Why Twitter Auto Direct Messaging Programs Don’t Work

Definition of Automatic Direct Message: Think of them like email spam, but on Twitter.When someone follows you on Twitter, it’s an invitation to connect — not a request for spammy messages sent by an automated program.

Automatic direct messages are not a Twitter feature; they are offered by third-party software companies, either for a fee, or in return for access to your Twitter followers.

I don’t like them and I’m not alone. I think Frank Strong said it best:

“Nothing says, ‘my time is more valuable than yours’ like an auto DM. Impersonal. Narcissistic. Pathetic. Even disrespectful.”

To be fair, I’m guessing the intention of many who use these systems is to make new followers feel appreciated without having to sit on their Twitter account all day. But here’s what you’re really accomplishing:

You’re broadcasting a message that says you’re not prepared to invest 30 seconds to notice who just followed you.

Come on. Unless you’re Ashton Kutcher or Lady Gaga, you’re not getting so many daily follows that it’s impossible to invest a few seconds on each one.

3 Things You Need To Know About Auto DMs

By now, you’ve surmised that I don’t think much of auto DMs. In no particular order, here are 3 things I think you need to know about them. I originally had 10 before I toned it down :).

#1. Auto DMs are deceptive in that they set a false expectation of conversation. When you get a new follower, Twitter lets you send them a direct message — a DM. But that person can’t respond to your DM until you actually follow them back. I’m convinced that most of the people who are using auto DMs don’t know this because I constantly get messages that include a question they want me to answer, which I (stupidly) attempt to respond to. That’s when I get the Twitter error message that tells me I’m an idiot because I just answered a machine, not a person. Actually, Twitter doesn’t use those words – it just tells me that the message I took the time to compose and send can’t be delivered. And that’s the point at which I unfollow the newly-followed account.

#2 Some auto DMs will actually produce the heebie-jeebies. You may lose your one chance to connect with a new follower by sending the creepy standard: “let’s take it beyond 140” – usually followed by a link, not an invitation to actually connect.

Which brings me to #3…

#3 Auto DMs containing a link reveal a lack of social media savvy on the part of the sender. The reason is this: Links in DMs have been known to lead to malicious sites. You’ve probably seen those messages — they say something like “you should see the video you were tagged in.” By clicking the link, your entire following is compromised in that a DM is sent from their account without their knowledge or permission. Savvy ‘net people won’t click on private messages containing links from unproven Twitter accounts – yet most auto follow DMs I get still contain a link.

There are other ways to thank people for following. You could actually send them a message. A real message. From a real, live person.

Kudos go to Stanford Smith of Pushing Social for coming up with a creative way to welcome people to Twitter. On his Twitter bio, he posted a link to thank people for following him. When you click http://pushingsocial.com/about/thanks-for-following-me/ you’re taken to a page on his site with an embedded video message. It’s not live, and it’s not a personal message just for you, but it’s sincere and transparent. Love that.

I realize I’ve taken a pretty extreme view here. Anyone want to make us aware of positives associated with auto DMs?

Like what you’re reading? You might also enjoy Twitter Etiquette: The Least You Need To Know.

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17 Replies to “Why Twitter Auto Direct Messaging Programs Don’t Work”

  1. Excellent post, Susan. Each of the points you make is important. I related particularly, at an emotional as well as intellectual level, to the experience of being dumb enough (in retrospect) to reply to one of these and get the message that the creator of the DM isn’t actually following me. Grrrrrrr!

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  2. I first joined social media with Twitter and was quickly invited to checkout Faebook by someone I atually had a real time convo on Twitter…I am still wondering how I did this because that was the only time it happened…LOL…Then I stayed on facebook and it’s been 3 years. I do not do automated either…Great share Susan!

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  3. I am so over it when it comes to automation in social media. If I get an automated message, I usually do not follow or respond. It’s pretty simple, connect or don’t connect, but please don’t try to fool me into thinking we have something special when we really don’t. Great Post!

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  4. I hate auto dms and never read them, so I just dropped over to twitter and the auto dm seems to be waning for me, I did find a guest post request- i know i do need to take the time to rev up my twitter presence
    thanks Susan

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    1. Hi Suzie – Lately I’ve seen people post right on their Twitter bio that they don’t check DM’s – probably because there are so many of those fake messages. Nice that you found a little nugget in there about guest posting!

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  5. I have only just gotten on board with twitter in the past few months. I have to say that I was immediately annoyed by auto DMs. I pride myself in writing a personal “thank you” to each of my followers. I always check out their feed first. Everyone who feels like a REAL person gets a message. Everyone who is interesting to me in some way I follow back. Being automated in anyway feels like it totally misses the point. Thanks for this.

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    1. Hi Kate – I’m so happy to meet another who enjoys the opportunity for a personal touch. Doesn’t it make you wonder why people would bother to sign up for a communication tool like Twitter and then automate their communications so they don’t have to spend time communicating with people? Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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  6. Thanks for the information ! I am just learning Twitter so now I know what not to do !! I agree though I don’t want a whole bunch of emails/tweets just because I followed someont.

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  7. I am so happy to read your post, since that is exactly the way I feel about the auto responders on tweeter. After being advised of how important it was to have one set up, I gave them a try but was not happy at all with the system. Just like you say it, I don’t like the feeling of being impersonal. Thanks for the tip on the welcome video. In any case just a thanks for following message is more appreciated.

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