Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Auto DM's Killed The Twitter Star - Or Did It?

In case you don't use Twitter or are newer to Twitter lingo, auto DM's refers to automatic Direct Messages. Direct messages are one-to-one communications between 2 Twitter users. You cannot send a Direct Message to another user unless they are following you. There are a few services that allow you to have direct messages sent to new followers automatically. Marketers think auto DM's are great but many Twitter users see this as the Twitter equivalent to spam. In fact, many spammers will create Twitter accounts for the express purpose of getting followbacks so that these auto DM's can be sent to users. Note: don't get any wild ideas about doing this - Twitter is pretty quick to close down such accounts.

If you are an active user on Twitter, you may have noticed that several Twitter users with decent size followings have bulk unfollowed just about everyone and are selectively refollowing people. Each one has given different reasons as to why they are doing it but many have attributed the glut of auto DM's as being at least part of the reason. I don't know what the numbers are across Twitter but I've seen myself that somewhere between 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 new Twitter followers use auto DM's. If these numbers hold true for most high profile Twitter users - basically that means getting 20 to 35 or so DM's for every 100 new followers. If you are getting 100's or 1000's of new followers a day this can add up.

The thing is - auto DM's really don't need to be an issue for anyone. A couple weeks ago, I was really getting fed up with them myself. I have enough trouble dealing with tens of thousands of emails per day, nevermind getting 2-300 auto DM's on some days. I did some homework, did 2 simple things and now my DM inbox is virtually free of auto DM's. Yours can be too.

Here's what I did:

  1. Socialtoo allows you to automatically block any auto DM's being sent from their service. Just create an account and on your preferences page, you can choose to have auto DM's blocked. Bonus tip: I get really annoying with people who follow then will unfollow as soon as I've followed back. To save myself some grief, I use Socialtoo's autofollow feature, will filter new follow emails until I can manually check new followers and also use Socialtoo to block my account from automatically following those that will unfollow upon follow.

  2. Tweetlater is another service that sends out auto DM's. If you follow this link it will give you simple instructions on how to stop auto DM's from being sent to your Twitter account.

I get anywhere from 100 to 600 new followers a day. I used to sometimes get up to a couple hundred auto DM's in a day. Now I get maybe 10-20 unpersonalized DM's a day from new followers. I don't know about you, but I think that is a rather significant difference.

One of the nice things about Twitter is that it is up to each of us as individuals to decide how we want to use it. This goes to what we tweet, how often we tweet and of course, our our decisions as to who we wish to follow back. Some of us choose to follow everyone back that follows us, some of us choose to follow more selectively, some will follow based on our own needs rather than who is/isn't following us. I personally have a hard time buying the reason that someone has chosen to unfollow everyone based on DM's alone. You can deal with auto DM's as I've suggested above. You can choose to ignore DM's entirely & provide people with other ways of contacting you.

I've made some fantastic business and personal contacts through Twitter that I may not have otherwise. For the most part, the best contacts have been kicked off with DM's rather than simply tweeting public exchanges. Some of the better business contacts have been with people that don't tweet themselves and who follow others very selectively. It's really difficult for us to know in advance the true value of any individual and how they may enrich our lives in some way or how we may enrich the lives of others.

Update on 03/01/09 - Socialtoo has now removed the auto DM functionality from it's service entirely. Unfortunately I've now started to see auto DM's come in from elsewhere. Spammers are quick to find new methods.


MyTreasures / said...

Very nice post. I don't know much about twitter just was told it was a good way to get my store out there.I am having fun with it.

John Cannon said...

Thank you so very much! Very, Very helpful, Sharon.


jackstowe said...

Glad I am back on twitter and find you here with a very useful thought. I am using socialtoo and it is so far good and useful in my description. Have a nice day!

Mary K said...

Very interesting post. I am new to using Twitter, so was totally unware of the automated DM's. This explains the 'speed' with which I receive some DM's, especially considering the time difference between Australia and the USA.

Appreciate this post. Thank You.

sarah said...

Very interesting. I keep thinking that if I get too organized with my twitter - like using Tweetdeck, I will have to admit how addicted I am. Now that I am over 1200, I am see more SPAM and wonder if I should block them or just let them follow quietly. I haven't had too many annoying DMs yet.


John Blackmore said...

Hi Sharon, I feel your pain with the deluge of automated junk flying around on twitter, and the links to those opt-out services was very useful.

I'm currently gauging interest in a new type of Twitter responder service that works on sending replies to DMs that contain trigger words.

Opt-out was already on the spec but I would appreciate any further thoughts you might have to guide me on the way.


Dr. Ben said...

Thanks, Sharon--addressed a question I was just about to DM you about! :)

Dr. Ben