RAQ – Why are Auto Direct Message Replies in Twitter Bad?

In Tweetcamp III, as in previous Tweetcamps, I have provided Twitter etiquette guidance for those new to Twitter. More recently, thanks to @shwen, I’ve called that section “How to build ‘Tweet Cred.'”

One of my strong recommendations is to avoid using services that send automatic direct messages to your new Twitter followers. If you’ve been in Twitter and have followed even a few people, you’ve probably gotten some messages like this in reply to some of your follows:

Thanks for the follow! I’m so glad we’ve connected. Looking forward to your tweets.

This was sent by a robot, not a person. And it’s a step away from what Twitter is all about, which is real conversations with real people.

A SMUGgle recently asked, “So why are these automatic direct messages so bad?” So in keeping with our “Recently Asked Questions” format, I’m answering here to make it available to everyone.

And if others have additional comments or reasons (or even a contrary opinion, though I’m doubtful of that based on the reactions I saw in in the #Tweetcamp3 stream), please add them in the comments below.

Let me give you a real-life analogy taken from our recent experience with high school graduation parties. My wife Lisa and I are at the stage in life in which we attend lots of these, both for extended family and friends of our kids. And of course it is the common courtesy for graduates that when someone attends your graduation open house and gives you money, you should be sure to send a thank you note. (My daughters are still finishing theirs.)

The thank you notes we received from two grads, whose open houses were held he same day, illustrate why auto direct messages to new Twitter followers are a bad idea.

Let’s call these young men Tim and Mark (not their real names.) We received notes from both “Tim” and “Mark” at about the same time. The language on both was similar…something to the effect of “Thanks for coming to my graduation party and for the gift of money for my graduation. I’m going to use the money to help pay for college expenses.”

But while “Tim’s” was written by hand, “Mark” had photocopied the text and pasted it into the card, and then just signed his name.

Which do you think gave us a warmer feeling?

Lessons for Twitter:

  1. When someone new follows you, it’s not necessary to send a direct message to acknowledge it. It’s better to not acknowledge a new follower than to have a machine do it for you.
  2. Save your direct messages for personal, special communications. Many users choose to have text messages sent to their phones when they get direct messages, so if you are sending an impersonal “form” tweet as a direct message you are likely alienating followers.
  3. If you want to acknowledge your new followers, do it personally, either through a direct message you write based on having checked their profile and tweets or, better yet, through an @ reply that indicates to your followers that this person has interesting things to say.

Twitter is a person-al medium. Let’s keep it that way!

What do you think? Do you have other reasons why auto d messages in Twitter are bad? Or do you think there is any place for them?

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

5 thoughts on “RAQ – Why are Auto Direct Message Replies in Twitter Bad?”

  1. Ah my good friend, while your post is right on it is based on the follow assumption, People use Twitter to establish relationships. This is probably how you and I have come to value Twitter, but alas it takes all kinds doesn’t it.

    Those that want to make a quick buck, those who may believe that Twitter is no different than any other marketing channel (direct mail, telemarketing, etc) are taking the opportunity to maximize the efficiencies created by technology to circumvent the steps which evoke trust.

    The one thing that is constant in this world is time. Always the same from the beginning of it. Relationships take time. Oh sure, some people can meet and just hit it off, while other relationships have to grow on you. All relationships take work, understanding, compromise, you and your readers know the rest.

    I believe social media and the relationships created on it are based for the most part on trust. Any tactic that undermines that trust will do harm to the medium and impede its development as a platform that helps improve understanding and enhance the learning process.

    All the best, have a great summer.

  2. Just like you said it should be personal. Another downside to this is if you are sending out automatic responses you are showing:

    1. if you are a “consultant” or firm that you really don’t understand this space like you say you do.

    2. if your response goes to another experienced tweeter… it is very apparent that it is automatic no matter how unique you think yours is.

    3. many will unfollow those who send these type message.

    4. and you are cluttering up the recipients DM feed.

    The point is to build community. It is like the Realtor that still sends me the “we can sell your house in 30 days” flyer about once a month. If he was smart he would pick up the phone and call, find out my situation and if I still want to sell (house has been off the market for over a year now).

    I know he has no idea of my needs so when I get ready to re-list I will not call him. So in the end it is a waste a time and money for him and junk mail for me.

    Look at who is successful on Twitter and how they interact… consistent, personal, thoughtful…


  3. Great post and way to make me think a bit. HA! I manage my own Twitter account and my company’s as well. I would never set up an automated DM for new followers on my own account, but I did for my company’s. Interesting …

    Valid points, Lee! I especially like #3 because you’re right, Twitter is person-al! Thanks for the advice! http://twitter.com/trishskram

  4. Great post. Can I steal this for my blog? 🙂 Seriously, when someone spams me (that’s how it feels) with auto-DM messages, I AUTO UNFOLLOW them… I don’t care how valuable their content looks. If they have to use automated software to send me a message, they are of NO VALUE to me. Appreciate your words, hope everyone using AUTO DM’s reads this!

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