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Stop the Auto DM Madness

by Fadra Nally on April 28, 2011

stop-auto-dmThis is not a Twitter rant. It may feel like it but this is my professional blog. I keep it professional. I’ll criticize but only in a constructive manner. So be prepared for some constructiveness.

I don’t proclaim to be a social media expert, guru, champion, junkie, or addict. I do claim to be a marketing professional that has fallen in love with social media. And when marketing and social media come together, magic happens. Or rather, it can happen.

If you’ve been on Twitter for any length of time, either as a blogger or business representative, you’ve been followed by someone claiming to be something related to social media. You might also see the words “internet marketer,” “affiliate marketer,” “network marketer,” or my latest favorite “infopreneur” in their Twitter bio.

You might have been tempted to follow some of these people. They may have even engaged with you. It’s okay to follow them. Really. You can always unfollow if you don’t like what you see in their stream. But there is one thing they are most certainly known for: the auto DM.

For those of you not entirely Twitter literate (I know you were expecting me to say Twitterate), a DM is a Direct Message. It’s a private message from one Twitter user to another. You can only send DMs to people who follow you. Just because you follow Alyssa Milano doesn’t mean you will be able to send her private messages. She needs to follow you back.

Many early adopters thought it was a cool idea to have a message automatically sent to any new follower welcoming them. The message was usually something simple like “Thanks for the follow!”

Was it ever a good idea? I looked to see if I could find any evidence of it being recommended once upon a time and the reasoning for it. It’s not informational. It’s not personal. And most people view it as spam. In fact, a post written back in December 2008 gave good solid (but slightly misspelled) advice on how to use Twitter as a tool. It’s surprisingly still valid and not surprisingly pleaded with people to end the use of auto DMs.

I bring it up here because it’s a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away. When I googled the term “auto DM,” I received twelve pages of results. While I didn’t go through every result page, I did find only a handful of links that weren’t begging and pleading for Twitter users to stop.

In my two years or so of tweeting, I’ve never met a single person who likes to receive auto DMs and I’ve only met one person who uses them simply because she finds it an effective tool to drive people to her blog. It’s an interesting concept. Let’s look at an example.

I recently attracted a new follower of @SocialDialect. There are a few things I check for before I follow back (saving that for another post). Although I was a little skeptical of this person’s bio, I took a chance:

I’m a social media addict and mumpreneur. I love helping people with their business.

Although I was pretty sure I didn’t need her help, I followed anyway. And sure enough, I quickly received an auto DM.

Thanks for following me. To receive my free report on how to get the best out of social media pls click [link deleted] Pls say hi:)

In all fairness, I wanted to give her a shot. I clicked on the link. It’s a ploy to get my email address. It’s a strong attempt to get me to subscribe to the newsletter where “all their best content” is. I rejected the “free report” and went to the home page to nose around, again just to be fair. I glanced at the posts and after about 30 seconds, I had a pop-open window asking me to subscribe. I was annoyed and closed it. I tried to read some more and the same thing happened. After the third attempt, I left the site and promptly unfollowed the user.

Most people wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did. I know many people that have a strict rule. If you auto DM them, they will unfollow you immediately. That’s it. End of story. You may have lost your one chance to engage.

For the love of God and all that is holy, if you are using auto DMs, please stop. If you are thinking about using auto DMs, don’t start. If you still think they are effective, take your auto DM message and ask yourself if there’s any reason to send it privately. If not, why not welcome your new followers publicly? Everyone loves a mention and you might even start a conversation.

That’s what it’s about, isn’t it?

Looking for agreement, disagreement, or just plain humorous stories. Please share your thoughts on auto DMs on Twitter.

  • Eve

    My name is Eve and I like long walks on the beach, blogging and eating chocolate. My turn ons include cuddling, watching Apple TV and eating chocolate. My turn offs include people who eat with their mouths open and freaks who set up auto DMs on Twitter.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t like chocolate very much but I’m sure we’ll get along just fine. Now if we can convince the rest of the Twitterverse…

  • Julie

    I’ve gotten into debates with people about the benefits of auto-DMs. I’ve actually started a new policy to put the people that send me an auto-DM into a {private} list… and give them a shot. That way I know if I don’t like their message (or whatever) I *hopefully* won’t follow them back in the future as well.

    • Anonymous

      Julie – I’d love to hear some of the arguments FOR auto DMs. I have heard people mention that it drives traffic to their site. But by the same token, I have to wonder how much traffic they are missing out on from people who automatically UNFOLLOW as a result. Would love to hear how your private list experiment goes.

  • RebeccaSubbiah

    I so agree hate auto DMs and it often makes me unfollow folks

    • Anonymous

      And this is such a common and well-known reaction to DMs that it’s still hard for me to understand why people continue to do it. I wonder if they kept track of their following-unfollowing stats if they would start to see a trend.

  • Jenharris09

    Thanks for the link — although I don’t claim to be a spelling queen, I think the content is still viable. I also had a “drop your Auto DM day” campaign on my two year Twitter anniversary, two years ago. I should campaign for it again on May 16th this year. Will you join me?
    Again, sorry for the spelling errors — my brain goes on auto pilot when I write and some things get missed.
    Happy Wednesday!

    • Anonymous

      Ha! It never even crossed my mind that you would read this post (although it should have). I’m quick to write, slow to proofread, myself. My only disappointment was that the link in your post to the Ten Commandments of Twitter is no longer valid!

      I’m totally for Drop your Auto DM day. I’ll be glad to participate on May 16th!

  • Melissa

    i hate auto dm’s. hate. them.

    • Anonymous

      Thinking about starting a movement to stop them. I know I can count on you.

  • From Tracie

    Auto DMs are so wrong. As is calling yourself an “infopreneur”. snort.

  • Adventuroo

    Auto DM makes me cringe. I’ve got about 1000 reasons why they are just wrong. And it makes me snort to think that this person is telling others how to use SM when she’s breaking a cardinal rule of tweeting.

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  • Tattooed Mummy

    I almost always immediately unfollow anyone that sends me an auto DM, sometimes I send a snarky reply like “Thanks for your autoDM (I hate them) I am not on Facebook because I hate that too, I am now consumed with hate. yours, etc xxx” I’m not sure anything will ever make them go away – unless some one creates an auto DM auto reply, thus creating a loop that detroys the universe

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