Using Twitter Effectively: Part 6 of 10 – Auto DMs

Nat RussoHow-To, Twitter, Writing 5 Comments

During the course of the first 5 parts of this 10-part series on Using Twitter Effectively, I demonstrated some techniques that will add value to your Twitter experience and assist you in building a writer’s platform.

Now it’s time to turn to the dark side. The next 5 parts of the series will cover the things you should not do…or at least do in moderation. Many of the behaviors and patterns I’ll cover will cause you to lose followers and see messages like “@PotentialAgent placed you on list Self-Promoting-Jerks07”.

Let’s kick off the second half of this series talking about Direct Messages.

A Disclaimer

This series was originally written over a 10-day period in 2013. I’ve included relevant updates throughout the series as Twitter changed policies and procedures. Please be aware that I may not have caught all of the changes. If you find such a change that isn’t captured in this series, please leave a comment with the new Twitter policy, and I’ll update the series accordingly. Cheers!

The Evils of Automated DMs (Direct Messages)

Direct Messages (DMs from now on) are a great way to send private messages to people who follow you. Through the DM interface you can reach out and touch someone’s Twitter inbox directly. It’s an awesome power to have.
And like you’ve heard me say elsewhere in this series: with great power comes great responsibility.


Early in your platform-building process, you’ll undoubtedly get DMs from people (within moments of following them, no less). And they all look something like this:

“Thanks for following me! We can also connect on Facebook at <address>”


“Thanks for following me! Take a look at my blog at <address>”


“Thanks for following me! Buy my latest book ‘The Booyah Pickle of Death’ on Amazon <followed by an address>”


“Thanks for following me! Check out these great deals on Kindle books <Amazon associate link>”


Are you seeing a pattern yet? The funny thing is that although I’ve changed the specifics (if anyone’s gonna write a book on Booyah Death Pickles it’s ME dammit!), I dug these straight out of my own inbox, and they’re all DMs I’ve received within the last 30 minutes.

At first I hardly noticed. I’d only get a few per day and it wasn’t that big of a deal. But as my follower/following base entered the multiple thousands it became a huge problem very quickly. What do I mean by huge problem? In the last 2 hours I’ve received 25 DMs. Not a single blessed one of them was personal in nature! They all fell into one of the above 4 categories.

[UPDATE 05/09/2014] Since publishing Necromancer Awakening and seeing it rise on the bestseller lists, 25 DMs every 2 hours has turned into more than 100 DMs per hour. It’s truly a menace.

Huge problem. Why? Because I have a handful of people I communicate with regularly on Twitter, and these folks are getting drowned out by the noise in my inbox. I get so much trash by way of DMs that I’ve taken to only checking my inbox a few times per day. Unless I happen to see the message on my phone “@SomeoneYouCareAbout sent you a message”, it’s likely to get lost in a sea of advertisements and requests to “like” a Facebook page.

[UPDATE- 12/7/2013] It’s gotten so bad that I had to turn off DM notifications months ago. Here’s hoping Twitter finds a way to get a handle on this.

Why would I like someone’s Facebook page when I’m not even sure I like them yet? Liking a page says something about me to people who are close to me as well as people who are taking the time to learn about me. I’m not going to like a page lightly.

Why would I buy someone’s book when I have requests from 50 other people to buy theirs? Why is this one any better? People who actually take the time to chat with me have books that are currently in progress or are about to be published. I’m not going to buy this one based on a random ad when my friends have books of their own to sell.

Why would I randomly check someone’s blog when they haven’t given me an inkling as to what the content is like? I visit blogs for specific purposes, and usually after a search. I’m looking for specific information, not just a time sink. I’m all for time sinks, believe me, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

If we’re building a writing platform then we all want:

  • …people to like our Facebook page
  • …people to buy our books
  • …people to read our blogs
  • …people to click our affiliate links and buy something
A person isn’t going to get me to do any of those things if they begin our relationship by shouting advertisements at me.
You know what will get me to like their Facebook page, buy their books, read their blog and click their affiliate links? Engaging with me on a personal level. 
How about having a conversation with me? How about chatting a little bit on some crazy topic we both share an interest in? Don’t know what I’m interested in? How about asking? You know…interpersonal relationship stuff that we all learned long before there was a World Wide Web.
I want to like people’s Facebook pages and buy their books! After all, this is a community and we’re here to support one another! A good friend Laura Oliva (@writermama on Twitter) once told me “We’re all in the same boat, so grab an oar!” Laura is great, by the way, and you should follow her at the first opportunity. She’ll be writing a guest post here around March 23rd, so keep an eye out!
Just keep in mind there aren’t any shortcuts. People don’t like watching ads on TV and they sure as hell don’t like reading them in their inbox. So why get off to a bad start?

