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?

FUEL Social Media Presentation

I had the opportunity late this afternoon to do a presentation to FUEL, a relatively new group sponsored by the Rochester, MN Chamber of Commerce, on “how to use social media to grow your business and advance your career.”

Here are the slides:

After my presentation, we had a panel discussion that included Wade Beavers and Joe Shriver of DoApp, Becky Ross of Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Wisconsin and Alan De Keyrel of Corporate Web Services.

We started a Twitter hashtag for Rochester community conversations, #RSTMN.

It was a great discussion with lots of good questions, and I appreciated the perspectives the other panelists brough. Becky made the great point the given the intensity of sports fans, it was important for @FSNorth to keep up a strong Twitter stream, because people who follow them. Alan beat me to the punch in saying that people need to stop thinking about the separation of personal and professional lives in social media, and realize that the distinction is really futile. I don’t think it’s even really desirable. Wade and Joe also brought a lot of good insights.

“Don’t Try This at Home…”

Normally when you hear a warning like that, the implication is that the task should only be done by a trained professional, not by amateurs.

I had a different experience of this admonition today as we were getting ready for Tweetcamp III. Instead of using a phone conference call or professional video Webcasting, as we had done for our first two tweetcamps, I thought it would be great to do this one via uStream.tv.

I even tested it “at home” Saturday night, with my very first ChancellorCast embedded here on SMUG.

It seemed like the perfect solution. Put the slides on Slideshare.net. Use the PC in the room to show the slides to the local audience, and use the built-in camera on my MacBook Pro to Webcast video and audio to the 100+ participants from all over the U.S. and Canada (and even one from the Netherlands.)

Unfortunately, when I went to uStream.tv at about 8 minutes before the scheduled start of #tweetcamp3, here’s what I saw when I hit the Broadcast Now button:


It said it was “Finding Server” but the reality was different.

So after trying to get through for about 7 minutes, at 1:59 CDT I decided we needed to revert to the audio conference method…and after a few hiccups with getting the right number and authorization code, we were able to get going about 2:13.

In some ways it was an interesting audio representation of the “Tribe” that had gathered, because for the better part of five minutes we had a popcorn-like sound of beeps as new callers joined.

It also showed the power of Twitter, in that by using the #tweetcamp3 hashtag we could get word to almost everyone, and switch probably more than 100 participants from video Webcast to phone conference in less than 15 minutes.

My takeaway: “Don’t try this at home” has a second meaning beyond the traditional. Just because something works at home in testing doesn’t mean it will work in a presentation. It’s important to do a run-through in the exact room where the presentation is taking place, and using all of the technology that will be used in the actual event.

I generally have my slides for presentations uploaded to Slideshare.net for two reasons:

  • I don’t like to give out the presentation in hard copy, because I want to have people looking at me and the screen instead of their laps. I don’t want them reading ahead either. By having the presentation on Slideshare, I can tell them where they will be able to refer later, and we can just engage in discussion.
  • In a pinch, I can present from the Web instead of my computer, so if for some reason my computer doesn’t talk nicely with the LCD projector I can use one that does.

It’s what grandpa used to do when he would wear both a belt and suspenders to ensure that his trousers stayed put.

It’s good that we had audio conferencing as another option. It would have been better to try the broadcast from within the room when I arrived there about 25 minutes before the program’s scheduled start. I just though that since I could get to uStream.tv from behind the firewall I wouldn’t have any problem connecting to the Video server.

I know better now.

And let this be a lesson to you, too.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Tweetcamp III today. I hope you found it helpful and worthwhile. I look forward to going through the #tweetcamp3 tweets and seeing what I can learn.

I won’t thank you for your patience, because I don’t know whether you were patient or not. Maybe you were secretly stewing. But at least nobody flamed me. So I’ll thank you for that, and for hanging in as we worked out the kinks.

Update 8:45 p.m. 7/13: I was able to record the video Webcast tonight, so now I think the Tweetcamp III post is a nice archive you could share with people you want to introduce to Twitter.

Tweetcamp III – Reserve Your Spot

On Monday, July 13 from 2-3 p.m. CDT I will be presenting Tweetcamp III (Twitter hashtag #tweetcamp3) as a training session for Mayo Clinic employees.

You are invited to join remotely. I’ll have details on that in a bit. But meanwhile, here is background on the agenda:

  1. General principles of social media
    1. The Dinner Party Rule vs. The Law of Large Numbers
    2. How to avoid being “That Guy”
    3. Be real and transparent
    4. Give more than you take
    5. Integrity
    6. Mayo Clinic Employee Guidelines
  2. Understanding Twitter
    1. Why does it matter?
    2. How is it different from Facebook, email, long-format blogs and other forms of electronic communication?
    3. So what can you say in 140 characters anyway?
  3. Case studies that show Twitter’s potential, or “A Series of Serendipitous Events”
    1. Listening and connecting
    2. Real-life meetings
    3. How Twitter has contributed to Mayo Clinic’s reputation
    4. Journalist interactions and media stories
    5. Blogger interactions and resulting posts
  4. How to Tweet Productively – it’s not an oxymoron
    1. Understanding #hashtags
    2. Twitter etiquette and building “Tweet cred”
    3. Using Twitter with Yammer
    4. The Twitter API
    5. Twitter applications for desktop and mobile
    6. Finding “Tweeps”
  5. Assignments and Extra Credit

As we have done with previous Tweetcamps, #tweetcamp3 will be open to participation from outside of Mayo. If you would like to join via Webinar, please leave a comment with your name, city and location below. Here’s why:

Leaving your comment here helps to demonstrate the worldwide community connection potential of Twitter. Part of what we do in Tweetcamp is show how practical Twitter is for bringing a community of interest together on short notice. I will be asking people to introduce themselves at the beginning of #Tweetcamp3, but by leaving a blog comment it’s more of a permanent record to which we can refer.

By leaving your comment, you help show the reach of social media in general, and Twitter in particular…and in a forum to which you can refer later, to show your internal doubters what can happen in less than three days, over a weekend, via Twitter.

Check back here for details on how to participate, or follow the #Tweetcamp3 hashtag.

Update: Here’s the link for the Tweetcamp presentation and video Webcast. Go here at 3 p.m. EDT/2 p.m. CDT/Noon PDT to participate live, and join the discussion via Twitter at #tweetcamp3 or by entering the #tweetcamp3 room at Tweetchat.com.

Please do leave a comment below with your attendance plans, though, so we can have a record of the scope of participation.

Guest-Hosting For Immediate Release

Tomorrow I’m honored to get the chance to be a guest co-host on For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report. Neville, the first half of the duo, has some conflicts and needed the week off, so Shel asked me to join him on the Thursday program. Steve Crescenzo filled in ably on Monday.

I’m looking forward to the experience; we’re recording at 11 a.m. CDT. Shel and I have exchanged topics for the discussion and I think it will be a good program. We’ll be talking some about social media in health care, but also some more general topics. Since it’s a podcast, you can’t listen live…but if you want to tweet questions or comments, use the #FIR tag. I will post the program when it’s done.

Update: Here’s the link to the FIR podcast post. Let me know what you think!