Everybody gets them. You follow someone and a few seconds later, bingo, you have a brand new message pop into your Messages folder. You click on it with optimism and hope – thinking that someone genuinely wants a private word – but no. It’s a Truetwit validation or a Just Unfollow automated tweet.
People send Direct Messages on Twitter for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, large spammy accounts follow huge numbers of people in the hope that they’ll mindlessly follow back. When you do, they’ve got you and can send you a message to instantly try to sell you something or point you somewhere else. They can’t do this until you follow them (as you can’t send DMs to people who don’t follow you).
However, more often than not, messages are from genuine accounts who have simply been told, somewhere along the way, that it’s a good idea.
TrueTwit validation was designed so that people could tell you were a real person not a robot. Great in theory, but irritating as anything if you are the person expected to fill in the funny form. I’ve never done it.
Just Unfollow has many helpful tools which can help you streamline and analyse your network, but the capacity to send your followers jaunty direct messages is not one of them. Yes you can tell them about your Facebook page, yes you can tell them that you are happy to help them with whatever service you’re peddling. However, there are better ways.
The most annoying thing about auto-messaging is that it goes against the very ethos of Twitter. Twitter is a social network based on engagement and conversation, not computerised box ticking. A quick tweet back to say ‘thanks for following’ might not be the most original of opening gambits, but at least I know you have taken the time and trouble to connect with me directly; that you have made an effort. It is the difference between a personal handshake and a printed signed photo.
The second annoyance is that it dilutes the power of the Direct Message. If Twitter is a place to meet and network with business contacts, then the ability to direct message takes it a stage further. Often, it is to arrange a meeting or exchange email addresses and can often be considered ‘second base’ in your social media relationship. However, increasingly, these requests are being ignored or overlooked in a sea of Validations and Hi Theres. Many people assume that any message is a Spam one so leave them unchecked.
Many DMs are the result of a virus. If you receive one saying “I saw this about you” or anything involving “lol” and a link – leave it be. However, autoDMs just add to the noise and confusion.
In short, you may mean well, but please stop. If you want to engage with new followers do just that. Talk to them, start conversations, read what they have to say. It might just be the start of something beautiful.
Feel free to join in.