The 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.
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?
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
This 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
You’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.
About 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.