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Many writers and Twitter users stress the importance of reciprocity, acknowledgement, and courtesy in using a micro blogging technology such as Twitter. The root of it lays in the fact that micro blogging is extremely fast-paced and therefore having your message get through to all those that you had as targets is particularly challenging. This means that you need others to help you pass that message through. The more people send their message out there, the more chances are that someone will actually read it and acknowledge it. And that is the real root of the #FollowFriday phenomenon. It's a way of introducing people to other people. Imagine for a second, if you will, that Twitter is real life and you introduce your 5 co-workers to your best friend. That is very similar to how FollowFriday works (if you take humanity out of it, sic).
Now, this is not a twitter primer, but I will still briefly describe the mechanical side of the #FollowFriday and then I will dive directly into the methods that I believe will help you use this system for best results.
So, in a nutshell, FollowFriday is a twitter update that roughly has the following format:
[tag] @user1 @user2 @user2 ... [optional tags and symbols]
The tags are optional, but the most used tags for FollowFriday are: #FollowFriday and #FF
The idea behind it is the fact that your followers should theoretically see you as a reasonably reliable source of information. So, if you tell your followers to follow user1, 2, and 3, chances are some of them will take your word and follow those people. When that happens, you provided a service to the users you mentioned in your FF update, because you convinced your followers to follow them as well. And this is how the circle of reciprocity works. You mention their name to your followers, they mention your name to their followers and sooner or later one of you, or both, will benefit from this exchange by getting new followers.
The beauty of #FF is that it usually takes a real human being to go through the status updates and click on the user names and follow them. This means that the FollowFriday system will result in less bots following users randomly.
You will ask: why Friday? Well, the answer is that it shouldn't really be only Friday. Friday is a good opportunity to really do a large number of messages, but you shouldn't really limit yourself to Friday. There are other methods that resemble FF, but they are used at any time. Here are some examples:
When a certain number of people retweet your messages, craft an update like this:
#Gratitude for all your retweets! @user1 @user2 @user3 @user3 < == #Follow them, they retweet!
Or, if a bunch of people mention you for whatever reason:
Thanks for all the mentions! @user1 @user2 @user3 @user3 < == #Gratitude
Or if you simply feel like advertising some of your better followers:
#Follow these amazing tweeps: @user1 @user2 @user3
#FastFollowFive => @user1 @user2 @user3
So, you can see how this is very much like the FollowFriday. The only thing that you need to remember is that during the actual FollowFriday that takes place on Friday, it's all up for grabs. Send as many as you can. When you are sending the messages other times than Friday, make sure you keep a good balance between these shout-out messages and your regular tweets, retweets and notifications. You don't want to be the one continuously posting shout-outs, you want to have a good balance between all types of tweets. Friday it's a different story. Everyone expects it, and no one gets annoyed (most of the time). And for crying out loud, if you send the message on a day other than Friday, don't use the #FollowFriday tag. It's just not cool. Trust me.
Now let's go deeper into building your FollowFriday updates...
How many users should you put in each mention? Theoretically you can fit up to 10 users, but more realistically - 8. However, I don't like to go that long. I keep my FF messages to 5 or 6 users. I'd rather post more updates than have less updates with many usernames in them. I feel that if there are only 5 the likelihood for people to visit those profiles is higher. Critically important is to single out extraordinary users and mention them separately. These are users that mean a lot to you, maybe they are friends in real life or they are people you truly, truly admire. Craft a nice FF message just for them. They will be flattered and they will most likely reciprocate. Keep building your relationships in that manner and over time you will grow and so will your followship. So, in summary, I suggest crafting FF messages for 5 or 6 users and separately for each of the "special" users you want to single out.
How often should you post them? If you post one update every 10 minutes, with an average of 5 users per update, you have 30 in an hour. If you start your updates at 10 AM and continue until 8 PM you will be mentioning 300 users. That's a lot, I believe, but you can still do it. Personally, I post 1 update with 5/6 names every 15 minutes, starting with 11AM until 8PM. So, I am mentioning about 200 users.
How do you get the users?. Well, first of all, what I suggest to do is notice the users who mention you the most throughout the week. They retweet your messages, they send you direct messages, or engage you in a conversation. I keep an ongoing text file where I copy/paste these usernames in preparation for the FF. As I collect them, I build the list. For instance, I have a text file that looks like this:
#FollowFriday #FF < = #Gratitude
#FollowFriday #FF <= #Gratitude
Then, as the week goes by, I copy paste usernames (with the @ in front) and I fill in the blanks. At the end of the week, I have a complete list of people that I will mention.
The second thing is to always mention those people who are really close to you, regardless if they interacted with you in this particular week or not. Maybe they had other things to do, or they were busy. Don't mind that, there will be times when you will not be able to tweet and your friends will still post for you. Always keep nurturing an existing relationship and always remember that you should first give, before expecting to receive.
Thirdly, mention people that you truly admire. Most likely you never interacted with them, but you really like what they say, what they blog about or generally their persona. Mention them repeatedly and sooner or later your will be noticed and perhaps you will manage to develop a relationship with a person that can teach you or help you one way or another. However, there's a caveat here. Stay away from mentioning very high profile users because you will be wasting your time. If you think that mentioning Ashton Kutcher in your FF update will make him follow you, dream on, it will not happen. Set your goals at the border of reality, but still inside the border.
