Is It Ever Okay to Auto-DM?

by Mark Brimm on July 12, 2010

Smartphone

Would you want to receive your auto-DM from someone else?

Is it ever okay to use Auto-DMs in your Twitter strategy? It’s a question of tactics that is due for a solid rethinking.

Well, it may shock many marketing folks to hear that I’m not going to say that auto-DMs are bad across the board. There is, believe it or not, an appropriate time and place even for the notorious auto-DM. The auto-DM shouldn’t be exiled from the social media best practices kingdom just yet. Hear me out…

The 3 E’s of Social Media

A complete social media strategy is about 1) engagement, 2) micro-branding, and 3) accessibility, not about being pushy. The auto-DM can potentially fulfill all three of these missions, and without being spammy. Impossible you say? Not at all!

Engage

The dregs of the auto-DM world are those micro-ads that push at you to click and buy without first establishing a relationship of any sort. You delete them automatically. If the micro-advertisement is insulting enough, you block the jerk and mark their profile as spam. And why shouldn’t you? After all, the DM is a private space. No one should intrude there obnoxiously to hawk their wares. So how can you engage, micro-brand, and be accessible without spamming?

Engagement can be compared to the analogy of pick-up lines. It’s not that ladies and fellas don’t want to be picked up. They want to be bumped into and swept into another world without pretense and scheming. An authentic connection needs to become visible. Your auto-DM can do that, and without clogging up the reader’s tolerance for DMs. How? Keep it short and sweet. Briefly tell something about yourself and link to a larger introduction in case an interest is struck. Now that wasn’t really so hard, was it? Not a spammer just yet. Let’s see how much further this authentic connection will last…

Establish

Micro-branding is not a concept I got from somewhere–or from nowhere. It’s a no-brainer because it should be obvious by now that branding is always a concern if you’re in competition with others for anything, even within the relm of social media. Since few can afford expensive ads, differentiating can still be achieved by ubiquitous messaging (without being over-ubiquitous or obnoxious or annoying). The auto-DM isn’t always the first point of contact, but it is potentially a point along the line towards a relationship, a connection, and yes, a sale. You can (and have every right to) take advantage of that opportunity to promote what you provide via the auto-DM. The key here is differentiation, as it is in traditional branding on a budget (which you’re not going to spend here). With this in mind, writing the perfect auto-DM should probably take longer than it took to come up with the idea for your original product or service did. Why? It’s going to make or break you to any stranger that sees it. Not using it could waste up to half or more of your efforts on Twitter. Abusing it can easily trash your reputation en masse and even get your account banned (and don’t think I won’t be shaking my head at you, too! I am known to enjoy such occasions).

And lastly…

Enjoin

Enjoin:

[v. to invite to join, to exhort in a friendly way to participate]

Accessibility makes connecting with you possible. This can be done via social bookmarking, via tweet mentions with links to your intro page, via socially searchable hash tags, via traditional search engine results, from sponsorship opportunities, even from opt-in email newsletters. A complete social media strategy looks like something you can’t get away from, but isn’t annoying.

Because the celebrity social media gurus–and I can only think of two or three people truly deserving of that title–never use the Auto-DM, it may seem as if they are irredeemable mistakes to be avoided at all costs. That would be taking things way too far, young jedi. Learn the ways of the force, you must!

Just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean you are a social media consultant. Social media consultants have to remain the opposite of predictable and avoid being spammy in order to stay on people’s good side. It’s good PR for them to be about 2 miles inland beyond the ocean of reproach. They go an extra mile (perhaps an unnecessary one) to avoid the ambiance of being pitchy and cliche. The reasons are obvious. They need to differentiate from their competition, just as I mentioned in the 2nd E in the 3 E’s. Most companies with products or services to sell, or causes to promote, don’t really need to follow their example, however. The receiver of their auto-DMs are either interested in what is being sold or aren’t. Stop the clock for a moment here. At the point of spotting the presence of an auto-DM, no foul has been made as yet. So, unlike the consultant who sells himself, it’s OKAY to use the auto-DM so long as you use it for good. Here’s how to do just that, while greedily maximizing the reach that the auto-DM has to offer:

