[This post is part of the ongoing series The Complete How To Guide for Twitter Marketing]
Everybody knows what an automated DM is, right? You don’t need to be using Twitter for long to understand this type of messaging, and why it is so disliked amongst Twitter users. Automated DMs are direct messages sent to your Twitter account once you have followed someone on Twitter. The idea is that you can use these to thank someone for following you, which is always a nice thing.
Here's the story of a man, a plan, and Twitter spam.
The problem with them is that some brilliant marketer along the way decided that these nice little messages could be turned into and an opportunity to spam people with a link to their website. So, now we have automated DMs that sound kinda like this:
Hi there! Thanks for following me. Please buy illegal prescription drugs from me at http://mywebsite.com
Many Twitter users find these direct messages annoying and consider them to be spam.
For the record, automated DMs are not a marketing tool. Plain and simple. The idea of spamming whoever follows you on Twitter might be a great way to get a few clicks each month, but I promise you, you aren’t building a lasting customer base that way. This is not a Todaymade endorsed method of marketing or engagement.
…extended rant removed for purposes of brevity…
What are DMs Really For?
I have attempted to use Twitters Direct Message in the past to connect and share information with people that I know. Personally, direct messages are a system that I like and make every attempt to use. Other’s, however, have become so inundated with spam messages that they no longer use the feature. This is unfortunate, and gives you an idea of how most people view automated messages.
Why They are Just Wrong
Auto-responding DMs are not a practice that I have adopted for any of my accounts, nor suggest to any of my clients. While there are a some immediate benefits (like 5 clicks per month) there aren’t enough positives to make them worth it. No one wants to be ‘that guy’ unless they have to. And I, don’t have to.
Twitter is a tool for community and building relationships. If I am intended to connect with someone and read their blog, it will probably happen with or without the automatic message.
How to Use Them for Good
So, clearly, I am not a major fan of automated DMs. My usual response has been to ignore them, but I have recently changed my mode of attack.
First, before I get into that, I want to clarify that not all automated DMs are, in fact, spam. Some of them are a sincere-ish attempt at connection. For example:
Hi my name is _______ and I look forward to connecting with you. I like to blog at http://mywebsite.com.
These are better, and these are the types of messages that you can actually do something with. Here’s my simple bit of advice. If you get a direct message like this, automated or not, take three seconds to respond. I have started doing this of the last few weeks and it has been an excellent method for making new friends and connections.
The premise that I take is this. If you feel comfortable shoving your link in my face, then I can feel comfortable to doing the same thing to you. So, I end up with something like this:
Hi, thanks for the message. I blog too at http://todaymade.com/blog. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
Simple enough, right? Give them a taste of their own medicine, right? Sometimes, my “spam” falls on a spammer and I never hear back, but sometimes I do. More than once it has resulted in an ongoing conversation that has been taken to the public world soon enough. This is a simple strategy that really started as an experiment, but is highly effective for creating connections with those that are actually interested in talking.
Why this Works
This method works for me for a couple reasons that I want to clarify. First of all, I have previously outlined several methods that can be used to develop a follow policy. Mine is simple, I follow by interest. If you follow me, while it may take me a couple of days, if I find you interesting I will follow you back. This method is opposed to automatically following everyone back, something I have done before with disappointing results.
My point, is that due to my follow policy, this method is possible. Users can only send you a direct message if you follow them, so being selective is a great way to ensure that you aren’t constantly being spammed. The other point that it brings up is the quality of the person I am following. Everyone who is sending me an automated DM has been pre-vetted by me in some way. I have, somehow, decided that they look interesting enough to follow, or are in the right category of business. This means that I only get a few automated DMs at a time, and they are from fairly high quality people.
Without those two factors, I don’t think this method would work nearly as well.
There are some that say that I am just returning spam for spam. Maybe I am, but it doesn’t feel that way when it actually results in a conversation, which it does about 50% of the time. Who knows, this is just an idea that I am experimenting with. It might work for awhile but may not work always work. Would love to hear your thoughts.