Stupid Questions

I know, we were all told growing up that there’s no such thing as a stupid question…only stupid people. No, wait…well, I can’t remember how it goes, but you know what I mean. What would I classify as a stupid question?

“Thanks for following! Buy my crap at <address>. What genre do you write in?


“Thanks for following! <advertisement>. What do you do for a living?


“Thanks for following! <another friggin ad>. Have you written any books?

Why am I accusing these people of asking stupid questions? Take a look at my bio:


When you compose an automated DM that asks questions similar to the examples above, you make it painfully clear that you didn’t take the time to read the person’s profile before contacting them privately. Is it a mortal sin? No, but you’re trying to establish a relationship with a living, breathing human being. Why not put your best foot forward?

The Bait and Switch

You might not be familiar with that terminology: bait and switch. It’s a phrase I learned back on the police force. A con artist who is adept at employing a bait and switch lures a victim using something they know the victim really wants. Then, when the victim is committed to the transaction (usually because the con artist already has the money) they receive something other than what they thought they were buying.
The analogy on Twitter is the following DM:

“Nice to meet you! How’s your day going?”

On the surface it seems pretty innocent. And it would be if it was sent to me with the intent of truly engaging with me. Because in that case I’d be able to answer with some comment, to which the sender would respond, and we’d have one of those conversation-thingies that humans have.

The problem arises when this is an automated DM that is triggered whenever someone follows you. You’re engaging them without the intent to really follow through. That isn’t the best way to make a first impression.

How do you feel about automated DMs? Let me know in a comment below. It’s such a common practice and I’m curious to see what people’s opinions are.

In part 7 of the series I’ll cover the topic of Tweeting the Minutiae of Your Life.

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About Nat Russo

Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening and Necromancer Falling. Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun. Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenager, mischievous beagle, and goofy boxador.

Comments 5

  1. Hey Nat,
    I’m pretty new to Twitter. Hell, I still keep pushing the unfollow button to send DM’s! For real DM’s, not automated stuffs. Because I have no idea how to make automated DM’s.

    I don’t understand the logic behind auto-dms. Is it a person’s attempt to be a pushy salesman, but on th down-low? Am I supposd to feel like the DM is crafted specifically for me because I’m a super spesh snowflake – and that’s why they couldn’t just put it in general chat? Seriously.

    And I agree with you on the whole “like my fb page” auto dm. Why would I like your fb page if I already don’t like you as a person because you sent me an obviously automated dm?

    The worst is when I follow someone, get the auto dm, and the other person doesn’t bother following back. Win!

    As a reader, in the short time I’ve been on Twitter, my brain has already been trained to ignore anything that contains “Thanks following buy at Amazon Kindle Like FB.”

    As a Beta reader, I’m beta-ing every tweet. Errors, flaws, and sloppy quotes from the books, reinforced by the auto-tweets and auto-dms, implies that the rest of the piece is “phoned in” and perhaps the writer can’t be bothered to put their best foot forward.

    1. As far as I’m aware there’s no way to send auto-DMs through Twitter’s software. You have to use a third-party application (like JustUnfollow) to do it.

      I’ve heard someone say that trying to sell your book by sending a tweet or auto-DM is like trying to sell your book by driving down the street, rolling the window down, and screaming the book title to everyone walking on the sidewalk. Not the most effective tactic you can employ.

      Like you, I just love getting those auto-DMs from people who don’t bother following back. They obviously don’t understand the way the system works. If they did, they’d realize I can’t even reply back!

      Oh…and stop unfollowing me 😉

  2. I enjoyed this immensely! I detest those DM’s as well! As you can tell, I don’t use them, I just write a tweet thanking my new followers! I don’t like being impersonal! I will be reading more of your articles! Very informative and useful!

  3. I’m glad I read this. I’m still learning twitter and I got a couple of auto DM’s and I thought “This is great! How do I employ this tactic myself?” And then I read this and I’m glad I did. I still have under 500 followers so those auto DM’s hadn’t been bothering me, but seeing it from the other side I will fix myself immediately. Thank you so much!

    1. Post

      Glad you enjoyed the article! Auto DMs are smothered in wrongsauce. My Twitter inbox has become all but unusable due to how many I receive in any given hour.

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