Twitter direct messages or DM’s can be a great way to send a quick private message to a Twitter follower when text messaging isn’t an option.
Auto DM’s are messages sent out automatically whenever someone starts following you. For most Twitter users, these messages are viewed as, at the very least, a minor annoyance if not spam.
Auto-DM’s aren’t a Twitter feature but are offered by third-party services like Socialoomph (<--affiliate link). You can program in a message of your choosing (limited of course to 140 characters) that is sent automatically any time you get a new follower.
Should you use Auto-DM’s?
Let’s take a look at four examples:
Hey Thanks For Following Me! I look forward to your Tweets!
“Hey, I just added you to my Mafia family. You should accept my invitation! 🙂 Click here: http://www.playmobsterworld.com/xxxxxx”
http://bsproduct.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=bsaffiliate make a killing With Affiliate Marketing Through your Cell Phones!
Hi! Thanks your for the follow. I have just released a free ebook that will surely interest you: “Blah Blah Blah Blah!” – http://www.blah.com
J_Doe uses NiTwit validation service. Please follow this link to validate your profile. http://nitwit.com/y4877 Thanks
Although some auto-dm’s like Example #1 are fairly innocent, I think they do more harm than good and serve to clog up my in-box. And they have about as much sincerity than a greeter at Wal-Mart.
Unlike some of the other examples here, #2 is often sent out by the game the user is playing. Players don’t read the fine print when they sign up to play (or they don’t care) and their followers get garbage DM’s like this one. This and other DM’s promoting similar games are among the most annoying to followers.
Example #3 is fairly common. Almost everyone would agree this is spam.
Example #4 is also fairly common. Almost everyone would agree this one is spam, too… except for the sender!
A lot of entrepreneurs, including authors, speakers, coaches, internet marketers and direct marketers use auto-DM’s. They view them like an autoresponder on a website. As marketers, many of us have been taught from day one to offer an ‘ethical bribe’ to visitors in exchange for signing up for our mailing list or newsletter.
The idea is to offer something of value to begin building a relationship with that subscriber. While this works fine on a website, I think it’s a mistake to do so on Twitter.
Followers aren’t subscribers. If I join your mailing list, there’s an implicit understanding that you’re going to be sending emails to my in-box. By subscribing, I agree to that relationship. There is no such agreement when I follow you on Twitter.
Unless you’re Southwest Airlines, Oprah, Apple or Starbucks, I’m not expecting the type of one-way relationship I get when I opt-in to someone’s ezine. I don’t care if there is a free ebook involved. When I click the Follow button, I’m agreeing to view your Tweets in my timeline. Nothing more. Most active Twitter users are going to ignore or delete this DM. And many will unfollow you.
This last one is a tricky one. Some Twitter users, in an attempt to avoid spammers in their Twitter stream, are using services designed to help filter out spambots by requiring followers to click on the link and enter some random text.
I don’t have a problem with these at one level but find it annoying when someone follows me and I follow them back as a courtesy, even though I don’t know them yet, and I’m required to jump through a lot of hoops to do so.
Now if you send me a personal direct message, I don’t feel that violates the agreement. Cluttering up my in-box with a welcome message does. You might think it’s just one message, what’s the big deal? When you consider that Twitter users follow hundreds or even thousands of people, that adds up to a lot of junk DM’s.
And in case you haven’t noticed, Twitter’s in-box includes a ‘report as spam’ feature. If you’re auto-dm is viewed as the least bit spammy, you’re at risk of receiving complaints and, ultimately, having your Twitter account suspended. When that happens, don’t hold your breath waiting for Twitter to restore your account.
In my next post, I’ll show you how to block some of these auto-DM’s from showing up in your in-box. In the meantime, what’s your take on auto-DM’s? Leave a comment below.
John Beazley says
Great article thanks for setting this issue straight. I am kind of new at twitter and am getting these Thanks for following DM’s. At first I thought it was nice. Then I was thinking this must be some twitter ettiquite that I wasn’t aware of, maybe I should be thanking others for following me. Finally I realized, and agree with you Bill, this is annoying and about as dumb as replying tnx or tkx or whatever folks respond and waste my time with in a text message. Twitter users should realize that they are being followed for their informative, insightful, or inspirational tweets. There is no need to thank me for following, I will get enough thanks out of you tweets.
Bill Hibbler says
John, glad you like the article. To me a follow-back is a nice reciprocation. Or if someone tweets something that inspires you or you find particularly helpful, a DM can be a nice way to say Thanks, although I think a public @ reply is better for that purpose.
Thanks for shedding light on this functionality. I was thinking about this practice when again this morning I receive a DM thanking me for the following and offering by the same token a free ebook via an “opt-in squeeze page” …which led via the download page, through an affiliate link, to a clickbank product. A great example of marketing via Twitter but is it really what we should be doing with our Twitter accounts? What is the primary goal of tweeting…building relationships or marketing products?.. I guess there is two different schools on this matter. 😉
All the best.
Bill Hibbler says
Thanks for your comment, Janice. I don’t necessarily think it’s a choice between building relationships or marketing products. Of course the former can usually lead to the latter but what I’m seeing here is the difference between permission-based email marketing and spam. I don’t actually think the example you gave from the follower that auto-DM’d you this morning is good marketing. It’s the same number game as spam. It’s saying you don’t mind pissing off 900 people if at least 4-5 others end up buying something.
I think it’s more effective to Tweet a blog post and drive traffic to an opt-in page on my blog. That and provide enough value to my followers to make them want to go to my profile page and visit my website to find out more about me. I’m sure you can do the same with your digital photography and video tips.
I’m with you Bill and thanks for the article because I was wondering. I send new followers a DM with a link to the page on my website with my best photos on it. The proof of the pudding is the eating – I get happy feedback from these messages. I like to give my followers something they can enjoy, but there’s no sell, and if they get interested in the rest of my website that’s great.
Bill Hibbler says
Hi Maddy. Thanks for leaving a comment. Although I personally prefer that I not get an auto-DM from anyone regardless of the content, not everyone feels that way. Ultimately, if you’re getting happy feedback, then it’s working for you. Don’t mess with success!