Let me start by saying that I really don’t want to write this post. I don’t. I want there to be no need for it, because people are using their common sense and applying restraint regarding what they share in DMs. Sadly, this is not the case, and as the barrage of spam splatters my DM (direct message) box with increased fervor, I feel COMPELLED to write this post.
Okay, Direct Messages. Shall we start with the Don’ts?
DON’T... use autoresponders (DM greetings to new followers). All social media is about connection, and autoresponders are static shortcuts. Worse, they have become a misguided tool for promotion. “Thanks for following! Check out my Facebook Fan page!” or “Appreciate the follow! My latest release, Zombie Cowboys In Space is available HERE (link)” and even, “Are you looking for a MARKETING TEAM? Let us help you reach your customers (link).” Pretty much any link you put in an autoresponder makes the user think SPAM when they see it, so just...don’t.
IF YOU MUST use autoresponders, use it to start a relevant conversation. Ask a question that encourages them to engage, like: Thanks for the follow. I’m a big reader and like to discuss books on Twitter. What genres do you read? and then of course, respond to people who answer to keep the conversation going. Don’t promote yourself or your books/business/expertise, just interact and get to know them better. Use it to show who you are, giving them a sense of your personality.
DON’T...offer Unwanted Promotion. Ever. A DM box may only allow for 140 characters, but that doesn’t make it any less an email box than your actual email. Direct messaging is for reaching out to people in a PERSONAL way, not to talk AT them, especially to SPAM them about products or services. If people have asked to be updated via DM, that’s different. But just going through your contact list to let every follower know about a book release or sale...NO.
DON’T...send generic notes with a link. The fact is, twitter accounts get hacked. Then hackers like to send out DMs to people on the account’s follower list, usually a lame “Hey is this you?” note plus a link to a porn site, malware or something unsavory. So if you send a DM like: “Look at this--I totally LOLed + a LINK, the receiver will think it’s Spam and not open it.
IF YOU MUST send a DM with a link, make sure your accompanying note makes it clear it’s you to the person you’re sending it to, and what the link goes to.
All right, now onto the Do’s.
DO...send a DM if you’d like to find out more about someone, like if they are on Facebook, or if you can send them an email about something that those 140 characters just can’t cut. Connection, remember?
DO...send a DM if you want to offer a personal response to a tweet, rather than a public one. Sometimes you’ll see from someone’s tweets that a calamity has happened. Sending a DM to say, hey “I’ve been there too, and don’t beat yourself up about it” is a nice thing to do. Or maybe you have a private experience you’d like to share with them offline. Those kind of DMs are totally fine. Of course if the person doesn’t want to talk about it, then respect their privacy.
DO...send a DM if you want to find out more information about something. Maybe you caught a tweet exchange where people were discussing a resource but not the link. Or you found out someone’s doing a book signing in your city but need the time and date. It’s totally okay to DM someone to ask for info.
EXCEPT...if you’re just being nosy. If you get a whiff of gossip on the Tweet vine and want to know more, don’t pressure people to spill unless YOU KNOW they will be okay with it. A good friend who tease-tweets that he has some good news? Sure, ask about it in a DM, but respect it if he isn’t ready to share. But an acquaintance you don’t know well who is ranting and causing drama in tweets while not naming names? NO. Don’t DM them, prodding for details. When that person is thinking clearly again (twitter drama almost always leads to twitter regret) their opinion of you will lessen because you tried to milk them for information that didn’t concern you.
DO...send a DM when you haven’t heard from someone in a while and want to catch up. People like to feel valued. Reaching out this way shows you care. :)
DO...send a DM to thank people for following if you like. Use their name in the DM so they know it’s you, not an autoresponder.
DO...send a DM to someone if you want to help with a special project, but you don’t know them well enough to email. A simple, “Hey I saw on your blog that your book is releasing soon. If I can help in any way, let me know!” is totally okay.
Honestly, I don’t think most folks want to SPAM other people. Likely, they are not even aware they are doing it. Maybe they see everyone else firing a Spam Cannon and think, Well, I guess that’s what I should do. Or maybe someone gave them bad advice on using twitter to reach their audience.
Do you have any do’s and don’ts to share? And if you’d like to apply some gentle “re-education” that will hopefully lead to less SPAM, please share this post!
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach and co-author of the bestselling writing resource, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, as well as the newly released Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes and its darker cousin, The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and at Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse).