Just like talking about religion at a cocktail party, or mistakenly asking an overweight friend when their baby is due, sending an automatic direct message (DM) to a new Twitter follower is one of those things we’re told you should never do, but people do all the time anyway.
It’s been this way for years, even though…
…endless blog posts have been written about how much people dislike auto-DMs, like…
- Why You Should Never Auto DM On Twitter.
- The Twitter Auto-DM Epidemic.
- Two Things That Are Killing Twitter.
- Twitter Auto-DM = Social Media #Fail
- Thou Shalt Not Auto-Direct Message on Twitter.
…stats have been posted showing their ineffectiveness…
…and even Twitter themselves caution against using them:
Including an automated “thanks for following” message to your new followers might be annoying to some users. We do not recommend, but generally do not regulate, this behavior; if you receive a DM you don’t like, you can un-follow that user and they will no longer be able to send you messages.
So, the big question is: if everyone hates auto-DMs so much, why do they still exist?
The auto-DM is the cockroach of social media. It is hard to kill.
Either auto-DM’s are producing a return for some people or the people tweeting them do not understand how the messages are perceived. Both rationales could stand to have some holes poked in them.
Auto-DMs probably seem like a logical marketing response to someone following you on Twitter.
What many people do not understand however, is that someone following you on Twitter isn’t an action to which a marketing response is necessarily warranted.
- Being followed or following back is not always an indication that someone want to be friends with you, (although it may feel that way.) It simply means that you are being added as a cog in their communication network.
- Being followed or following back is not always an indication that someone would like to do business with you, (although it may feel that way, too.) It ranks far lower than taking your cold call or opening your direct mail piece.
- Being followed or following back is not always an indication that you are necessarily desired and wanted in every conversation, (although it definitely may feel that way.) It just means you now have the option to participate like everyone else.
As far as a return is concerned, the reality is that most people don’t see a huge return on auto-DMs (see blog posts above for some of the reasons why.)
But, as with all social media metrics, the real answer on determining return is, “that depends…”
- What are you saying? Is your content spammy? Then yes, people will probably hate it. But if it’s helpful, (For example, If you have recently changed Twitter names, an auto DM could alert your followers to the change) it could be effective.
- What does “return” mean to you? What exactly are you hoping this DM will accomplish? Drive traffic to your site? Get people to follow you back? Get people to talk to you? Depending upon your goal (and, of course, how your DM is worded) you may be able to get followers to do something. It just may not be something substantial. And, of course you will risk losing followers in the gamble.
- What does your audience want/need? Have you done your homework on who your audience is and what they really need, or are you just using the DM to promote yourself? If you have compelling content, a logical thing you are asking your audience to do — and you know they will like doing it — then, yes, an auto-DM may be the ticket. Again, know that you could risk losing followers in the process.
No, auto-DMs are not evil — just like cockroaches are not evil. Both exist (and are hard to kill) for a reason. They both have a place in our ecosystem, whether we want them there or not.
But, think long and hard about auto-DMs before you send them. Because, at the end of the day, our first response…our primal response…to a cockroach is to squash it on sight.
DM the wrong thing to your followers and you could find yourself quickly squashed, too.