Written by: Johnny Sandqvist
Back in the glory days of Twitter – before it was full of Russian bots, neo-Nazi militants, fake-news-retweeting grandmas, and an assortment of users who have a hard time grasping the concept of sarcasm – the social media network was considered to be the holy grail for marketers. Why? Because of the ability to set up automatic Direct Messages (or auto DMs, to use the parlance of our times) to any new user who follows your account.
If you’ve ever followed someone on Twitter and immediately gotten a direct message that said something like, “Thanks for following! Click here to learn more about me and what I do,” then you’ve been the victim of an auto DM. We’re pretty active on Twitter, so we get them all the time.
Auto DMs are the Facebook private message equivalent in Twitter, allowing two users to message each other privately. Soon after the advent of Twitter, services popped up to allow you to send those messages automatically. It could be thought of as the social network equivalent of the first step in a drip email campaign.
In theory, it sounds great. In practice, not so much.
Today I want to talk about why using automatic auto DMs for marketing purposes is a bad idea – and I’ll also share some ideas on better marketing strategies to use instead.
Why You Should Never Use Twitter Direct Messages for Marketing
First, let’s start off with the reasons why you shouldn’t use auto DMs before we get to our list of positive alternatives.
It’s Against the rules
The first and most obvious reason you shouldn’t send auto DMs to your new followers is because, plain and simple, it’s now against Twitter’s rule of conduct.
If you’re using auto DMs, now is the time to stop, otherwise Twitter could suspend your account.
Wrong message for the wrong person
The next reason auto DMs shouldn’t be used? You can’t control who gets them. One of the first rules of marketing is that your content should be applicable to the audience who is receiving it. You can’t control your message if you’re sending the same message to anyone under the sun who happens upon your account and likes the last gif you shared.
Let me give you a personal example. My Twitter follow list is pretty evenly matched between financial services professionals and fiction writers. If I set up an auto DM with an invitation to download a Mineral ebook on financial services marketing, half my followers would be confused and/or probably annoyed.
On the other hand, any financial services professional who follows me will be confused when they get an auto DM from me asking them to check out my blog for tips and tricks when writing fiction. That’s also a no-go.
Auto DMs are insincere at best, annoying at worst.
Effective? Maybe not..
Reason number three: users don’t like them.
Check out this research: “Only 4% of responses claimed that they’d either had success with Twitter automation or liked receiving them. The majority of Direct Messages are completely ignored and more than one in three users immediately unfollow the culprit and/or considering the messages as spam.”
Auto DMs are plain annoying. A message that I can tell is a mass message—that I didn’t sign up for in the first place—creates a bad first impression.
We can do better.
Techniques to Use Instead of Auto DMs
The good news is that it’s actually pretty simple to do better. And Twitter can be part of your “better” strategy.
Sending a personalized direct message in Twitter? Totally cool. I use Twitter to check in with people that I haven’t talked to in a while all the time. If someone you know is active on Twitter, it can actually be a better way to get in touch than sending a text or email because you’re communicating with them on a platform they use all the time, so they don’t have to hop into a new app to chat with you.
Another better way to use Twitter is to set up paid advertising. Twitter advertising can be a great way for your firm to raise awareness and/or drive web traffic to your site or landing page. Twitter ads allow you to target an audience based on age, gender, followers of another account similar to yours, or people who use a specific keyword in their tweets. You can also build look-alike audiences based on other accounts to target the specific people you want to attract.
Ask for permission first
We fully believe in “permission-based” marketing. That means you talk to the people who ask you to talk to them, not the people who have never heard of you and are bewildered when they get an email from you because you purchased a list from somewhere.
Permission-based marketing is about providing value so people have a reason to ask for more. Every aspect of your online presence should make it simple for people to give you their email and click a little button to subscribe to your updates.
Once someone has said they want to hear from you, it’s appropriate to kick in the automation. You’ll know where they came from, so you can offer better content in the future. If someone subscribed to your blog, send an email welcoming them and give them your most-read post. If they downloaded an ebook, send them a “thanks” along with another resource that might interest them based on their first download.
How to be valuable and build trust
Digital marketing is a long game built on trust established over time, and the idea that auto DMs could bring in an instant flood of leads was always a myth. Even the idea that getting a lot of downloads out of a Twitter direct message is faulty; remember, it’s about quality—not quantity.
A reliable and trustworthy online marketing presence isn’t built on insincere, automated messages. It takes thoughtful planning and strategy, but it’s worth it
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