I am going to start this post by whining.
Every Friday, I get several hundred followers.
Ok, done whining.
Every Friday, I get several hundred new Twitter followers. When it first started, I would try and follow everyone back. “How nice these folks are,” I thought to myself, “they are following me because of the whole #followfriday thing.”
Then starting Saturday, I start to lose followers. By Thursday, about 80% of the original batch of new followers is gone. Then Friday rolls around, and the same thing happens again. It doesnt matter if I follow folks or not, about 80% of the people who follow me on Friday disappear by the next Friday.
Which got me thinking. Why do people follow someone else on Twitter?
I wrote about the six reasons why I unfollow people. Perhaps it would be interesting to list the 6 reasons why I follow people. (Sort of a ying to the yang.)
1) I know you
That is actually not true. There are a lot of people that I know that I dont follow. I dont follow folks that tweet too much, or tweet links constantly, or tweet things that I just dont find interesting.
2) I like you
Ok, this is really not completely true either. I do follow people I dont really like. Mostly because they are interesting, but also because its as important to hear things from people you dont like as from people you do like.
3) I want to know you
When Twitter started there was this concept of ambient intimacy, which basically meant that I could get to know you just by reading your tweets, and, of course, in return, you could know about me. That look into the banal existence we all lead creates an intimacy. This ambient intimacy also occurs through interaction. If we interact, I am much more likely to follow you.
4) I want you to know me
Im a cool dude. I know this. Sometimes, there are folks I wish also knew this. Im vain. What do you want?
5) I want to try you on
Im not sure if I really do like you. Im not sure if you would like me. So I try people on. Follow them for a bit, and then either keep following them, or unfollow them. No harm done. No ill intent meant.
6) you teach me without trying
Pretty sure you dont mean to, but you say things that are educational to me. Not sure if they are educational to anyone else. Sometimes I learn humor. Sometimes I learn heartache. Sometimes I learn that you had 51 cans in your first cooler and 39 can in your second cooler. Even if I dont know whats in the cans (but can guess).
Here is the bottom line: I make my rules.
There is no obligation on my part to follow you (or you to follow me). I dont care if you included me in a #followfriday tweet, or even tweeted that I should follow you, because I make my rules. I choose to follow or not follow.
And, here is the most important takeaway: You make your rules.
Dont follow me because someone suggested it.That should just give me the honor of you checking me out.
Please allow me to earn your follow. Please require me to adhere to all your rules. Please force me to live up to your expectations.
And if I dont?
Please dont follow me.
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By now, most people know that #followfriday originated with me.
But thats not whats this post is about.
By now, most people that #followfriday has become the largest meme ever on twitter with, well…more #followfriday tweets sent than Ashton has followers (@aplusk followers < #followfriday tweets sent.)
But thats not whats this post is about.
For many people new to twitter, #followfriday has become a great way to discover new people to follow based on the recommendations of people that they trust.
Still not what this post is about.
Yet, with all the positives that surround #followfriday (searches for the words love and #followfriday reveal 10 times the number of results that searches for the words hate and #followfriday produce), for many people, #followfriday has morphed into something that can be a nuisance.
And thats what this post is about.
Since #followfriday began, I have gotten emails of suggestions on how to make #followfriday better. My response has been pretty consistent: “the cat is out of the bag”; “its like herding cats”; and “give the cat his stupid cheezburger!”
How can one person (me) effect change on something that so many (thousands and thousands of people) do every friday? There are plenty of blog posts out there that have made the suggestion that #followfriday tweets should be a couple of recommendations and reasons (which is how it began) rather than a list of usernames followed by the hashtag.
I even was asked on CNN about #followfriday, and I outlined how a basic #followfriday should look (one or two recommendations with reasons):
Yet, the ideas seem to keep heating up. My good friend Julia Roy wrote a great post on her thoughts on how to perfect the #followfriday tweet, which echoes many of the ideas that people have put out there across the web.
Which seems to be the best of both worlds.
I love the fact that so many people feel so strongly about keeping #followfriday useful for everyone, and that so many people feel such ownership over the meme, that they are all so vocal.
I believe as strongly today, Sunday, May 24, 2009, a full 129 days since #followfriday started, as I did on January 16. #followfriday has immense value to our community, and like anything that the community values, they are working hard at coming up with ideas on how to make it even better.
Would you please participate? How do we, collectively, continue the value of #followfriday?
Followers on Twitter are an interesting thing. There is much discussion about how its not how many followers one has, but how many people you follow.
Yet, for some reason, people still grade themselves on followers. Loic Le Meur (which Michael Arrington agreed with) suggested that a filter be added to Twitter’s search function that allows the searcher to sort by number of followers.
Often, I get people asking me to tweet out that my followers should follow them. (Of course, as the Anti-Christ of Twitter, people usually lose followers when I do that).
Danny is one of the first people I met when I moved to Colorado, and I was an advisor on one of his early startups, Zuvo. We have been friends for a long time, and he is one of the smartest, most creative people I know.
Jeffrey I met recently. He moved to Colorado several months ago, when a portion of his company skinnyCorp, who run Threadless, (If you havent bought stuff from Threadless, you just arent cool) moved here. As the Chief Creative Officer of skinnyCorp, Jeffrey not only is a designer but an idea creator.
Jeffrey and Danny are both highly intelligent, creative, humorous people, that I enjoy hanging out with daily. Their tweets are no different.
As I got ready to go into the Lijit office (I was moving slowly because I thought it was Saturday.), I started thinking about how proud I was to be friends with Danny and Jeffrey, and more people should follow them on twitter. So I sent this tweet out:
Almost immediately afterwards, Mykl Roventine (@myklroventine) suggested:
Which, of course, was brilliant. I then sent direct messages to a few of my friends: Chris Brogan, Erin Kotecki Vest, Aaron Brazell, Jim Kukral and Andrew Hyde (who decided to not participate, calling it a “spammer lovefest”) asking them to retweet a simple message “Follow Fridays – suggest someone to follow / everyone follow / use the hashtag #followfriday”
And, then I headed into the office and my first meeting of the day.
When I got back to my office, and finally fired up my machine, #followfriday tweets were flying all over twitter. It was wild. It continued throughout the day:
Near the end of the day, almost every half second, a tweet went out with the hashtag #followfriday.
At the end of the day, I decided my final FollowFriday tweet would suggest two people that have taught me important lessons. Matt Hessler (@fasterstill) has taught me the importance of friendship, and Meg Fowler (@megfowler) who has taught me the importance of love. Interestingly, Matt and I have been friends for years and talk every day. Meg I met several months ago online, and have never met in real life. Quite the juxtaposition.
It was awesome. By the end of the day, my name was no longer associated with the tweets. Which was awesomer.
It had taken on a life of its own. Which was awesomest.
Here is what twitter was able to confirm for me: People are proud of their friends.
It wasnt hard for people to suggest folks to follow, because everyone has people they follow that they find interesting, insightful, funny, intelligent or whatever it is that makes you love to interact with another person (online or off).
Maybe, instead of all the various reasons marketing and social media experts have put out there about why twitter has become so successful, the real reason is that people enjoy relationships with people they can be proud of, and in return, want other people to be proud of them.
If you cant be proud of who you call friend; and in return if others cant be proud to know you, then you are doing it wrong.
Doesnt sound so complicated to me.
Update: A couple of people asked me if I got any new followers. I get about 50-60 new followers daily (with about 20-30 unfollows every day). Yesterday, according to my email from SocialToo (my friend Jesse Stay‘s startup), I got 229 new followers, with 26 people unfollowing.
I cant recommend SocialToo and Jesse Stay enough.