Door-to-door salesmen, junk mail, telemarketers, urgent recorded phone messages, and Viagra emails.

Utter just one of these words to a family member of friend and chances are they will elicit words of anger, frustration, and just flat out negativity. Automatic DM's are no different. There has been a great debate on Twitter ever since the auto-DM (automatic Direct Message) was first utilized.

An automatic direct message is a canned response that a Twitter user can program a third party Twitter application like Social Oomph and others to send automatically upon receiving a follow request by another Twitter user. Twitter users are able to send someone a private or direct message once a user selects to follow that person.

FACT--an automatic direct message used on Twitter is essentially a form of spam. Users of the auto-DM are often categorized as affiliate marketers, spammers, or just lazy people who seek an easier and less cumbersome method of communication and relationship building.

FACT--the negative connotation associated with receiving an auto-DM is so strong that many Twitter users will automatically unfollow someone upon receiving.

FACT--It is important to consider how you want your brand and image to be received by someone who is a potential client, customer, or business partner. We can things like this Branding and there are consultants and business people who are part of a billion dollar branding business.

Feelings and opinions among the Twitter community are so strong on this topic that a website, Stop Auto DM has been created as a way to educate users on the brand perils of using the auto DM while requesting that Twitter remove this feature altogether. The site which provides a short dialogue on the perils of the auto DM sends a clear message to web surfers who visit. Personally, the sheer number of automatic direct messages I receive clog my DM in box and has kept me from missing my share of important direct messages from friends and followers with whom I have actual real and engaging conversations. In fact, some go so far as to refer to these modern day door-to-door encyclopedia salesman as the social media douchebag. Unfortunately, unsuspecting housewives and twitter newbs have fallen prey on more than a few occasions buying what these folks are selling.

While I don't all hate auto dms because I am a believer that in certain situations these messages have their place, here are some suggestions:
  • Use Auto DMs creatively. If you are making the decision to utilize an auto dm as a form of marketing or promotion, I encourage you to be creative and original with your methods. Asking me to friend you on FaceBook or visit your website are not enough. Consider adding a link to an interesting video or something original and professional or at least funny.
  • Choose your words carefully. The absolute best auto DM I have ever received is displayed here. Upon receiving this message I immediately responded back to this account and with no response and it's been almost 2 weeks. And if you are going to send regular auto DM's, make sure to check your own in-box from time to time, people might be interested enough in having more than a one way conversation.

  • Consider removing your Auto DM altogether. There are some great tools to create groups within your Twitter followers allowing you to send one group a message much like you would within a FaceBook Fan page called Go Twitr. This is a good option for Twitter users who are geographically based or are representing some type of professional organization or group.

  • Consider engaging your audience. Here's an unorthodox suggestion, try engaging your audience for a change. Social media is more than telling it's about interacting and listening. If you dominate the conversation at a cocktail party or networking event, your audience feels uncomfortable, cheated, and opportunities to build relationships are lost. Social media is no different.
In my opinion, an auto DM is like running with scissors. Keep doing it and you're bound to get hurt. You need to make the decision if it's worth the risk.

Photo Credit JasonorMark

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