Direct messaging is to Twitter what the appendix is to the body. Nobody seems to know what the heck it does and it can also occasionally get you in some serious trouble so maybe it’s just safer not to use at all?
Well, sure you can play it safe. But you might also be missing out on promoting your business, on streamlining your Twitter, on protecting privacy. I actually believe direct messaging is a powerful tool when used properly.
But first let’s talk about the wrong ways. And there are quite a few. Maybe you recognize yourself in some of these examples?
- One wrong way to use direct messaging is to direct message everyone when they start following you. Yes, I followed you, and yes, I know I’m another potential customer for your service, but sending me a direct message telling me how amazing you are and why I should buy this and that from you just smacks of desperation. I just followed you two seconds ago. Let me catch my breath. Let me discover you through your amazing tweets. Let me be so bowled over by your personality and accomplishments that I can’t help but flock to your site to see what your hustle is. Let the process happen naturally as God and Jack Dorsey intended.
- Another wrong way to use direct messaging is to ask for something. Actually, no asking should ever take place on Twitter and especially no asking for work or money. You can get a job on Twitter if someone posts a need for an employee (and you then contact them OUTSIDE of Twitter to apply for the gig), but you are not the asker ever. Twitter is not Go Fund Me or Monster. It is Twitter and we go there to be informed about the day’s news and for vibrant discussion. Asking a favor of someone you don’t know in a Twitter direct message may well get you blocked and at the very least unfollowed. It’s the real-world equivalent of shoving your resume into someone’s hand at a fancy cocktail party.
- Disagreeing with someone is fine, but doing it via direct message feels trollish — even if you’re not a troll. You don’t want people to fear you. Keep all discussion classy and keep it on the timelines.
- Direct messaging someone because you’re too lazy to look up their email is another faux pas. Though direct messaging looks and acts like email, it is not email. People often give out their emails, but a Twitter inbox feels more intimate somehow. You have invaded someone’s private space when you leap into their DMs. Also Twitter is where we go to escape, so folks don’t need a carbon copy of the overflowing inboxes they’re trying to avoid on gmail. Direct messages — because they’re not email — may also be treated as less urgent than email and therefore not opened up in a timely manner.
Okay. Enough admonishment. Let’s get to the right ways to use direct messaging.
- When you have a new project out, a gentle reminder via direct message is effective — but should only be used on people who have been following you awhile. And don’t do a hard sell — just casually mention you have done something that might interest them. Something like, “Hey, my new book comes out today. If you love stories about fairies and unicorns and a magical fantasy world where Trump lost the election and none of us are fearing World War 3 or the ramifications of our pre-existing conditions, I think it might be up your alley.” Direct messages, if you are fairly famous, might be a good way to remind someone of a TV appearance happening that night or a reading you will be doing later in the week or a sale on your eBook. (Phrase it as “If you were dying to buy my book before but thought it too expensive or needed the dough for other things, guess what? It’s $1.99 now. Got to love Kindle.” Don’t say, “$1.99 sale happening right now. Buy! Buy! Buy!” The tone should be friend to friend not seller to buyer.) It’s a way to keep that important info from getting lost in the Twitter shuffle, although pinning the post is effective too. Keep in mind though that such messages should be used sparingly. You don’t want to remind someone of a “special” sale every week. Then you’ll look like a spammer regardless of your tone. You can also give the person an option not to receive such “reminder” messages in the future.
- Running a contest? The direct message is a good way of contacting the winner, instead of boring your audience — and violating privacy — by putting the winner’s info in a post everyone can see.
- And if you want to ask your audience a sensitive question, you can ask for responses in your DMs instead of on the open forum that is twitter.
I hope this answers some questions you may have about direct messages. Although people are easier to reach than ever on social media, you should still use old-school common sense when considering whether to approach them.