Any social media expert/ninja/guru worth his or her salt will tell you that engagement is the key to getting results out of online activities. And yet, at the end of every work week, the Twitterati collectively engage in one of the least personalized and most automated of interweb interactions.
I’m talking about #FollowFriday. And I want out.
Last Friday, as my stream was flooded with #FF messages, I tweeted out a thought:
Honest question: does anyone ever follow people recommended in #FF tweets? It's devolved into a silly game of quid pro quo, right?—
Matthew Smith (@MatthewSm1th) February 03, 2012
Millions of people are tagged each week in #FF posts. That sounds like a nice idea, but most of the Tweets are really just a list of names without context. If I want to know who you’re following, I’ll visit your profile page. I believe that – for many of these users – #FF is a ruse by which they fish for reciprocation; after all, it’s impolite to not return a compliment (or at least say thank you). #FollowFriday – once a way to learn about new users on an emerging social media platform – has devolved into a system in which people solicit ReTweets and mentions without generating useful content.
Of course, not every #FF is a selfish act masquerading as benevolence. My friend, Jen Price, tweeted at me that she enjoys the practice. “When #FF is done well, with a reason for following, I find new people to follow. I appreciate the introductions to new folks.”
Jen is right…when people share details and make introductions, #FollowFriday can be a valuable tool. It’s just that 99% of #FF messages ignore that basic common sense. I’ve seen some people use the hashtag #WhyIFollow, while including a bit about the person. Ephraim Gopin has been known to use the hashtag #YFF (the Y is for WHY) and do the same thing. Aren’t these tactics more helpful?
Even after acknowledging the small numbers of folks who do it “right,” the sheer majority of bad #FF Tweets has pushed me to the breaking point. I appreciate each and every time I’m mentioned in someone’s #FollowFriday tweet, but please know that I will never again publicly thank you or RT your mention. It’s not that I don’t care…it’s not even that I don’t think you legitimately enjoy the content I generate. It’s just that I think there’s a more genuine way to point your audience in my direction, especially if you think my Tweets, blog posts and/or ideas would interest them.
Groucho Marx once famously said that he would never be part of any club that would have him as a member. The #FF Brigade is actively evangelical and would accept anyone with its ranks…isn’t that reason enough to be wary?
What do YOU think? Do you participate in #FollowFriday? Do you RT your #FF mentions? Why or why not?