The Case Against DM’s On Twitter As A First Contact
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jan 11, 2016
Timing is everything. Last week I was thinking about writing this particular article and trying to figure out how I wanted to start it. Then, out of nowhere, the opportunity came and literally slapped me in the face. I said I was going to write about it at the end of our conversation; this is that article (folks, realize that with writers, every encounter is a potential story lol).
As I’ve mentioned often, whenever someone connects with me on Twitter I check out their feed to see what they’re all about. I’ll admit that I’m probably a bit more discriminating than a lot of people. There’s a lot of things that will keep me from connecting with someone because I decided I don’t want to see certain things in my stream; so sue me.
Last year when I decided I was going to increase the number of people I’m connected to on Twitter I opened my vision just a bit more, looking for people who were into things I was interested in and overlooking a few more things. Thus, I’ve added a lot more people than I was connected to last year. That number would be a lot higher if it wasn’t for DM’s.
A lot of people I connected to would have something automatically coming back to me via DM. It might have been within minutes, or it might have been within a few hours. You could tell which was which, but I didn’t like either of them, which prompted me to eventually write a post asking people not to Auto DM me on Twitter and saying that if it happened I would immediately unfollow them.
I’ve stuck with that for the most part. A couple of times I’ve asked someone who did that why they did it, and I’ve never gotten a legitimate response other than “I thought you’d be interested…” Sorry folks, but that’s not enough. Twitter’s supposed to be about engagement, like most of social media (although it doesn’t quite happen that way most of the time), and as the top engagement platform on the internet I’m of the opinion that people should talk to each other in the open first, or at least make the DM (direct message) a real post, without a link or a sales pitch to be… gasp… social!
Then a couple of days ago someone else sent me a link as a first contact. It was slightly different than the standard DM sales pitch, but I wasn’t clicking on it. Folks, this is 2016, and if you’re still clicking on links from people you don’t know you’re taking a mighty big risk. Since everything I do depends on my computer, I don’t take those kinds of risks.
I wrote the guy back saying I didn’t know him and that I didn’t click on links from people I’d never talked to previously. Then I followed through with my normal pattern, which was unfollowing him, and thought I was moving on with life.
Only he decided to write back. Twitter now allows that from people you’re not connected with, although I didn’t expect it. Suddenly we were in a conversation about it. He said I was sending a negative vibe in my approach to the subject. I said my Twitter profile asked people not to send me auto DM’s; he said his wasn’t, and that he thought I’d be interested in what he was sharing. I asked him why he couldn’t send me that same message in the open, or at least write to ask me first if he could send me a link and he said:
“I don’t have time to worry about people’s sensitivities…”
After that, there really wasn’t all that much to say. I did say, especially since he decided to add that if I was that worried that I should change my profile to private. I said that I’d been on Twitter almost 8 years and that people who really cared to reach out to me usually greeted me first or asked if they could send me a link, and that someone on the same day had actually done that and I answered in the affirmative.
His response to that was he would take what I’d said to him as something he’d think about as a learning experience and that he hoped we could both end the conversation having learned something. I said all was good and that it gave me something to write about… which is this. lol
The first thing I did after that conversation was to go to my profile and change the wording to say “Don’t DM as a first connection; talk to me first.”
The second was to think about this article I was already going to write, how I was going to incorporate the above into it, and how I was going to address my gripes with DM’s on Twitter as a first contact. By the way I’m not alone on this thought. Marji Sherman wrote a post titled Kill the Auto-DM. Please, and thank you. Melissa Culberson actually . A company called Sales Blend write about Auto DM’s in 2014. Goodness; there are thousands of articles telling people they shouldn’t do it.
I decided it was time to think more about the subject… why did I hate these things so much? Is it just the automation? Is it the impersonal nature of the overwhelming majority of them? Is it the perception of laziness, the uncaring of my time, the push to sell? Am I really worth even thinking about in the eyes of these folks, and should that bother me?
