Twitter Etiquette: Auto-DMing on Follow

by Alan Belniak on January 11, 2011 · 5 comments

in Social Media

Twitter Auto-DM chat between @abelniak and @HightalkA few days ago, someone started following me on Twitter.  I go through my steps of determining whether or not I want to follow back this person.  This person seemed like they’d offer up something of interest to me.  So I followed back.  And then I got an auto-direct message (DM).  It was something like, “Thanks for the follow.  Read my stuff over at ____.”

I instantly went back and unfollowed that person.  I didn’t want to be spammed, and that’s what it felt like to me.  An automatic, impersonal message to go read your stuff?  No thanks.  I also tweeted that out, and a little debate ensued.  Take a look at the image (image created using Chirpstory).  If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you might want to pop out to read the full story to see the image.

@ThatGuySteve08 offered up a point that generally agreed with mine.  @HighTalk (hi, George!) offered up the dissenting opinion, and this is where the dialogue unfolded.  My main point was that I didn’t like the impersonal, spam-like nature of auto-DMs-on-follow, specifically when a link to go read someone’s stuff or other general pimping is promoted.  To be fair, perhaps this part of my disdain for auto-follow-DMs didn’t come through.

@HighTalk took the approach of something along the lines of it not being that big of a deal, and made a comparison to other automated messages (I don’t happen to agree with the analogy, but it’s an analogy nonetheless).  We traded a few more messages, and I explained why I didn’t like the whole auto-DM-on-follow – I felt that it cheapens the “thank you’”.  I’d prefer, and in this order: [1] a genuine thank-you DM (written each time); [2] nothing; and [3] an auto-DM that says thanks, but doesn’t pimp or promote.

We left the conversation at that, because our opinions diverged.  But it got me thinking, so I put together this post.  I respect George and George’s opinion, though I don’t agree with it.  How about you?  Where do you fall on this issue?

  • Gfsnell3

    Hi Alan:
    Thanking people for following you and suggesting they read additional material hardly seems like an offensive practice. The person probably assumed you followed them because you found their tweets interesting – and was directing you to more material. I think it is odd you would unfollow someone for this practice. Why? Does it change why you are following them in the first place?

    Twitter isn’t a cocktail party. It’s a broadcast network for content. Yes, conversations do occur there, but more often than not – they don’t. For brands – and even for many people – scale gets in the way of personally thanking everyone who follows them with a hand-crafted message. But some people and brands appreciate being followed and want to acknowledge it.

    All this said I do not use automated DMs because they don’t fit with what I’m trying to accomplish on Twitter. But I don’t thank followers either. I do nothing- although I do occasionally follow back.

    There are no hard and fast rules here. Twitter offers an automated DM – and some people and brands use it. Why get upset about that?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting a comment. I’m not so much offended as I am annoyed. Offended would be more like disgust. This, to me, is more like an eye roll. Like hearing a sales person use the same bad joke, or same exact line, over and over and over again, as you peruse the sales floor at a car dealership. You kinda feel like “hey wait – he just said that to me… he says that to everyone?”

    I tend to follow people based on a few steps/reasons, outlined here: http://www.subjectivelyspeaking.net/2010/08/20/why-your-twitter-follower-count-matters-why-your-twitter-follower-count-doesnt-matter/. If/when I get a message that is along the lines of “your following me is an easy reason for me to ping you with a link to read my stuff: {link}”, I get turned off.

    Like I mentioned, I’d prefer no thank you over an automated one that tells me I should go read their stuff.

    You and I share, at least ostensibly, some similar views on what we hope to get out of Twitter. I don’t thank people for following, either. Much like I don’t typically thank people for RTs (and don’t expect a thanks in return, though every now and again I run counter to that stance). In the end, it’s a tool to use. Some use it, some don’t. I don’t. And I’m not a fan of it.

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