If you are new to Twitter, you might find it daunting to figure out who you should follow. There are built-in recommendations, but these are usually very popular celebrities or brands that you might have little chance of engaging with. Faced with the challenge of expanding his Twitter network in early 2009, tech entrepreneur Micah Baldwin started Follow Friday, a popular Twitter trend that has endured to this day.

The idea behind this is simple, but powerful: recommend people to your followers, based on who you think would be interesting for them to follow. This is a powerful strategy because it comes from someone you already follow and interact with. It is a type of word-of-mouth advertising that comes with a positive association and thus a certain degree of trust.

According to Baldwin, the runaway success of Follow Friday is due to three main factors:

“1. It’s easy. It takes little effort to send a tweet, something people do dozens of times a day.

2. It’s participatory. You don’t need to be part of the “Twitterati” to participate. You can suggest one person or 100 people. You can get endorsements from one person or a hundred people.

3. It’s karmic and it feels good. It’s a great feeling to simply say, ‘I think this person is great. You should follow them.’”

Follow Friday is an organically spread system of recommendations that feels natural on a social network like Twitter. If trust is built into the system, it can gain an advantage over purely algorithmic search systems in terms of effectiveness and accuracy because (normally) some thought goes into these recommendations and they are based around interactions between real people. One disadvantage is that there are no controls or validation systems or ways of categorizing these recommendations other than what people choose to implement themselves.

Follow Friday is an example of how Twitter is becoming a crowdsourced search engine in a way, because it is supported by a community of people who are actively sharing and commenting on content in real-time. Your business stands to gain a lot by being inserted into this recommendation scheme. The secret lies in being interesting enough to people for them to think of sharing your brand with others. In the case of social media, that means partnering with professional, agile teams like Blue Hat to develop the right voice and content to build and engage and audience.