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!
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…
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).
[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.
Mark 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.