Bother me… since I can’t identify what others are thinking, I can only look at myself and figure out what I’m thinking. I thought about it and I figured it out… the same reason I want more gun control… the same reason I want more oversight of police… the same reason I stay far away from people who seem overly religious…
I don’t trust them. Yes, that’s it; few of the people who are vociferous about these things have earned my trust. Not that they have to so they can live their lives… I’m all for people being able to do what they want to do if it makes them feel good. But when it intrudes into my life, such that I have to deal with it… yes, my trust must be earned.
How do people earn trust? What makes me different in the trust area? For that matter, am I really different?
Let me start with this, for those who haven’t been reading my blogs for years now. I have three major convictions that are the standard I live my life by. In this order they are: loyalty, trustworthiness and honesty.
If I allow someone to be a true friend of mine it means they’ve passed all 3 of these tests. I learn that over time and it’s tested by my being this to them as often as possible. I’m of the opinion that we teach people how to treat us by treating people how we want to be treated; morality is strong for me, which surprises some people because I don’t have any faith to back me up on it. All I have are my ethics; they’ve gotten me this far in life.
If I look at the process of a DM from someone I haven’t really even met yet, what I see is someone who seems to be showing me that they can’t be trusted with my friendship. Heck, they didn’t even try; they just sent me a message, many times with a link, trying to tell me they’re sharing an ebook or a blog post or a course… sometimes free, sometimes not… but does it really matter?
Maybe it’s my age… maybe it’s my background… maybe it’s my race. I’m not really sure, but I’m not that trusting of people after 56 years. People get burned on a lot of things I don’t because I’m not so trusting. When I get burned I’m very hard on myself for allowing it to happen, even if it’s a rare event; I owned up in this blog’s first post of this year how hard I am on myself.
What I see are a lot of people who don’t really care about engaging with anyone, and that includes me, with those DMs. A few try to tell you they care, and maybe that’s their way of showing it, but it doesn’t fit my sensibilities.
A couple of years ago Kim Garst wrote a post about DM’s where she said she felt there was a place for them, but instead of selling people should actually write in their own words (write like they talk), ask a question to try to encourage engagement, and then actually engage with those who respond, creating a relationship before anything else potentially occurs. Of course, she’s still sending these things out via automation (at least she was at the time she wrote that post), going against the advice of the venerable Gary V in the process; now there’s chutzpah! lol
I had to think about this one for a few moments… then decided I didn’t like that either, especially because she added in her post that thing about not having enough time in the day to do it the other way. Then again, she has 437 thousand followers and is following 285 thousand, whereas I have 4,337 followers and I’m following 1,255; could I actually talk to that many people without automation?
By the way, it turns out there’s also systems that automate messages to people in the open… but since people like me can block them (I block all messages from TweetJukebox, Commun.it and a few others), but one can’t do that with DMs, I suppose it’s one reason not to even try sending automated messages in the open. Still, if you really care…
Enough of that. I’ve laid out the issue, given the major reason why I dislike it, and now, if you’re still with me, I’m going to lay out my belief on how a true personal connection should be made on the way to helping to gain someone’s trust:
1. If you’re going to follow someone who isn’t following you, try sharing something they’ve posted and include them in on it (like adding “via @name” or something like that. BTW, actually look at it first, just in case…
2. If they connect with you, send them a quick message either saying hello or telling them you liked what you shared. If there’s room tell them why.
3. Whether or not they follow up with you, if you still want to make a connection send them a quick message asking if you can share something with them and ask if you can send it via DM or if they’d like it in the open.
Are those steps really difficult? Are they really all that time consuming? Actually, they might be for someone like Kim with all those followers, but I guess the follow up question would be if she looks at what has to be thousands of DM’s coming her way with links and such, or if she’s ignoring them. Remember my alluding to the “do unto others” thing (teach people how to treat you)?
That’s all I’ve got, so now it’s your turn. Am I really all that far off base or do you understand and agree with me? Am I a product of my age (fearing Commies), my background (military kid; always lived behind fences with guys with M-16’s guarding the gate) or my race (a guy in a documentary was once asked why he kept his blinds closed all the time and he said “Because I’m black”, and I understood what he meant)? Let’s find out!