Twittiquette Special: Auto DMs


Or, ‘How to Lose Friends and Irritate People’.

Auto DMs. It’s a sticky matter. A thorny issue. As one amusing tweeter pointed out to me, it also sounds “like a Tory MPs secret fetish”. Well, we all know how much I enjoy the secret fetishes of Tory MPs, but sadly that isn’t what it is. For those of you who don’t know what the source of my ire is (I think I’m turning into Charlie Brooker, slowly but surely…) I shall demonstrate in the following scenario. Our heroine – let’s call her, oh, I don’t know: Amelia – is sitting at her computer, whiling away a few minutes on everybody’s favourite social network (Hint: not Facebook)

INT/dining room. Amelia sits at the table, tapping away on her laptop. A ‘ping’ occurs; she has received an email. 

AMELIA: An email! How exciting. I shall do my excited email dance.

She does the ‘excited email dance’. It’s clearly highly derivative of both the ‘Birdy’ dance and also the Charleston. 

AMELIA: Let’s see. Could it be a book deal? A message from Benedict Cumberbatch’s agent, saying he enjoys my Twitter account and wants to meet me for tea at Sketch? A notification that my glam rock snakeskin studded trousers have finally been hemmed? Oh, no…it’s a new Twitter follower! Oh, HOORAY! I just love love LOVE new followers, how glorious. I shall look at their account forthwith.

She clicks onto Twitter, scans the account, and sees that the person in question sounds wonderful. A ‘wonderful’ account consists of some combination of the following: a profile picture of a moustachioed man, a girl with big hair, a love of ‘The Chap’, an obsession with tea, etc. This person meets the criteria, and AMELIA clicks ‘follow’. 

AMELIA: *Singing a little song* Ace, I am SO excited about my lovely new followers. I love Twitter.


AMELIA: Another email! Oh! It’s a direct message from the person I just followed! Wow, maybe THEY’VE got a book deal for me! Or some hot tips on where to get macaroons! Or…well, there’s no end the exciting possibilities.

Peers closer

AMELIA: What? (Reads aloud) ‘Thanks for following my account? I look forward to talking to you?? PLEASE GO AND CHECK OUT MY BLOG?’ ARE YOU HAVING AN ACTUAL LAUGH?????? WHY? WHAT IS THIS ABOMINATION? I feel….used. I don’t feel SPECIAL. I feel like EVERYBODY ELSE. Waaaaaah!

She clicks ‘unfollow’ through the blind tears of rage, them proceeds to kick her computer in. 

– FIN –

Well, firstly, I think that was GREAT, and I have no doubt that the book deal will indeed shortly be winging its way to me. And secondly, I don’t actually shout quite that much at the laptop, but it does drive me nutso. And thirdly, that was an Auto DM. A little impersonal message that gets automatically sent to your account when you click ‘follow’. There are, of course, exceptions.  One tweeter told me earlier that she quite like getting notifications from a charity she followed, just saying ‘Thanks for your support’, and I think that’s rather sweet too.

But my issue is with business and personal users. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there is no need for a personal user to ever, ever, EVER send an Auto DM. It smacks of the user thinking they’re being charming and sweet by devising a 30 second message that everyone will receive. They also might think that it’s a fantastic way to promote their website/blog/shop. It’s not. I seriously doubt that anyone will bother clicking a link in a tweet. Get the net! We’ve followed your account, we’re already interested! We’ve probably already checked out your link!

And the same goes for businesses. We’ve followed because we like the sound of you, not because we feel obliged to. That means we’ll see your tweets, and probably engage in a dialogue with you. Do you know what the real world equivalent of the Auto DM is? It’s this: you go to a networking event, and instead of going up to someone and introducing yourself/talking to them, you take your business card and either shove it at them or put it into their jacket pocket, then walk away without saying anything. It’s intrusive, impersonal, false, and ultimately creates a terrible first impression.  Do you know what I do to anyone who Auto DMs me, boys and girls? I unfollow them, right away. So there you go – you had me at ‘Follow’, and now you’ve gone and ruined it.

It’s like the guy who goes in for a kiss when you haven’t given off any ‘I fancy you’ signals. It makes me CRINGE. Now, just to harp on a little bit more about it: I can understand businesses doing it (it’s clearly only the misguided ones though) but not personal accounts. It’s like yelling ‘THANKS FOR BEING MY FRIEND’ at someone. It makes you look socially inept. Hey, don’t cry! I know I’m being mean. Maybe you genuinely thought it would be a nice idea? A little ‘thanks for the follow’ card instead of having to reply to everyone in turn? I’ll admit, even I thought about doing it at some point. And hey, if it could drive a little more blog traffic, then, why not?

Why not? Because it isn’t nice. It’s spammy behaviour. It means you’ve misunderstood Twitter; that you’re trying to skip the lovely, warm, organic nature of the site in favour of leaping to the ‘important stuff’. So if you’ve done it, and you’re a person who has a soul, then please, stop. It won’t do you any favours. I’m sorry. I know you probably feel like it’s a good idea, but it’s not. Fact is, most Twitter users will either ignore it completely, develop a bad opinion of you, or unfollow you completely. For the most part, I take approach numero three. Why? Because you’ve already essentially spammed me. So that means you’ll probably be inundating me with tweets about your blog/business/product. Oh, look. I forgive you. Come and have a hug.

If you’re a Twitter newbie and seriously considering this, then I beg of you – implore you not to do it. Why not just thank the person directly? Or just engage them in conversation at some point? I’m sorry to be harsh, but you need to be shocked out of it. If you’re an oldie, and you’ve done this, then there’s no shame (well, not much). Just stop it now, it’s not too late. Let me be your Ghost of Christmas Future. If you do this and you think it’s a BRILLIANT way of running your business and refuse to change, then my @ symbol will never darken your door.

Once again, I have cracked my whip at bad Twitter habits. What do you think? Am I completely in the wrong? Send me an Auto DM and prove it. Go on. I dare you.

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