Oct 16, 2013

Auto-DMs are bad; so why are top marketers using them?

Written by : Stewart Rogers| 0 | Marketing, Social Media, Twitter

auto-DMIt wasn’t a surprising result. Auto-DMs on Twitter are the devil’s work. But we also discovered something else quite interesting as we delved into the dark side of marketing automation…

In our recent article on marketing automation tactics, we embedded a list of the most popular techniques and asked you to vote up those you felt were ‘good’ and down those you thought were ‘evil’.

Didn’t get a chance to add your vote? No worries – take a look at the original article and chip in.

Of the fifteen different tactics we offered, auto-DMs in Twitter (sending a Direct Message automatically to anyone that follows you) were deemed the ‘worst of the worst’. Not a single ‘up vote’ was given and Brittany Botti commented saying that they are “annoying and hurt your reputation in the eyes of the person who just followed you”.

Brittany reflected our thoughts on these types of automated messages. It made us wonder how others felt about auto-DMs, so we asked a few social media marketing experts.

“I hate them, but Twitter likes the DM channel so they are in no rush to fix it. They are interruption marketing. If you have something interesting to share, let everyone see it. The only exception is phone numbers, credit cards and meeting/mailing addresses.” – Nick Kellet, Co-Founder at Listly.

“Auto-DMs in twitter are bad because they rarely come off as genuine and for the most part are more advert than conversation. Even if they are well crafted, they imply that the person is not actually there to interact with you when the DM gets sent. As someone who is not a fan of social media automation except when it comes to select anticipated announcements that are gaffe-proof (so in effect very few) I am not a fan of auto DMs and do not recommend them.” – Arié Moyal, Integrated Management Strategist and Founder at trieditfirst.

“I only use DMs to people I know for private conversations not to welcome new followers. Also if you follow a person from multiple accounts and get same DM, the gig is up. Looks spammy.” – Nicky Hirst, Social Media and Community Manager at NATS.

“”Automatically sending a private message to a follower is lazy and poor marketing. But am I against it? If it works for you, why not? People can choose to unfollow you again if they don’t like it. In my view, more people hate it than like it, so it damages the overall experience for Twitter users. I’d love to see people learning that it isn’t acceptable. We now live in a world of spam though. I’m adept at deleting and ignoring it. I wouldn’t auto-DM people, but I don’t lose sleep over others doing it.” – Steve Masters, Marketing Strategy Manager at Brightpath

“Auto-DMs are so bad that I do not even use my Twitter DM any more.” – Josepf Haslam, Keynote Speaker at Phoenix Strategies.

There you have it. Pretty damning stuff, right?

So we did some research of our own. In the time between publishing our marketing automation list and now, we’ve been busy finding and following a number of top marketers – the Marketing Twitterati, if you will. We wanted to make sure we were ‘on the pulse’ of the latest trends. What we discovered was really interesting. We were surprised and shocked to receive a high proportion of auto-DMs from these accounts; the exact people that you thought might know better.

One DM we received clearly hadn’t been properly tested by it’s perpetrator. It read:

Thanks for following [FIRST NAME ]; why not download my new e-book at (link removed)

That’s right. The DM, which clearly should have had our name injected into the text, was broken thanks to that extra space after the variable field, and thus we were called ‘[FIRST NAME ]’.

Another told me they were “also blogging” at a particular site and that we should “go share their articles”. Imagine how that introduction would come across in the context of a face-to-face networking event:

“Hi there – good to meet you. Tell me more about yourself – what do you do?”

“Here” – hands over a business card with just a URL on it – “I write articles at that site and you should go immediately and share them. No need for context, background, rapport, relationships or an appreciate of the topic I write about – just go share them. Now.”


A third explained to us that we might like a copy of their Twitter best practises guide. The irony of that particular DM wasn’t lost on us, we can promise you.

The shocking part is that we were getting these auto-DMs from some of the most recognisable marketers on Twitter.

So we asked them to follow us back in order that we could have a private conversation with them. We then put it to them that auto-DMs were bad, caused people to immediately unfollow them and created negative sentiment. Here’s what we were told by those that bothered to respond (many just ignored us/blocked us), and we were surprised at how brazen some of the responses were:

“I don’t care. A lot unfollow but the click-through numbers are enough to make me good money”

“75 follow me a day. 50 unfollow. 20 do nothing. 5 click. Works for me.”

Although auto-DMs do cause negative feelings in those that receive them, it appears that they are so commonplace now that people react by simply unfollowing the account or ignoring the DM. As Josepf Haslam said above, some just ignore their DMs completely now.

People don’t – on the evidence we’ve gathered by looking at recent followers of automated DM-using accounts – call auto-DMers out publicly.

So without the fear of being branded as a DMer, it seems that once you get past a certain volume of followers per day, and if you’re happy to live with the ‘churn’ of being unfollowed in such high percentages, auto-DMs can shift e-books, send people to your content and get signups for your auto-responder list or email course.

And that bother us. We love marketing automation, and tactics like this give the good stuff – techniques that can help both you and your prospective customers by improving your relationships with them – a bad name by association.

It doesn’t look like the situation is going to get better soon either. Twitter clearly likes the DM channel, as Nick Kellet pointed out, and you can see examples of this with their recent experiments with a  breaking news DM service. And Twitter have recently added an option that allows you to receive DMs from people that you aren’t even following, although why anyone would want to switch that setting on is beyond us.

We want to hear from you on the subject of auto-DMs. Do you love them? Hate them? Use them? Does everyone that voted on the ‘Good versus Evil‘ list have it wrong? Tell us in the comments below…

This article originally appeared on the Brightpath blog.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tags: , , ,

Stewart Rogers

Stewart has been involved in sales, marketing and running software companies since computers had black screens with the 'wide choice' of green or orange text. When he isn't speaking, writing or talking about marketing technology, you'll find him analyzing the entire marketing technology universe (yes, all 2,400+ products) for VB Insight (http://insight.venturebeat.com).
Opt In Image
Content Marketing & Administrative Management

Internet marketing has many faces in today’s world. It incorporates Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Blogging and more. As an entrepreneur it’s hard to keep up. Add to that the administrative tasks such as scheduling, customer service, bookkeeping, etc., and 24 hours in a day just isn’t enough. Contact HIT Virtual to manage it all.


Content Curator

Stewart Rogers

Stewart has been involved in sales, marketing and running software companies since computers had black screens with the 'wide choice' of green or orange text. When he isn't speaking, writing or talking about marketing technology, you'll find him analyzing the entire marketing technology universe (yes, all 2,400+ products) for VB Insight (http://insight.venturebeat.com).

More Curations by Stewart