Twitter etiquette: auto-DMs

Spam makes baby twitter bird sad.

Spam makes baby twitter bird sad.

I recently got into a discussion with someone on Twitter after I unfollowed them. They tweeted me and asked why, and what they could do to win me back.

Never mind the fact that I’ve never had anyone do that before — most people, especially those with thousands of followers like this person — take the occasional loss of a follower in their stride. I’d  never had a personal interaction with this person beforehand, and had only followed them for a few days before I unfollowed.

I tried to explain my reasons to them (as I write this I still haven’t decided whether to relent on the unfollow). And I’ll explain them here for you.


This is spam. It doesn’t matter whether the DM contains a link, or even whether you’re asking them to do stuff on behalf of someone else — it’s still spam: an unsolicited request to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Think of it like this. When you tweet, your followers see the tweet in their timeline. If they’re looking at the time, anyway. They can either choose to read it or ignore it, and if they choose to read it they can then elect to do the thing you’re asking them to do, or not. It’s like an ad on TV, or in a magazine.

When you DM someone, they will definitely read it, sure. But it’s more like telemarketing: ringing someone up (probably at dinnertime!) and asking them for stuff. I don’t like people ringing me, or DMing me, unless I know them or have otherwise invited contact.

A lot of people send auto-DMs when you follow them. Some are just “hey, thanks for the follow”. Others contain links to blogs and things — which is, to my mind, a little obnoxious. Put the link in your bio; I’ll find it if I want to.

For the record, I usually don’t unfollow someone for this particular offence. But I know people who do, so my advice would be don’t do it.

The person I unfollowed not only sent the auto-DM welcome message (with link), but then went on to send another DM to all their followers a few days later. It didn’t contain a link, but it did ask me to do something. It was spam. Again.

I’ll give someone another chance once, but twice? When I don’t even know you? No thanks.

I think a lot of people with things to sell on Twitter are bewitched by the idea that a DM is a guaranteed read. What they don’t realise is that it’s almost always also guaranteed to piss people off.

If you want people to click on your blog link, or like you on Facebook, or do whatever it is you are tempted to ask them to do, then my suggestion is this: be engaging. Be sociable. Be friendly, and genuine. Don’t just tweet about your product — you can mention it, of course, but it shouldn’t be more than a quarter of your overall tweets (probably less). Talk about other things. Show that you’re a person.

And have the link in your bio, so that when you’ve won people over they click on the link because they want to. Because they like you, or are a fan.

Thus endeth the lesson/rant.

3 Comments on “Twitter etiquette: auto-DMs”

  1. Karen Soutar says:

    Hear hear. I stopped using Justunfollow because I found out it sent a DM every time I followed someone.

  2. Veronica says:

    Ugh. I seriously can’t RT this enough. It’s great that you’re an author. I’m proud of you for having a book on Amazon. But if I follow you and the first thing I see is a DM in my inbox along the lines of “Thanks! Now go and buy my f***ing book!” (no matter how cleverly worded that DM is) I’m going to unfollow and also probably never buy that book. Ever.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s