Using Auto-DMs Constructively With the 3 E’s

1.Never pitch people in an Auto-DM (you hate it, so do they–just don’t!).
2. Keep it brief.
3. Link to your introduction page and consider the profile you are doing this for. Stay on topic and pitch-neutral. Don’t sell, introduce.
4. Make your landing page engaging (again, without pitching anything explicitly–this can be tricky, but it can be done).
5. Put social bookmarking buttons and signup box on the landing page so that the newly wowed can come back again later. Remember they are surfing the web casually, socially (thus is it called social media).
6. Try to tweet now and then in connection with your intro landing page (as much as every day!) in ways that demonstrate to the listener how you are positively differentiated from your competitors. This is the Twitter equivalent of micro-branding. It’s non-repetitive, non-offensive and reinforces your identity to your audience. And remember: you don’t need to call people out and name names to differentiate. Allude to what you provide that’s unusual and above the fray, not what they competition “does wrong”. A Twitter war looks stupid. You’re smart, so you’re not about to waste your time and energy that way.

This is the first in a series of tweets from me about social media tactics. Look for more in coming posts. I won’t telegraph them, I’ll surprise ya, so you’ll just need to subscribe to stay on top of them.

Photo Credit

Mark BrimmMark Brimm is Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Marcana.com and is author of AdWords University: The Complete Guide to AdWords and other previous related books on search marketing. He is currently working on a forthcoming book on social media strategy.

Mark consults on SEO & SEM, general web marketing and social media at Interface Communications Group where he is Partner and Director of Digital Marketing. Some of his specialties include SEO (search engine optimization), social media optimization (SMO), as well as PR campaign concepts, marketing plans and general web marketing related project management. Mark is married and currently resides in Houston, TX.

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  • http://twitter.com/jckhewitt JC Hewitt

    This jives with my experience anecdotally. When I receive an auto-DM after following someone, I usually un-follow right afterwards. If it's someone I've been following for a long time (and conversing with them), I'll be more likely to forgive an auto-DM and even click on the link.

  • http://twitter.com/marlitah Marlita H

    I'll have to give a qualified NO (all caps intended), regarding the automatic sending of a home URL. That information should already be in the user's profile and I can click there if I want to (note, if I see a shortened URL, I will never click it and will never follow back). If I've seen the URL already, I don't need it in my Inbox and it's merely clutter. I may be misinterpreting your list but it looks like item 6 is part of the suggested DMs? I wouldn't appreciate that much either.

    IMHO, promotional tweets should be tweets and not DMs. The only exception I would make is if the user knows me and is explicitly asking me to help promote something, as I have done for friends who are authors.

  • http://www.markbrimm.com Mark Brimm

    Thanks for the candid response, Marlitah!

    Actually I didn't advocate the sending of the home profile url if you re-read the post a tad more slowly. In fact, I tried to be very explicit about that point!

    Also, I think you may have slightly misread the 6th point as well, as I am not advocating reposting the auto-DM link in tweets (or any link, for that matter(, but rather posting things that jive with the introduction page which explains who you are–tweeting like you, not like a different person every day. Does that help? :)

    One of the reasons that I wrote this post is because I noticed in myself the pre-conceived idea that I auto-hate people who auto-DM. The truth is that if I want followers and I'm a business trying to leverage Twitter to create a potential audience for what I sell, or to network with in relation to what I do, I'm stuck with seeing auto-DMs in my direct inbox because I can't afford to block or unfollow every person whose only crime is using an auto-DM. It's a part of the process of gaining a following over a few hundred people that you have to deal with auto-DMs or resign yourself to a mere few hundred person following forever. But the annoyance factor of an offensive auto-DM tends to ruin the experience of that person with me permanently. I realized that there was an aversion that was completely unanalyzed within myself when it came to auto-DMs. I studied it a bit and realized what specific things about these DMs were really annoying me. Thus I came up with this (carefully assessed) list of things that I hate about most auto-DMs and turned it into a to-avoid list in creating auto-DMs. It was meant to clean up the auto-DM spam world by subtracting the “blatant crassness” factor.

    My objective in writing posts like these, as a marketer, is to salvage channels for (true) guerilla marketing that have been mucked up by abuse, and show that there is a legitimate way to use many such trashed guerilla tactics, after all. I do realize that non-marketers that encounter them may be aghast at the very idea of auto-DMs, comment spam, etc. But I guess I feel that I have to address these things with open eyes if this is really my line of work.

