How to automate DMs on Twitter and still have The Force be with you

For the past few months I have been using an auto-DM on Twitter despite the popular opinion that they are evil, and that if you use one, you are a self-centered marketing moron.

Three posts that sum up the current feeling about Twitter auto-DMs:

I also found a survey on the topic:

The Social Media Club found that 295 of 365 Twitter users “Hate it, wish it would go away.”

How to be useful

So why do I still use one?

Before I answer that, take a look at my auto-DM:

How to automate DMs on Twitter and still have The Force be with you

Note: I use SocialOomph to rotate the message to recommend 37 different Twitter friends I know, respect and love./p>

No more “I me mine”

My first contact with with a new follower is about them.

The people I list in my auto-DM are very cool people that I respect. Some have great advice about blogging. Some always tweet good tunes from Blip.FM. And others are downright awesome human beings.

This auto-DM also promotes my friends on Twitter by sending them new followers (if they aren’t already connected).

Laura Fitton conducted an informal survey on auto-DMs and concluded that “people were pretty clear about HATING auto-dms with “links to my stuff” “free eBooks,”or anything self-promotional. Most people agreed that a simple “thanks for following” was okay.”

3Technology isn’t good or evil – people are

I’ve never gotten one complaint about this approach, but in fact, have had people thank me for recommending some very cool people to follow.

Now, I’m sure there are folks who were offended by the fact that I use an auto-DM – regardless of the content. But that’s not my problem – really. They opted-in simply by following me. One click and they can opt-out – without any need to explain.

Technology isn’t careless – people are

Instead of using an auto-DM, I could take the time to research every new follower and make recommendations by hand – like I did when I first started out on Twitter. But as my new follower rate increased, I found that I started missing people – completely. And it bugged me. Eventually, I concluded that a little value to everyone is better than no value to some.

I still check out most of my new followers – and read their blogs – and ask them questions. I get to know them. But my auto-DM is like given them a Werther’s hard candy before saying hi.

I’m certainly not a genius. I just thought long and hard for weeks, “How can I create value for others in everything I do with Twitter?”

In summary:

Just because my new follower DMs are automated, doesn’t take away the fact that a lot of care, maintenance and good intention goes into managing them.

For those of you who are interested, you can stop receiving auto-DMs from both Tweetlater and SocialToo. Instructions can be found at HHow to STOP Those Freakin Auto Dms

What do you think?

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  1. **blushing** i had no idea…but not surprised by this self-less and so not self-centered DM luv you are putting out there…w/o even we, the 37 receipients, knowing might i add. glad i saw this so i am able to thank you. THANK YOU! muah.
    ps: i still do not auto DM. i dont auto anything…not cause i’m above it…just not that techie (yet) *wink*.

  2. I really appreciated your DM – and checked out all the people you listed and started following the ones that match my interest. So, thanks!

  3. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone adapted the philosophy that “It’s not all about me?” both on AND offline? What a wonderful world it would be.

  4. I have to admit, I am not revolted by your type of AutoDM in thanking people publicly…but, then if it is public, it is not a DM.
    I still stand by my hatred (yes, hatred) of AutoDM’s, but have accepted that people use them.
    The conversations will go on, relationships will be made (most likely by those NOT using AutoDM’s) and we will all make Twitter what we want it to be.
    My new motto: If your Tweets sound and look like something off a bus bench…you might be a spammer. #RedNeckTwitter
    Thanks for the shout! ;)

  5. VERY interesting twist on the auto-DM trolling many do. Less offensive, to be sure, but how do you know I’m not already following those folks, or that I even have any interest in any of them?

    Would this be better/worse if “Here’s a book/product I know you’ll love” and then link to a product? I think auto is auto John, and though I wouldn’t immediately unfollow you if you DM’d me this, I still wouldn’t love it.

  6. There really are no winners or losers in this debate. Though, I am going to side with my right honorable friend Phil on this one. Actually, even though you promote other people in your auto-DM (which is respectable), that message still isn’t about the message recipient. It is still about *you* and what *you* think someone will like.

    I would rather know that you took time to look at my own profile and find something interesting about me personally. And if you don’t have time (which is cool…I don’t have time to do this for everyone), then let’s connect through a meaningful tweet where we’re conversing together in a personal way.

    1. Chris – thanks for the comment.

      I do spend a lot of time getting to know people, looking at profiles and finding useful and personal connections with folks (check my Twitter stream for proof).

      And yes, I am busy. And can’t follow up with everyone. If someone starts following me where I don’t feel a connection, then at least I’m giving them some *potentially* useful people to follow.

  7. In the broad case of auto-DM’s, I don’t like them, think they are annoying and/or rude, and are usually spam. That said, all rules are made to be broken, and there are exceptions. I would say your type of Auto-DM is one of them. As you stated, you are attempting to reach out to an ever growing group of followers that you can’t possibly maintain a constant one-on-one relationship with. If we are going to have large followings on twitter (and that’s another whole discussion!), at least, as you say, you are attempting to impart some value with your DM’s. Great blog, good topic that is being talked about (or to use more current lingo, ‘trending’) a lot. Thanks for giving people the opportunity to respond with more than 140 characters! :-)

    1. Roger – thanks! Glad you like my approach.

      “at least, as you say, you are attempting to impart some value with your DM’s”

      To add to this, I don’t assume which users will be useful to new followers – that would silly.

