Thursday, March 03, 2011

Social Media: Setting up your #FF list for Twitter

I get a double dose when it comes to dealing with social media. I have a personal Twitter account where I talk with friends, interact with people who share my interests, and promote my writing. I also have a 'business' Twitter account for my job, where I represent my department and promote its programs.

My first Twitter account was the personal one, used to stay in touch with  political contacts and swap information as it became available. Later, as my fellow Sisters in Crime moved to Twitter, I began adding friends who were writers. We engaged in chats, Retweet blog links, shared news of recent sales, etc. Now that I have a book coming out, I'm also using the account to announce updates in its production and places I will be appearing and guest blogging.

My second Twitter account was set up as a public 'face' for my department, which offers continuing healthcare education. In other words, we offer educational programs for doctors, pharmacists, etc. From that account, I forward articles I think our customers will find interesting, Retweet posts from other Twitterers (I prefer the terms 'Tweeps' and 'Twits'), make comments on the posts of others, and, of course, occasionally post a link to one of our programs. An aside: no one is going to follow you for long if all you do is plug your own product.

On Fridays, people suggest Twitterers that they think their friends might also want to follow. This is referred to as "Follow Friday" or by the hashtag #ff. People send out #ff posts to promote their friends, but they also do it as a sign of their friendship with others. I can tell you that I look kindly upon people who #ff @saraheglenn. Follow Friday can be genuinely useful - I've found lots of new Tweeps this way - but it's very, very easy to begin with a few friends and wind up, in a matter of months, sending over ten posts of nothing but Twitter IDs plus the #ff. If you follow as many people as I do, Friday is a day of many recommendations but little commentary.

What can help?

Suggestion 1: Make a special shout-out post to a few people. Marian Allen, for example, saw my blog earlier in the week and posted:
#ww @SarahEGlenn because she's photogenic.
You bet I'm going to remember that, and will be much more likely to Retweet her blog and book announcements as a result.

Mark Souza posts his "100 Best Writers on Twitter". This is a great idea because a. you know his list is finite, b. the people named are nominally part of an elite group, and c. he's included me.

Suggestion 2: Weed out your #ff list if it's gotten too large. I did this recently with both my personal and office Twitter accounts. I pulled up each account and found several that didn't exist any more. I also noticed that others only posted new material every two or three weeks. Those got cut. I looked over the content of posts as well: did they ever share useful information, like blog links? Get involved in group chats? If so, I kept them. Naturally, there was one more criterion: did they ever #ff me? Automatically a keeper.

Suggestion 3: Set some standards for the people you #ff. Once again, this will not be useful if you only have a few friends, but once you're following over 300 people they will come in handy. I follow over a thousand people on each of my accounts, but I can only #ff a small fraction of them on Fridays. Below are mine, subject to revision as needed:

My personal account:
Did they ever #ff me?
Do they represent some important group, like the SFWA?
Are they great bloggers, like Pam Spaulding or Joe Sonka?
Are they real-life personal friends, spouses, or relatives? Yes, nepotism counts with me.
Are they cool? I met Jacqueline Lichtenberg about twenty years ago, but she's still one of the best things since sliced bread. I also love BurbDoc, whom I came across during my work, but his posts are too vulgar for me to promote them as a representative of my office. However, it works fine for my personal account.
Do I just plain flat like them?

My office account:
Did they ever #ff me?
Do they represent a major healthcare body, like the AMA or the American College of Chest Physicians?
Do they provide news of interest to healthcare providers?
Are they connected with the institution I work for?
Are they popular bloggers, like Kevin MD?

Your standards may not ultimately match mine. You may have a more relaxed system for choosing people. You might even go with a weekly shout-out to a couple of friends, and rotate the people you pick each week. The Follow Friday, though, is a good way to confirm friendships and promote one another, and I hope you won't be intimidated by it.


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