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Proper Etiquette 101: How To Send A Direct Message On Twitter

  • 3
  • September 10, 2015

If you look at them at all, chances are that you’ve noticed that Twitter removed the 140-character How to send a direct message on Twitterlimit on its direct message feature recently (August 12 to be exact).

The change was made, according to Twitter, to make the “private side of Twitter even more powerful and fun.”

It was definitely a welcome change for many.

I mean, have you ever successfully had a REAL conversation with someone over DM WITHOUT having to send multiple messages because you hit a wall at 140 characters?

Unfortunately, if you give some people an inch they’ll take a mile.

I had a recent conversation with someone and noticed that the messages, sent about one a day, were being BURIED by the many messages that said something to the effect of, “Thank you for following me. For more information about ME…

I’ve always found these messages to be frustrating, but she pointed out that they seem to be worse now that the character limit has been expanded (and we were forced to take our conversation to email, instead).

The question is: is it even okay to send direct messages?

What about automated direct messages?

Are they completely off limits, now?

Keep reading to learn the proper etiquette for how to send a direct message on Twitter.

DON’T send DMs that push your own agenda.

This is really what it comes down to, at the end of the day.

If all you’re doing is thanking people and then going straight to pushing your own agenda like telling them to check out your website, then you’re wasting your time because all you will do is annoy people (including me) and instead of getting more Twitter followers, you’ll actually begin to see you follower growth shrink.

DO use DMs for private customer service issues.

Twitter is a great place to go for customer service, and now that companies can opt in to receive DMs from anyone (even people they aren’t following), it’s even easier to communicate with customers.

Now that DMs can be longer than 140 characters, it may often be easier to describe an issue in a DM rather than a tweet, especially if it’s something the customer wants to address privately.

Holding these conversations over DM also keeps the entire conversation in one place, which makes it easier for everyone.

DON’T send people links that they don’t ask for.

This is somewhat similar to my first “don’t”, in that you shouldn’t be pushing your own agenda by sending people links to your other social media sites or your website unless they ask for it.

It also means that you shouldn’t invite someone to communicate with you on another platform like Facebook (unless you find yourself in a position like I did where your DMs are being buried; then they’ll likely understand).

DO use auto DMs WISELY.

I’m probably going to go to Twitter jail for just typing those words.

However, I have to tell you that I’ve had a lot of success with using DMs to start conversations.

The key is that you either need to be providing value or sending something that is curiosity driven to get a conversation going.

It needs to be all about building relationships.

Currently I’m using an auto DM that thanks people for connecting with me and asks if they’re using social media for business or pleasure. And it works!

I get a large amount of Twitter engagement within DMs and BUILD RELATIONSHIPS there.

That said, if you are using auto DMs to push your own agenda then I completely agree with the many marketers who are vehemently opposed to using them.

However, if you leverage direct messages strategically, they do work and you should give them a try.

Final Thoughts

If you are sending any kind of DM (automated or otherwise) that doesn’t contain value, then stop immediately. This is not the way to sell on Twitter.

However, if you are interested in using them strategically as a means of building relationships with people online, even influencers who might miss your tweets, they can be a great option.

Just make sure that you give value first and that you put your own agenda on the back burner.

Are you using any kind of automated DM?

What do you feel is the proper etiquette on how to send a direct message on Twitter?

Author Sheena White

More posts by Sheena White

Join the discussion 33 Comments

  • Bill Housley says:

    I would add that some DM messages would be more useful as non-DM and hash-tagged for greater reach. So I only use DMs when they contain material that should only be private. However, since it is all clear text over the wire, and managed at Twitter and likely stored there in clear text where who knows who is able to look at it, it still isn’t really “private”, it just isn’t “published”. So that actually brings the usefulness of DMs down to a point where I rarely use them.

  • Bill Housley says:

    I would add that some DM messages would be more useful as non-DM and hash-tagged for greater reach. So I only use DMs when they contain material that should only be private. However, since it is all clear text over the wire, and managed at Twitter and likely stored there in clear text where who knows who is able to look at it, it still isn’t really “private”, it just isn’t “published”. So that actually brings the usefulness of DMs down to a point where I rarely use them.

  • An
    excellent insight. I have noticed that when you started following a certain
    person on twitter, they will immediately DM you. And what’s worse is, that DM
    is about checking out the website or “add me” on other social
    media. It gives the person you’ve DM the annoyance. People really need to
    read this in order to have the knowledge on what’s the right way to DM
    someone on twitter.

  • An
    excellent insight. I have noticed that when you started following a certain
    person on twitter, they will immediately DM you. And what’s worse is, that DM
    is about checking out the website or “add me” on other social
    media. It gives the person you’ve DM the annoyance. People really need to
    read this in order to have the knowledge on what’s the right way to DM
    someone on twitter.

  • These are some awesome tips! I especially agree with not using DM to push one’s own agenda. Spot on!

  • These are some awesome tips! I especially agree with not using DM to push one’s own agenda. Spot on!

  • Love it. I get a lot of these DMs and all I do is delete them. They are so annoying.

    • Me too! Sad to see how many people are doing it wrong. Plus, I have a habit of interacting with those who follow me. Strange that they don’t bother to respond to my tweet but send a DM (which, it is clear, is an automated messages sent to everyone who follows them).

  • Love it. I get a lot of these DMs and all I do is delete them. They are so annoying.

    • Me too! Sad to see how many people are doing it wrong. Plus, I have a habit of interacting with those who follow me. Strange that they don’t bother to respond to my tweet but send a DM (which, it is clear, is an automated messages sent to everyone who follows them).

  • Tim Coe says:

    Extremely basic common sense then.

  • Evelynn Jones (Mimi) says:

    I use auto DMs to start conversations, build relationships, and connect on other social media channels. My hopes are to connect in person too. I composed 4 separate auto DMs (I may change them now that I think about it) to sort of market myself because I’m looking to start a business. My career is service oriented, so my DMs reflect that. One asks if there’s anything I can do for you. People have responded! They want me to support social media channels or look over opportunities, and you know what? I do them, no problem. I also make sure to respond when people reply to them, whether the replies are positive or negative. Actually, I do not get many complaints. Many have even complimented them and said it was hard to believe it was an auto DM. The DMs are not signed off by the platform I use, as I opted to pay the few dollars to remove the name so it wouldn’t turn people off. I guess its safe to say that the $4 was well spent.

  • Grey Dove says:

    While I did find this article interesting (thank You), and definitely take the point about automated messages (not something I’d have thought of doing) a lot of this just runs against the grain for me. I’m on Twitter looking for followers. If you follow me I appreciate it and would like to express my thanks and appreciation. To me at least the personal and courteous thing to do is to contact you and say, thank You. No I wouldn’t think of my note as a promo, or ask the follower to DO anything, but I do include a coupon code to my shop again as a “thank you”. Once upon a time (and really not that long ago, I am not that old) this was called good manners. It was also thought of as a personal touch and recommended in sales. what a very sad commentary this post and the comments below it are. So sorry to all the people I annoyed with my efforts to be friendly and courteous.

    • SocialQuant says:

      Thanks for sharing Grey and appreciate your take on it. Have you tested with a unique coupon code to see how effective doing this is? Always curious to hear from other marketers.

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