    FAnd just to show that I'm not ruled by the profitability end of the see-saw, I'll share this: In principle, I'm against promotional tweets that simply promote an item via a link, which you say you would accept. Why? I think they misuse the medium. In my view, tweets should be conversational as possible even when promoting something. Now, I know it's harder done than said, considering we have to tweet on the fly, but still, I have plenty of caution about truly spammy tactics. I don't like them! :D

  • http://www.markbrimm.com Mark Brimm

    Thanks JC. I knew the realizations behind this post would be an assault on common sense, which is precisely why I knew it had to be written. I would rewrite that to sound less vain, but I'm hungry, so I'll be brief.

    Perhaps the ultimate steam behind my decision to push it through as a post was the annoyance factor at seeing all those bad auto-DMs. I mean, I thought “Wow! Someone should really show you people how pushy you're being and how wrong this is and why”. And then a light bulb went off. Thus came the wheel and fire, right? Well, maybe if people actually read this post, they would at least engage and connect rather than annoy and turn off in those auto-DMs we all know they're going to write anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/marlitah Marlita H

    I suspected I was misinterpreting part of that. Thanks for clarifying. As I believe I've said before, marcana usually does things the right way and I don't believe for a moment that you would advocate spamming.

    Actually, I don't approve of promotional tweets that only link to a product. What I do approve of is marketing one's business (like a tweet about this blog post, where you might offer your services). I can't believe I'm admitting it but there is a difference between selling and marketing. In either case, if they are infrequent and in my feed, it won't kill me. Even with sales, I don't mind if someone is, say, having a special and wants to tweet that out. Which Wich sandwiches is a good example of that being OK. If Matt has a special going, I'd like to know.

    With regard to automatically hating the people behind the tweets, I don't. I might be disappointed in them but the only time I will block is for offensive tweets (racism, etc.) or blatant spamming where I view the tweeter's timeline and it's all the same tweet. That said, anyone promoting oneself on Twitter should really be paying attention to your advice (and reading more carefully than I did <grin>) because even if he's not getting blocked and reported for spam, he should know why he's not gaining business.

    With regard to your comment on guerilla marketing, I think the term is enough of a turnoff that the abuse is just icing on the cake. I'd be happy to be enlightened if you can point me at a reference that doesn't sound like a get rich quick book. :-)

  • http://www.markbrimm.com Mark Brimm

    I usually think of the word MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) when I think of get rich quick schemes, not guerilla marketing, which is more about getting more marketing reach value with less (or no) money. Sure, I can definitely recommend two great books that advocate guerilla marketing tactics online that don't involve MLM or get rich quick schemes:

    Duct Tape Marketing
    http://www.amazon.com/Duct-Tape-Marketing-Pract

    &

    The New Rules of Marketing & PR
    http://www.amazon.com/New-Rules-Marketing-PR-eb

    That said, I have nothing against getting rich quickly, or against respectable affiliate marketing. :D

    MLM is off the table for me personally, but I imagine it could be done respectably, also, since it's just multi-level affiliate marketing. If it's a good (read: popular) product or service, and MOST people want it, and you don't spam people but use SEO and social media optimization to attract buyers, that can easily translate into something lucrative and respectable.

  • http://twitter.com/marlitah Marlita H

    Thanks, as always, Mark! With regard to MLM, someday I'll have to tell you about my close encounters with Amway (eegads!). As with marketing, in general, it's the approach method that makes it or breaks it for me. There is a sense of pushiness I get from some people in sales and marketing that is a complete turn off and it may be more a matter of personality than anything else. I realize that probably needs clarification if I want to teach people not to do it but I also don't want it to come of as “You are an unsavory character,” or anything. There's good in everyone – or so I'd like to still believe.

    With MLM, I have actually seen people go through the motions of behaving well. e.g., “I've discovered something wonderful and I want to share it with you.” but it's not sincere and you'd have to be a devoid of social intelligence not to see the manipulation at play. And, yes, agree with your last statement.

    Thanks for the book leads – I will do the Kindle sample thing and check them out! — Mar

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