Faking it: Knock it off with the automated Twitter messages already!

Okay, I'm going to briefly rant about a Twitter thing. (Fair warning. If you're totally not interested in Twitter, you can skip this post entirely. We will return to the regularly scheduled programming of rainbows and unicorn companies shortly.)

For those of you still reading, I consider this a PSA, really. And here is my plea: Please, please, please, STOP SENDING AUTOMATED TWITTER DIRECT MESSAGES TO YOUR NEW FOLLOWERS. 

I cannot overstate how strongly I feel about this. Possibly because I spent some time this past weekend following up with people on Twitter, and suddenly received a flood of automated DMs as a result.

You know I love marketing, and marketers. I was (officially, once upon a time, and unofficially, still) one of them. One of you. I am all about building your brand and reaching your audience, and I'm definitely all about doing that in a scalable fashion with all the fascinating technology available.

So with Buffer, HootSuite, Mention, TweetDeck, and all the hundreds upon hundreds of other ways to curate and track and send and respond to things in a personalized fashion, why are you still sending me automated messages when I follow you on Twitter?

I mean this in a literal sense, not in existential angst. WHY? What are you getting out of it? Because let's be honest here: Does anyone actually respond to those things? Do people truly click through to find you on LinkedIn? Are they downloading your e-books from that link? Are they contacting you with more questions on your self-proclaimed area of expertise?

I'm going to guess no. 

(Okay, maybe once in a blue moon someone thinks you're really talking to them maybe you crafted a truly clever auto DM and they go through with it. My guess is that percentage is akin to the number of people who agree to get a fund transfer from a Nigerian prince: Clearly someone is doing it or they wouldn't keep up the scam, but I don't know who those people actually are.)

My Twitter inbox is full of automated DMs. I'm not going to repost any here, even anonymized, because I'm guessing (hoping?) the people behind them meant well. They thought it was a good way to thank people for following them, or to get their pet project more visibility. In theory, yes. In reality, I don't know that it's working like that. 

In reality, I'm going to be mildly insulted that you worded it in a way meant to make me think you actually wrote it to me, and that you don't think I'm smart enough to figure it out. And once a week or so, I'm going to scroll to the top of my DMs and click the little "Mark all as read" button. I'm not even going to actually read your DM, because at this point, I'm already assuming you're faking up a sales pitch to me in some way, cross-selling me Tupperware or your new book or Stella & Dot bling or your latest KickStarter campaign. There is probably not any value to me in reading your DM, there is only value to you. And I will not bother actually determining if this is true because, in 99.8% of the DMs I receive, it almost always is

"I'm not even going to actually read your DM, because at this point, I'm already assuming you're faking up a sales pitch to me in some way, cross-selling me Tupperware or your new book or Stella & Dot bling or your latest KickStarter campaign."

I am, however, going to remember that you (the real person, not the fake-Twitter-DM person) sent me that automated DM after I followed you. This means you're predisposing your future audience to think that you are the type of person who (a) thinks they're not that bright, and (b) thinks only of what you can get out of the relationship. You've stamped yourself as not genuinely caring about other people, and only caring about getting yourself out there. You've become That Guy at networking events, the one who laughs loudly at his own jokes and interrupts others to talk only about himself.

I know (I hope?) that you're not That Guy! I know you want to know how you actually can help other people, and you want to learn more about them! I know you just want to connect! But your Automated Twitter DM, it isn't telling me that. 

Now, let's just get something out of the way here: I am by no means an expert on Twitter. I don't have 10k+ followers. I don't post every hour or every minute like clockwork. I don't always hashtag things in the most effective way possible. I don't claim to know the right way to do all of this, not at all. I'm learning myself, every single day. But what I do know is that I'm probably your target audience  just another Twitter user who intersects with some of your interests, probably in your same industry, probably connected to some of your same people. And if I feel so strongly about this, it's very likely other members of your target audience do as well. 

I know you're over there saying, but how do I connect to people otherwise? I don't have the bandwidth to respond to every single person who follows me! 

I'll be honest I'm not sure that's true. Most of us aren't out there loading legit (as in, you did not purchase them from one of those godawful robot schemes ... and that's a whole other post) Twitter followers by the hundreds each day. If you feel talking to your Twitter followers is important (and I'm guessing you do, and it's where the automated DM concept came from in the first place), then you should take the time to personalize the experience. It's either important, or it's not. Let's not half-ass it here, people. 

I'm going to stop you here before you tell me you really do have too many followers to personalize things. Vincenzo Landino has 11k+ followers, and he took the time to read my bio and craft a personalized response that he then tweeted directly to me, which I then responded to, based on his bio. I don't know if he does this for everyone, but it definitely made an impact on me! I've mentioned this approach, and Vincenzo himself, to multiple people because of it, too. 

So okay, I'm going to try to be a little less judge-y here. Let's say you are one of those lucky people who are just raking in the followers, and you really, truly, do not have the time to respond to each person, but you reallyreallyreally want to. You just have to send them something, you must connect with them in some way. Well, I'll meet you halfway: Just the other day, I got this automated DM response from Tarik Kurspahic. It caught my eye as I went to click "mark all as read" because it had the words "this is an automated message," and I thought, Finally! Thank you for being honest. And what's more, this automated message actually had a value prop for me in it.

Did I click through to see what would help me collaborate and manage data? (You know how much I love data ...) Okay, yes, I did. And while it's not a fit for me now, I'm much more likely to remember Tarik and his product later on, and definitely with fonder thoughts than the sender of the standard automated DM. 

So, wrapping up the rant. It's entirely possible you will not agree with me about automated DMs (even though there are lots of other people, more "expert" Twitter people, who hate them too). That's totally fine, this is purely anecdotal experiences on my part, and I would love to hear why you do think it's a good idea to do this. What am I missing here that's worked really amazingly well for you? Is there some science behind this that belies the standard irritation that most of us feel upon receiving them? Are there hordes of people actually clicking through on these things and buying your products or downloading your e-book or genuinely interacting with you as a result?

And, perhaps more importantly, I really want to know: Do you respond or click through to automated DMs from other people?