      The folks I put in my auto-DM are people selected from a broad swath of domains that have a high probability of being relevant to most people on Twitter.

      Most people like:

      • Interesting and/or funny people
      • Music
      • Social media blogging
      • Real, genuine, people.
  8. Auto DM’s suck!

    OK, that’s my inintial reaction, but i like your approach – making it about others and promoting folks you appreciate is a great idea. It might be the ONLY acceptable use of auto DM’s. Now I want to know if I’m in the list :)

    I think the biggest bang for the buck is always going to be the personal touch.

  9. John–

    You scared me a bit by mentioning “auto-DM’s” in any light but a bad light.


    I have to say; that’s the only auto-DM that 1) Wouldn’t turn me off and 2) that I would actually appreciate (I’m assuming you chose the people that you recommended carefully).

    Still on the fence about setting it up for myself, we’ll see…

    Thanks for the unique insights!


  10. Mr. Haydon,

    Thank you for asking about the Auto-DM issue. I’ve seen that feature used and abused by folks in Twitter. Some thank you for following, then promise to follow back, when they actually have NO intention of doing so. I’ve seen those thank you for following and then follow back, then once I’ve followed them, they unfollow! I was only a number to them… arrogant! I’m sure everyone in Twitter has experienced that kind of improper use of Auto-DM.

    As for me, I don’t Auto-DM. Will I ever do so? I don’t know. I don’t DM every follower to welcome them… It’s virtually impossible. I have as many as 200-300 per week and more! I simply don’t have that much time.

    My dislike for the Auto-DM has turned me away from using it at this point in time. I choose to simply dedicate my time to conversing with every follower who takes the time to contact me. I do answer DMs though… Even the Auto-DMs… Maybe I’m a hopeless fool who thinks they might, just might, mind you… learn something?! LOL!

  11. John, thanks for all your advice. I have needed you to manage my Twitter life, as you well know. When you first shared this approach to auto-DM’s, I remember thinking it was the coolest ever! Still is… and not just because I’m sure I’ve gotten a lot of great followers from you. C’mon, it’s how I met @MissIve, one of BFF’s and partner in shenanigans!

    Love it. Love you. Rock on!

  12. Hi John.
    I do like your approach to the DM though I don’t use them myself. I’m still largely a Twitter Web user though I’m playing w/seesmic and taking the slow but slow approach to building followers/following others. I have a limited enough base that I can check out streams and blogs as they come to me and determine if folks will be interesting follows.

    Your DM approach though is cool because it’s, “hey, check these people they are cool” and that to me is the essence of Twitter — finding cool people to learn from and talk with. Instant Twitter turnoff to me is the self promotional get my tips, or visit my site to learn how to make money (I know, it’s called busting my butt). I do tend to follow back unless the follow is a blatant network marketer/make 5 figures/wk from home (which I do already if you count the two zeros after the decimal point and the dollar sign in front) Twitterer.

    I do tend to ignore those types outright and find that they eventually go away as followers, which is fine. Sometimes I miss folks, but if they follow, and I think it’s a nice match, I follow back and try to reference something specific.

    Good post, good debate.

  13. Ted – thanks for stopping by, neighbor!

    Basically, I follow everyone who follows me – and then I go back through my followers and do a “cleanse”.

  14. Sorry John. Still don’t like ‘em. Even though your approach is better than the average one, it still bugs me when someone new tells me I need to follow someone else. I’d rather get to know YOU. (That said, I do know and like you, even if you like auto-DMs.) :)


    1. Jennifer,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      We started following each other – even thought I recommended some followers to you. And now we kinda know each other.

      Like I mentioned to Roger, I don’t like or dislike auto-DMs – just the way their used.


  15. Hi John,

    I have to agree with Ted’s slow but slow approach, but, honestly, I think it is simply because it matches my M.O. in real life and has little to do with any uber-arching Twitter philosophy.

    That said, I have to say your D.M. approach is pretty cool because, as others have said, it’s designed to recommend other cool people that you like which is what works best in the social circles of the web.

    Great post – I really appreciated seeing the behind-the-scenes of John Haydon’s twitter-life:)

    1. Thanks, Deb.

      I’ve been learning a lot by sharing how I use social media. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed or adjusted my approach by having other folks “examine” my actions.


  16. I must admit for a time I was using auto DM. Two reasons, one to direct people from the misspelling of my name to the correct version, and for a while I offered a freebie link.

    Nobody objected to either until one day someone scolded me in public. I did debate it for a while but decided to switch off all auto DM, auto anything related to Twitter in fact. This was before the big anti DM backlash. I felt lucky that when the big shift against auto DM took place I no longer had one!

    Do I dislike them? No, but then I am an online marketer rather than a pure social media type, and have a thick skin about all things promotion I guess.

    One thing I have found is that it has made me less likely to watch my DM, and I am assuming it is doing the same for others. In fact @garyvee plainly states he does not read DM at all now.

    Out of all the approaches out there I think yours is the best, John

  17. “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, You’re My Only Hope!!”

    Very cool. Hate Auto-DMs, but LOVE your approach … just ‘followed’ you to see who else you recommend! I also RTd the note that led me to this (from @Twitter_Tips).

    Nicely done!