shutterstock_139655147The idea behind automated direct messages is harmless and, in theory, can be a terrific way to further a connection, send a thank you note to new followers and share information on where else you can be found online.

In practice, its a different story. What started out as neat Twitter feature has become so over-used and, dare I say abused, that most people (myself included) won’t even actually open direct messages.

Do I sound like a callous cynic? Maybe, but with good reason. Allow me to share a few thoughts I have on why setting up an automated direct message is not a good idea for your brand.

Predictable Annoyance

As I pointed out earlier, this feature is popular with many online marketers and brands. So popular that I tire of receiving the same message every time I follow a new account. Its always the same thing: “Thank You for Following Me,” “Connect With Me At X,” “Sign Up For My Newsletter,” “Buy My Totally Awesome Thing,” etc. Snooze. If I already know what your message is going to say, I won’t even open it. Why bother sending it to me?

Too Generic

Most people probably set these up originally to be able to personally thank all their new followers. After all, it would be really hard to thank everyone manually, especially as your popularity grows. The thing is, direct messages have lost that specialness, that personal touch which was arguably the point of the whole thing. If you send out a generic message to everyone, no one feels special. Why not just thank your new followers by providing real value in your tweets. Share interesting articles, videos and photos. Tell me a joke, tell me a story, teach me something, tell me I’m pretty (joking! …sort of).

You Know What They Say About Assumptions

shutterstock_134919137This might be a tough pill to swallow, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it: by inviting me to friend you, like you or follow you elsewhere online, you are assuming that I will enjoy all the stuff you have to share. I might, but give me a chance to decide first. If I have only just begun to follow you, I don’t yet know if I like you enough to follow you on Facebook. Just chill out for a minute and allow me to decide for myself.

Twitter Says “STOP!”

Twitter does not recommend using automated messages to thank new followers. On the Twitter Help Center page dedicated to automated responses, you will see this message:

“Including an automated “thanks for following” message to your new followers might be annoying to some users. We do not recommend this behavior; if you receive a DM you don’t like, you can unfollow that user and they will no longer be able to send you messages.”

Now, if Twitter doesn’t recommend automated thank you messages, it might be worth considering their advice. After all, they know their audience don’t they?

Try This Instead

shutterstock_124623916You’ve just heard my 4 reasons why you should immediately stop shooting yourself in the digital foot with automated DMs. I hope they helped you decide to do something other than annoy your new followers by cluttering up their inbox with impersonal nonsense.

I won’t leave you high and dry, though. If you really want to do something special to thank your new followers, why not check out their profiles and retweet something great, @reply them or include them in a #FollowFriday tweet.

Above all else, I hope that you remember this one thing: Twitter is a social networking tool meant to be used for conversation, rather than press releases and calls to action. There is a place for that stuff, but it’s not the whole point. Use Twitter to get to know others and share content that you genuinely enjoy and think your followers will enjoy too.

Now get out there and start tweeting value, and don’t forget to follow me at @GillatGreenRock… In fact, I’ll just go ahead and thank you for doing so now because you won’t be getting an impersonal direct message from me.

GillPAbout the Author: Gillian Polard is a social media consultant on Vancouver Island. She is also the founder of www.greenrockconnect.com, a small firm dedicated to helping businesses connect with more customers and serve them better through social media and customer service training.

 

 

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comments 28 Comments

  1. Kavalon said on 10.3.13 at 12:45 pm

    Hi, I loved this post, we will have to agree to disagree, I do send auto dms,and they are positive for me, it is a way to connect to my followers & let them know what I do. The right automated message has been very positive for me, although I do understand what you mean by generic automated messages.

  2. Gill said on 10.3.13 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Kavalon,
    I'm glad you liked the post and am very intrigued by your positive DM results. I like to hear success stories so thank you for sharing :)

  3. Ayi Bunbun said on 10.4.13 at 7:44 pm

    I understand what you mean about automate DMs. Some users feel annoyed and some others feel helped with that way.
    In my opinion it's useful to start an engagement between follower and following. But too bad some automate DMs are used to spread spam url.
    I myself use automate DMs to share info that I like and new followers sometime ask me about that.

  4. @Mad_Humor said on 10.5.13 at 10:55 pm

    I agree 100%! I also heard that now hackers are using auto DM's to steal accounts. It simply asks you to click on a link and when you do they get your info or it takes you somewhere to steal your info!

  5. Johnny said on 10.5.13 at 10:56 pm

    I have 1000's of generic DM's I haven't read. I get them by the dozens every day and all day. I haven't read any DM's in over a year. There is no way of telling who actually took the time to write to me personally or if It's just an auto generated message. I find twitter DM's useless and I don't read them.

