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3 Reasons Automatic DMs
April 13th, 2010
Okay, I’ve got to get this one out there. It’s a bit of a rant and I hope you’ll forgive me for it, but apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. I run two Twitter accounts of my own and one for my workplace, and if there’s one thing I don’t like (besides neon green backgrounds, spam, and people begging for retweets), it’s getting hit with an auto direct message (DM) when I follow someone. I understand the idea behind it; I get that they’re often trying to show their new follower that, hey, they’re really glad s/he followed. But most of these auto-reply messages leave me feeling played the dupe at best and solicited to at worst. A couple of my favorites:
“Thanks 4 following ;-) Interesting profile, what is 1 thing you LOVE about your life? Here is an amazing FREE ebook on creating great websit” (Notice four distinct topics ending in a cut-off at the character limit.)
“Hi [username], Want AUTOMATED TARGETED FOLLWERS & autopost,mimic users,DM spam filter,[product name] [website] FREE vers ROCKS!” (DM spam filter? Oh irony!)
Here are three reasons I hate automated direct messages, and three things you should avoid doing to your new followers, whether you auto-DM or not.
1. Hi, I’m Awesome!
These messages are usually full of personal promotion. “Hey, thanks for following, check out my blog and my website and my facebook!” It’s sort of like walking up to someone in a room and being greeted with a barrage of why that person thinks s/he is so awesome – and hey, have I shown you the pictures of my kids? It’s just rude! If I’m interested in your website, I’ll click the link from your profile, or follow a link from one of your tweets about that awesome new blog post you just wrote or the new pictures you added to Facebook from the company picnic. As in any relationship, if you want to make the other person feel valued, show interest in them first and frequently!
2. Your Call Is Important to Us!
I’ve tried responding to these auto-DMs, and I’ve never been acknowledged. I’m left feeling about as valued as the customer who’s been transferred twice and on hold for an hour when the message comes on for the 50th time saying “Your call is important to us!” Right, I can tell. Clearly, the hold message is just an attempt to appease irritated customers, not an honest fact. Just as clearly, the direct message was not an overture of friendship, an outreach to strengthen the new social connection; it was nothing more than a marketing ploy. Trust me when I say, most consumers now-a-days know enough to call a pond wet when they see one.
3. Talk to the Hand, ‘Cause the Face Was Never Listening
Twitter is first and foremost a social platform. It requires that you actually be social on it now and again. In most of these cases, an auto-DM is nothing more than a cop out, a way to make your new followers feel important and noticed when in fact you don’t give a monkey’s tail about them. Now I’m a busy professional, and I don’t have time to hang out on Twitter all day, trying to be one of the cool kids; it’s no crime if you don’t either. Most days, I interact as I’m able and schedule a few tweets to post throughout the day, primarily so I won’t slam my followers with an avalanche of content every evening. But there’s the difference: In this case, the content is created with care by me, and the scheduling is done with my followers in mind. In the case of the auto-DM, it’s usually an entirely self-centered act meant to automate the annoying process of actually speaking with people.
Are Automated Direct Messages Always Evil?
In very specific circumstances auto DMs can add value. Just the other day I followed WordPress.org on Twitter and received an informative DM telling me where to find technical support and explaining that WordPress.com has a separate account. This automatically generated message contained valuable information and didn’t bother me in the slightest. What’s the difference? The message was written entirely with the needs of the follower in mind. It was not a plug for a website. It was not trying to cut corners by providing an artificial welcome. It was not trying to substitute human conversation. In short, it was user-centric, and it was honest.
If you’re one of the rare people who manages to have an automatic direct message set up while avoiding the above pitfalls, more power to you. However, there are plenty of people who will actually un-follow a person immediately if they receive one of the annoying little messages. It smacks of spam and clutters up a person’s email if they have notifications turned on. And really, does anyone like the feeling of let-down when you see a new DM waiting for you only to realize it’s just auto-generated? I suggest we all keep genuine and engage honestly or not at all.
What are your thoughts on automatic direct messages? Have you been greeted by a DM you knew was automated, but that you still appreciated? Do they drive you crazy? Do you yourself use automatic DMs? I would love to hear your opinion and experiences.