No to Auto DMs

davefleet - see @ message -> follow -> receive auto DM -> unfollow

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen more and more discussion about “auto DMs” on Twitter.

“Auto DMs” are direct (private) messages automatically sent when someone follows an account. Some people have chosen to use these to thank people for following; others have taken it a step further by using auto DMs to encourage others to visit their other web properties.

Today, a client asked me if I could help them set up auto DMs for their their new Twitter followers. I strongly advised them against doing it.

Why?

Automatically-generated direct messages seem to be negatively received pretty much universally.

This isn’t about you, it’s about the people that follow you… and they don’t like it.

Richard Binhammer's campaign against auto DMsDell’s Richard Binhammer has gone on a public crusade against these messages. Every time he receives one, he publicly “outs” the person sending it.

I agree with the people opposed to these auto-DMs. Here’s why:

  • They’re impersonal
  • They’re untargeted
  • They’re often about promoting the sender, and are simply too much, too soon in the relationship
  • They’re the closest thing Twitter has to spam

For a sense of the general sentiment towards auto DMs, check out a quick Google Blog Search on the term.

What do you think? Are people over-reacting? Do you like or hate auto DMs? Do you care?

Related posts:

  • I do not like auto DMs – and I do not send them. I think they’re counter-productive and a bit lazy.

    But I think there’s a bit of the “looking for something to be outraged about” in the current hubub.

    Maybe it’s because I don’t have that high a volume of new follows/followers that it doesn’t bother me so much, but there are two easy solutions to annoying DMers: ignore and unfollow.

  • I agree, Tim – the people who get the most annoyed by auto DMs seem to be (though aren’t exclusively) the ones who auto-follow back, which makes me chuckle.

    Still, for people who are just starting out and are considering using this kind of tool, I think this is a useful piece of advice.

  • Absolutely. Should be right there on Page One of the “So You’re a New Twitter User!” manual. DO NOT AUTO DM.

  • Completely agree – definitely an irritant for me and not a strategy I’d recommend to any client.

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  • I’ve had a lot discussion about this on my Twitter handle as well. I personally do not like auto DMs. And from the feedback I’ve received, most people don’t like them either. I don’t mind the people that follow back automatically. That’s their personal choice if they want to follow bots, people that don’t update or have a picture, etc. However, I cannot stand the people that use auto DMs that send me to their website, blog, or “get rich” scheme. If you want me to read your content, give me the opportunity to do so by letting me explore your handle and the links on your Twitter profile. I also don’t like it when people thank me for following them. Just yesterday I had DMs that said, “Cheers! Yes this is an auto DM but I truly do welcome you! Send me an @ reply and strike up a convo!” and “Thanks for following me! I’m honored! 🙂 Tweet me @xyzperson any time” I couldn’t believe the person actually admitted that they were being impersonal and why is the person honored to follow me? Case in point: Don’t Auto DM!

  • I found these solutions to combat auto DMs this morning:
    – sign up to SocialToo and select opt out of auto DMS
    – go to @optmeout and follow the instructions to opt out of TweetLater auto DMs (HT @styletime)
    – DM back with this before unfollowing: http://turnthisthingoff.com/ (HT @zoonini)

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  • I hate them but no more or less than I hate other perceived (by me) abuses or misuses of Twitter.

    I use Twitter because of the conversations. Sometimes the conversations are banal, sometimes they are intriguing but they are conversations. There’s an element of “opting in” to them and they generally flows from what’s going on around them.

    Auto DMs don’t appear in any context. They are uninvited and irrelevant to what is being said.

    I don’t mind if someone flips me a link in context, as part of a discussion. I once complained about the mess that is my RSS feed reader and @melle from AideRSS sent me a message explaining how AideRSS might help.

    That was, in my mind, awesome, and I told her so.

    But if I had just followed her and she blasted me with the link, I would have been turned off instantly.

  • Owen Lystrup

    Great post again, David.

    Normally on a topic like this, I would agree one hundred percent.

    However, I believe there are few and sparse cases where Auto DMs could work for clients.

    The conditions for cases such as these would have to be very strict. But I think the language of the message could make up for the lack of goodwill, caring and transparency.

    If it is a case in which a client is getting far too many followers to respond to each individually, an Auto DM could work as a polite “thanks” message with no ulterior message other than to acknowledge the follower and provide ways to contact the client.

    In a case like this, is it possible that a simple message would be better than being met with silence?

  • In almost all cases, I HATE getting auto-DM’ed. (The exception would be if I follow a company that tweets updates to their product or something like that and the DM is a link to their blog or a discount code. Even then it’s a little too impersonal most of the time.) For a while, I had even changed my Twitter pic to just be a giant “Stop The Auto-DMs” message. Sadly, I still see far too many of them, so the fight must go on!

  • I don’t mind auto DM’s one bit…but maybe that’s ’cause I’ve got TweetLater configured to send an auto DM to everyone who “follows” me.

    I’ve got more than 1200 followers, and haven’t rec’d one negative response. Most think I’ve sent a personal response, so I guess it’s all in how you word it.

    I also don’t hawk any products, my own expertise, or link to any websites in my response.

    I see what some are saying about it being spam, but I’d rather send some sort of acknowledgment or thanks for following me, than nothing at all… and I’m getting too many followers to take the time to answer each one personally.

    Thanks for this article.

    Dave C in Vegas

  • so how do we create messages back that don’t look like auto-DM’s — I like to thank people for following me, and inviting them to tell me something about themselves .. these aren’t auto-DMs and I really want to know more about the person . but it sure can look like an auto DM if I don’t have very much info about the person who has just become a follower. 140 characters doesn’t give you much scope to personalize it, especially if your follower hasn’t given much info in their profile.

  • Hi Victoria – in a way, you can apply similar principles to those in media relations – customize it and be relevant. Step 1 in my books – use their name when you message them.

  • Colby Gergen

    auto-DM’s are basically everything that any real person on Twitter does not want Twitter to become. It’s automated, impersonal, not a genuine conversation starter, and lazy. If you want to thank someone for following you, give ’em an @reply, visit their webpage and comment on something they’ve done, or send them a DM with their name and some personalization to it “Hey Joe, saw you like hockey? I love playing ice hockey!”. Make it personal, conversational, and Twitterific.

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  • You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will like your blog.

  • I don’t mind the Auto DM’s because they are so obvious, I can scan over them. I basically ignore messages that are impersonal, as I assume that if they didn’t have the time to message me, they probably won’t read if I respond!

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  • Hi Dave,

    I agree. I think some users may not realise they
    are annoying others by using auto dms. That is why I set up this poll.

    http://www.robertpickstone.com/2011/06/05/poll-auto-dms-do-they-annoy-you/

    I am going to post the link back to every auto dm I recieve, but in a
    nice way. Well, maybe not every auto dm, and only when I have the time.
    You catch my drift though

    The problem still remains, 2 years after you post!

    Rob