter friends. Pathetic!

    Nice post James, I love thrashing out Twittiquette.

  8. Oops – just realised the ‘dullard’ label was for people following more than 1,000, not having more than 1,000 followers. But actually that still makes me a dullard. Oh well.

  9. I agree – it can be just a load of noise that clogs up your stream on a Friday. Most people who offer their #FF I ignore, but there are a few people I would certainly listen to recommendations from.

    • For me, it needs that reason with it. Regardless of who makes the recommendation, if they think I should invest my time looking at it, I want to know why. Same as reading a blog post: if I just tweeted a link, it’d be largely ignored. If I tell people what they’ll find on that link, far higher chance the right people will see it!

  10. […] Blog: What is #ff – and how do I get it right? via Musings from Sussex […]

  11. Have you been elected Twitter Police James? It really is up to people how they use the channel for themselves. most people have too busy a channel to even notice somone has tweeted 73 times. @cindy, do what you like in twitter. If people don’t like it, they will stop following you. They have the content sanction, you make your own choices over what you tweet.
    For my part, I rarely post a #FF. If I do it’s usually for somone with a new account and I want to help get them started. I prefer to support #Hirefriday and #HFUK, that has more value. If i find anyone I think is less known and worth a follow, I will recommend them, but I avoid Fridays for doing this, so the message doesn’t get lost.

    • Your comment was a little late to be a true April Fool Bill, so I guess you’re serious. First up, I’n no policeman. In most symbiotic relationships, you’ll usually find a policeman and a silly one – I’ve more often stood accused of being the latter 😉

      The post was intended to demonstrate an aspect of follow friday. Of course it can be used in any number of different ways, in the same way one can use hashtags in a variety of different ways. I’ve seen some usage which I like, but also things which I find distasteful. Very occasionally, I see stuff which (personally) I think is just unethical.

      On this occasion, I had a point of view to share, the tweets that morning spurred me to get on and write about it, and the vast majority of the feedback I’ve had has been along the lines of “thanks for sharing the view”.

      One last thought – you suggest “most people have too busy a channel to even notice”. Last stats I saw suggested an average of 195 follows. That’s by no means a busy stream. I follow nigh-on a 1000 and it sure stood out to me, hence the post getting written!

  12. Haha – boys, boys…

    Bill has a point – people can use twitter absolutely how they like – it’s a free social public tool, that business has just hijacked – and hence along came etiquette needs.

    That said – I share James’ opinion totally. I have blogged before that there is nothing wrong at all with #FollowFriday – it’s part of how communities are built. However I want to read reasons – I want to know WHY I should follow this person, and then I can make a judgment as to whether they should.

    I give #FFs with specific intent – partly as a doffed cap to a bit of brilliance, or as a gesture of public appreciation of good work done for me, or inspiration.

    Listed #FFs are unqualified noise in my stream!

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