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Direct Message 101: Understanding DMs On Twitter

If you’ve been using Twitter for any length of time, you’ve likely discovered that the there’s an art to using its direct messages (DMs).

No? Well, there is. And we’re going to share some tips with you. And in the hopes of one day having a spam-free DM folder, please pass these tips along.

First off, a bit of etiquette. We’re assuming you know that only folks whom you are following can respond to your direct message via a direct message of their own. So if you’re sending a direct message to someone, make sure you’re following them!

It’s pretty annoying to take the time to write a response to a direct message and click “send” only to be told “you can only send a direct message to someone who follows you.” Grr.

There are other reasons why your DM didn’t get a response, of course, but that’s one reason folks seem to overlook.

Without further ado, here are some tips:

Free gifts. Don’t send links to free gifts or downloads in DMs. We don’t know you, we’re not clicking your link. It’s akin to taking candy from a stranger and tops the list of “how I idiotically downloaded my last Internet virus.”

Instead, tell us about what you do and direct us somewhere safe (like your website and blog or your LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook page) where you have an established and nonspammy presence and where we can further explore your work. You can offer your free whatevers there and we will be more likely to click once we ‘know’ you.

TrueTwit. Don’t use it. Don’t use it, don’t use it, don’t use it – here’s why: Yes, we know it’s supposed to prevent spam, but do you know what it really does? It turns YOU into spam. And we unfollow you with a quickness. Don’t. Use. It.

Auto-messages. If you use them, don’t try to hide it with fake personalized notes like “hey, I must be cool if you’re following me!” or “Thanks for the follow, Name! Can I help you learn more about marketing your business online?” We know you can have automated programs insert our name. And many people aren’t ‘marketing a business’ on Twitter, so your DM is annoyingly fake.

If you want to send an automated message to followers, own it and be obvious about it. Make it generic enough that it applies to everyone and make it something they may actually be interested in – like a link to your profile or blog on another platform and an invitation to join you there. A photographer may link to Instagram; a musician to a Youtube channel – make it count.

Thanks for the follow! If this is all you’re sending in a DM to new followers, you’re wasting your time and mine. Comment on my profile bio in some way or tell me something we appear to have in common – anything that shows a genuine attempt to make a personal connection – and you’ve started a conversation. Otherwise, please don’t bother.

Reply to DMs. Check your DMs and reply to real messages and genuine attempts at conversation – or even to auto-messages that catch your eye, if so inclined. You can make some great connections via DM – ignoring them is just silly.

Change it up. You may find that using automated messages works for a bit or it may not. Turn them on and off. Change the messages. Experiment. Running your Twitter DM’s on a permanent auto-pilot is ill-advised.

Don’t kiss and tell. If you’re having a conversation via DM, don’t all-of-a-sudden start @replying and sharing your private conversation with the world. Yes, we know that users send DMs (or any online communications) at their own peril, but don’t be THAT person . . . unless cruel and unnecessary behavior is required at that moment for some reason.

Do you have any tips to add to this list?

(Spam image from Shutterstock)

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