Now, these manual methods are good and useful, but as your followers grow, they will become less and less effective. So, you need to use some kind of automation. Luckily, there are a few tools out there that will help you:
1. The FollowFriday tool on the Twitter Tag Project - You simply enter your username and the tool will scan your updates and will return a list of Follow Friday posts that you can use. Their engine scans the last 200 tweets and returns your most active friends.
2. FollowFriday Helper - This is a similar tool that will help you generate a list of FF updates from your most active friends.
How do you post so many updates? Believe it or not, some people do it manually. Especially if you post every 15 minutes, it's not extremely hard. But that implies that you will stay in front of the computer for many hours and do nothing else but post updates. So, to avoid that you can use scheduling services, like the ones provided free by HootSuite, Socialoomph, Tweet-U-Later or Twuffer. To be most effective, I have my list of FF updates ready the night before and in the morning I spend about 15 minutes scheduling my FF updates throughout the rest of the Friday. I think that this is a pretty efficient way of handling your FollowFriday campaign. Here is an example of a typical list I have:
#FollowFriday #FF My influencers => @tonystevens4 @Flipbooks @paul_steele #Gratitude
#FollowFriday #FF My influencers => @ruhanirabin @2morrowknight @kim #Gratitude
#FollowFriday #FF My influencers => @MoniqueBiz @Miss_Tyque @Tweeple_Tips #Gratitude
#FollowFriday #FF My influencers => @Jason_Pollock @Ammidon @douglasi #Gratitude
#FollowFriday #FF My influencers => @dahara @eriksen_elf @purplehayz #Gratitude
#FollowFriday #FF @copyblogger @HaidaPrincess @9swords #Gratitude
#FollowFriday #FF @RayBeckerman @karimacatherine @lorygold @Social_Edition #Gratitude
I hope you get the idea...
Also, once you built a text file with your FF updates, separate them into "permanent" - like those of your closest friends and people you admire, and "temporary". The permanent ones you can keep and recycle every week. The temporary ones will be regenerated every time to have them fresh.
As always, I need to remind you that FollowFriday or mentioning, is not a sufficient Twitter Strategy in itself. It should be a integral part of your overall Twitter Strategy and it should be combined with your other twitter tactics. Also, keep in mind to use this particular tactic in a way that will not annoy users. Don't post 20 FF updates at 1 second of each other... It is annoying and really useless. Like the old saying goes: do it like you mean it. You are in this case the promoter of your followers. You are basically telling other people: follow these people, I vouch for them. So, it's almost like a sales activity, which can easily becoming a nuisance if not used properly.
Especially important is not to do it randomly, and I can't stress this enough. If you do, you will wind up wasting a lot of time and with no results. I am all about maximizing the results of your strategy, so do it well. Analyze your followers and help them. There is no reason to make a complete copy of your entire list of followers and just dump it in your timeline. If you do that, after a few times, no one will pay attention to your FF updates because they will look like spam and you will lose credibility.
And the biggest no-no of all times: Do not retweet other peoples FollowFriday messages... Why would you do that?? First of all it shows that you are lazy and second of all it shows that you are careless. It's assumed that there is a trust relationship between you and your followers, so they expect you to pass information that you yourself trust or believe. So, unless you really get to know the users that somebody else is promoting via FF, there is no logic in retweeting that message. You probably don't know those people, so how can you recommend them? You don't go around asking your friends to befriend the friends of a co-worker that you never met. You would never do that in real life, so why do it on Twitter? It's a cheap method and I don't recommend it. Do your homework and promote your followers the right way and you will be able to grow your trust and establish yourself as a trustworthy Twitter user. In time you will see exponential results. Stay away from instant gratification and build truthful long-lasting relationships rather than fake quick fixes.
Now, getting back to the followers that you promote through FF, if you want to take this to the next level, read my previous article - Best Twitter Analyzing Tools To Improve Your Results, and you will learn a little more on how to segment your followers, how to understand who are your most valuable followers and reciprocate at the appropriate level. As always you want to maximize your ROI and here the investment is time. So, make sure that if you spend the time to do it, you are targeting those followers that will give you the most return.
Before I finish, one final thing. Especially during Friday, when everyone is posting FF updates, the timeline will be filled with rows and rows of similar FollowFriday lines. You might consider making your post stand out. You can do that by inserting interesting symbols into your tweet. Here is an example:
♥•* #FF *•♥•* #LOVE *•♥ #FollowFriday @PhiCar @Miss_Tyque @iulienel @ashwinsanghi @Vincent_Ang
One way to generate such updates is using TweetKeys. Alternatively you can also check this post that talks about how to insert symbols in your tweets.
Well, that's pretty much all I have to say about #FollowFriday. I hope you enjoyed it.
What is your opinion on the FollowFriday and mentioning strategy on Twitter? Do you usually follow people that are recommended by others during a FF? Do you do it only if they are recommended by those that you highly trust? Or do you simply think it is a waste of time? I am very interested in learning your opinions on this...
Thank you and good luck with your #FollowFriday,