Five reasons not to auto-DM on Twitter

(With apologies to those not on Twitter)

I followed back a lot of people this weekend, and received several auto- direct messages in return. They say things like “thanks for the follow – look at me/my website/my company.”

These messages are rude and make me annoyed, and here is why:

  1. They waste time as they cannot be ignored, unlike public tweets. I get my DMs emailed to me so I can respond quickly.
  2. They are almost always generic, and pushing the person or some product. That’s rude.
  3. They make the sender look like a spammer, trying to gain as many followers as possible.
  4. They make the sender look like a clueless newbie, which is not a crime, but something that should be fixed asap
  5. They assume a relationship exists between myself and the sender. It does not.

Overall – the direct message function should be treated like a text message. If in doubt, then only send DMs when you would be comfortable sending a text, making a phone call or skyping with the person.

There are three options to respond to those that send these annoying messages – ignore them, unfollow the person and reply back letting them know that auto-DMing is rude. I’ve done all three, and from now I will refer them to this post.

Published by Lance Wiggs


23 replies on “Five reasons not to auto-DM on Twitter”

  1. I got a DM back from a local company (I think it was the NZ Herald) wanting me to go and authenticate and enter a CAPTCHA as well – unsure what they actually wanted me to verify, I was simply following them! Maybe if I was a real person they would automatically follow me back?


  2. Agree with all 5 reasons and comment #2 re the new “validation” service – none of these people asking for me to validate my account had followers,or were following, people numbering in the thousands or tens of thousands – is it really that hard to do a quick scan of new followers and decide if they are real people or not?


  3. I agree that most DM’s are terrible. I agree that the Tweet Validate service that demands a CAPTCHA drives us crazy. But I think I have an idea for a good auto-DM: Ask a question.

    For my @LoveOneDaySales Twitter account I use “Thanks for the follow! Can you believe there are so many NZ Daily Deal websites? 44 and counting! The list:

    For my @NZHotPools Twitter account I use: “Did you know there are 104 hot pools in New Zealand? Check out the list: Which ones have you been to?”

    For my @Marketing_First Twitter account I use: “Thanks for the Follow. What do you think of my latest blog article?” [I’ll admit, this is my weakest auto-DM]

    What do you think of those examples?


    1. Firstly – my apologies for the late arrival of this comment. I found it (after you asked) in the spam folder and un-spammed it, but failed to notice that I also needed to approve it.
      I find each of the auto-DMs you use to be spammy.
      1: “Thanks for the follow” is a phrase that triggers a reflex reaction to unfollow.
      2: They all point to your websites – but chances are I have already seen them when I checked out your profile before following you.
      3: They are all ‘look at me’ questions, rather than personalised ones that relate to the follower.
      4: They are all obviously automatically generated, which sends the message that you are treating followers as numbers and not as individuals.

      If you really want to connect with a DM (and I don’t see why you need to if you don’t know the follower or what they are about) then ask them a question about themselves or their work. But to me the more natural way to connect is to reply to their public DMs that resonate with you, whether in public or in private as the case may be. If you are contributing to the conversation then you can guarantee your profile will be checked out. That seems to be how it is on this site – the profile page is consistently in the top five.


      1. yea, great points Lance. I suspect there is technology out there that takes it one step further and actually inserts the persons first name into the sentence automatically. (Or maybe I’m just super-paranoid)


  4. We have wired up @nzposttracking so that it auto follows anybody which follows “it”. It then will respond to commands asking about the status of your tracked parcel. Do people think this is acceptable usage (assuming of course the account is only a slave and never pushes anything unprompted)?


      1. @felix – To be honest we haven’t had much interest shown in this existing set up yet so it is hard to justify further experimentation. We were hoping to get some more feedback from friends while it is in “beta” – then refine it before pushing it on

        We run a very low-key developer ideas forum at – be great to hear more about how you think the rate finder service might work.


  5. All good stuff
    @barrymoltz had a legitimate auto-DM, a link to an intro video (2 mins) saying ‘so we’re following each other on Twitter, this is who I am and what I talk about. This is my background.’ Gave a basis for a grounding in who he was.

    Not pretending to be personally written but an intro to anyone who wants to understand him. That was the only legit auto-DM I’ve seen.


    1. But it’s still inappropriate. Does he send people TXTs with a link to the same video after meeting them?

      The appropriate place for such a message is in his Twitter profile. If we want to know who someone is then we can look at the profile, at any website linked there and at their twitter stream.


      1. I disagree with you on some of your points. Personally I will DM manually , any new follower who follows me first, saying thankyou for the follow and decribing who I am. I will also follow them back. However if I first follow someone, and they then follow me back, I won’t DM them, as they have not chosen to follow me first, so maybe only following me out of twitter courtesy.
        I find about 20% of people I follow will send me the initial DM describing who they are and their business link, which is perfectly fine, and how companies in NZ use twitter.
        There is one follower however, businessblogs, who for some reason kept sending me the same automated DM every week, so I blocked them. More than 1 is just annoying.
        Get you point about you forwarding all your DMs to txt, but that is your choice, and I am sure many people DMing you don’t know you are doing this. Perhaps to get around this it should only be a @ message, rather than a dm message

        What I find more annoying is companies who don’t follow you back, yet they expect you to follow them. They should know that twitter is a 2 way communication tool.


      2. Yeah, I guess it is inappropriate. I definitely see your POV.

        As a pretty newbie Twitter user, you fumble around for the norms of how to behave for a good while. I like the DM/txt analogy now that I think about it.


        1. Yes, there are no set rules. I do see Lances POV, but that is only his personal opinion.
          The way I see it, if you chose to follow someone, and it isn’t just a courtesy follow, then you are initiating a relationship with that person you a following. Therefore it is just courtesy that the person being followed would say hi, and tell you a little about themselves. I however don’t really agree with the automated systems. This should be personal and done manually.

          PS I follow Lance and he follows me, although I didn’t DM him because his was a courtesy follow in response to my follow. I don’t beleive I have ever lost a follower directly because I have sent them a ‘hello’ DM.


  6. @Rob (good name) – Marc from businessblogs doesn’t get it on a number of levels. I left constructive feedback as a comment on one of their blog posts this morning and it wasn’t published. I instead got a very defensive (and border-line aggressive) email. So don’t listen then – I’ve got better things to do.


    1. @Rob, yes great name. Yes I DMed business blogs to fix it to stop DMing me the same automated DM, but they didn’t take any notice. A pity becuase I found the columns quite informative.


  7. Did you get my comment Lance? I dedicated 10 minutes of my life to reading and writing on this page and the fruits of my labour do not exist. Did I break one of your rules? If so, please tell me so I don’t break them again. I hate wasting time, and having my work deleted almost makes me cry. :)


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