  6. @Mad_Humor said on 10.5.13 at 10:58 pm

    There is a service that will clean your DM inbox that I use also. I receive so many because I have around 50k followers that my Dm is just cluttered. Its called DMCleaner and its free, quick, and easy. I have been using for awhile with no problems.

  7. Ruby Slipper said on 10.9.13 at 1:27 am

    I totally agree! I really hate pushy people sending me what I consider SPAM via DM! I usually report them for spamming me & stop following them immediately, if not sooner!!! I do not participate in Twitter for people to send me their latest marketing program, weight loss diet, or crocheted laptop cover!!! If I want to look at your stuff, give me half a chance & maybe I will, but DM me your Ad right after I begin to follow you, & that's a guarantee that I will boot EVER, & in fact, I will in-follow & block you, most likely. I consider that behavior to be rude & unwarranted! Enough said!!!

  8. Teresa said on 10.9.13 at 2:28 am

    Almost the only thing I see in my DMs are spam from hacked accounts. I don't have time to wade through that to see any "genuine" messages. It's too bad.

  9. Tammy Graham @ LoveMy2Dogs said on 10.9.13 at 8:52 am

    I so agree with this. There is nothing more annoying (than spam DM's of course) than to get an automated DM that say's Thank You for becoming a new follower. Ugg! Really??

  10. Gill said on 10.11.13 at 2:59 pm

    I'm so glad you guys agree.... Its a real shame that what was once a useful service is not utterly irrelevant.

  11. How Not To Be A Spammer - Green Rock Connect said on 10.30.13 at 6:33 pm

    [...] asking of them? Take the Twitter direct message for example, this is a function of Twitter that is widely abused by spammy marketers, to the point that it isn’t even a very reliable option for touching base [...]

  12. Mark Daynes said on 11.5.13 at 8:40 pm

    I came here to find out what people think of the DM feature as can I also find them annoying. What gets me is the "Me Me" attitude in them all. get MY newsletter.. see MY ..whatever. Visit MY site... bla bla.

    Having said that, I do think there is a possible way to giving value through our DMs. For example, I would be happy to receive a "real" discount voucher for the product or service that's being offered by way of saying thank you for the follow. exclusive for their twitter followers.

    Anybody have any thoughts on that approach.

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  14. Mark said on 1.8.14 at 2:15 am

    I completely disagree!
    If the content is not relevant then yes its annoying, it's spam. However if the DM has something of interest to the recipient then it's a good thing.

  15. Cooper said on 2.26.14 at 7:27 pm

    I have never got a DM that wasn't spam of some sort but I'm not complaining. It takes two seconds to delete it and move on.

  16. Things that Make Me Go “Hmmm…” on Twitter said on 3.13.14 at 8:49 am

    [...] people despise auto DMs. For example: Nobody Likes Your Auto-DM, Death to the Auto DM on Twitter, 4 Reasons to Abandon the Twitter Automated Direct Message. I’m in the camp of folks who find auto DMs annoying, impersonal, disingenuous, and typically [...]

  17. Roberto Gerosa said on 4.10.14 at 1:04 pm

    Hi brittanyh, I agree with your point of view, I wrote an article about this kind of engagement (direct messages on twitter).

    Too many people on twitter use direct messages like a social media marketing strategy. Their opinion is that it's useful and very smart.

    Congrats for your article, see you!
    Roberto ;-)

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    When I initially left a comment I appear to have
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  22. Jason Adams said on 6.9.14 at 12:26 am

    Hi Gillian, excellent post! I'm actually doing research on this very topic so this helps alot! Here is some survey data I came across which actually covers this very topic and shows users actually unfollowing people and companies that engage in these automation tactics, I think you'll find it interesting: http://www.elsewords.com/2012/07/self-promotion-on-social-media-survey.html

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    Very good article! We will be linking to this great article on ourr site.
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  25. Robin said on 7.7.14 at 5:25 am

    Hello Gillian, Interesting discussion here.

    I know people used them as spam, but this will always happen with third party solutions.

    But ask yourselves the question... if you choose to follow someone that you think shares engaging content, makes you laugh, tells you you're fabulous (etc) - should you really be offended if they thanked you automatically, and offered a link to more of what they do?

    After all, it was your choice to follow them - meaning you were interested in finding out more about them and reading their updates.

    Shame the spammers keep spoiling this as a legitimate form of response.

    Twitter is about engagement, not just follower numbers.

    I've personnaly had some great links in DMs from the people I follow, links that take me to their 'best stuff' page. Usually with loads of resources and in-depth article links that can get missed in the busy stream of twitter feeds.

    I'm all for them so long as they are used in the right way!

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