13 November 2011
Currently I follow around 1500 people on Twitter. My direct message (DM) inbox is only useful because 99.9% of those people and organisations don’t abuse Twitter direct messages.
This is for the 0.1%.
Despite having a relatively large number of friends and followers on Twitter, I rarely have more than one or two DM conversations per day. Looking back through my DM inbox there’s a very clear pattern:
The person I’m having the conversation with is almost always someone I know very well. Many of them are people I know in real life. Otherwise, they’re someone I’ve probably been engaging with online for at least a year. There’s no absolute rule but that’s the pattern.
The conversation is about something private that can’t be conducted publicly using @ replies. Sometimes it’s one of us asking a favour of the other where it might be embarrassing to decline (or accept!) publicly. Sometimes the conversation contains privileged information. Sometimes it’s just a topic of no general interest that we don’t want to bore our followers with.
Every welcome conversation in my DM box is with a personal Twitter account rather than an organisational account.
As such, DM conversations get a high priority. There are so few of them it’s easy to keep track of them. DMs trigger a notification on my phone. If you DM me I will generally see it within five minutes unless I’m asleep. When or whether you get a response depends on the content of the message and what I’m doing otherwise.
So DM priority is really like a phone call. If you’re someone I know and you’ve got something that I really need to hear about right now your DM will be very welcome. If you’re someone or particularly a business that I don’t know and you just want to tell me about your product or service I will hate you forever. This kind of inbound communication isn’t sustainable for me. It’s spam.
These kinds of DMs are never welcome and will lead to an unfollow, either with or without a curt response:
“Thanks for following! Sign up for XYZ on our website at www.spamheaven.com.” It’s implicit that you’re happy that I follow you. No need to waste my time mentioning it. If I’m following you I know what you do and how to find your website. I’m good at internets like that.
Follower verification services like TrueTwit. If you think that your organisational Twitter feed is so important to me that I’m going to waste five minutes of my time jumping through a CAPTCHA verification process you’re massively deluded and probably need to stay away from social networks and any form of marketing entirely. If you haven’t got bigger fish to fry than worrying about whether bots follow your Twitter account I don’t want to deal with you, especially as you think I should spend my time helping you with that.
Content that’s so generic it could just be posted to your public timeline.
It’s as simple as that. Important conversations with people I know, great. DM is not a mass marketing channel of any kind. If you use it as one it’s the last you’ll see of me.
Adrian Short works to get people the information they need, when they need it, in a way that they can understand.