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.

Twittiquette: The Commandments

On Twitter, as is the case in my personal life, I am a bit of an etiquette nut. I have a long list of pet peeves – things I see people doing on Twitter that are just so utterly silly, that it drives me nuts. A while ago, I wrote a post called ‘The 8 People You Meet in Twitter Hell’, and I had a lot of lovely responses. But bizarrely enough, it turns out that writing that post didn’t completely eradicate bad behaviour from the Twittersphere. Weird, eh? So I’ve returned with some hard and fast rules.

Twitter is great. I love it. I want to take it to Bora Bora and propose to it on a sun-drenched terrace. It’s great for making new friends, business contacts, finding out anything you could possibly wish to know…all in all, it’s fantastic on many levels. But some people use it incorrectly, and that makes me sad in my little techno-holic heart. Twitter is such a different beast in the world of social media. There’s a good way of using it and a bad way of using it. Ultimately, I believe you need to know why you are using it, and that means deciding on how you want to approach it. Determine what you want from Twitter – networking opportunities, readers for your blog posts, a stop to the eternal loneliness and silence of your tragic life, etc etc.

Anyway, I asked Twitter what got on their collective nerves, and the response was overwhelming. You poor people are at the end of your collective tether! Here are the results:

DO try to reply to tweets. (Proposed by @belledebrum) I’ve touched on this before – unless you truly are a superstar of epic proportions, and are getting a million tweets a minute – there’s not really a great reason why you can’t answer. Especially if you’ve actually asked a question to Twitter, and then you refuse to acknowledge polite and helpful responses. Look here, you. You’re on Twitter. Twitter is about talking to people and engaging with them. So sort it out. ‘Make up your mind and get in or get out’, as Hot Hot Heat once sang.

DO watch your language, jokes, and comments. (As proposed by @Alex_Franklin) It’s likely that you don’t personally know an awful lot of your Twitter followers, so you can’t possibly gauge what’s appropriate for everyone, or what will offend them. Don’t fill your tweets with swearing, or things that may be hugely offensive to people, even if it makes perfect sense to you.

DON’T make it personal. Hey. You! You with the endless chat about your amazing boyfriend! STOP IT. Save it for Facebook. On Facebook, you actually KNOW people, and they (hopefully) care about you, because they are your friends. They’ve sat with you and held your hand as you cried about your rotten ex, and they’re happy that you’re happy now. BUT WE’RE TWITTER AND WE DON’T CARE BECAUSE WE DON’T KNOW YOU. So please, for the love of God, just THINK before you post soppy stuff. I saw some adorable tweets yesterday about Valentine’s Day plans that walked the right side of the line. But things like ‘awww, he loves me sooo much, look at what he made me for dinner’? Nah, mate. I’ve already unfollowed you.

DON’T abuse the retweet button. When I listed ‘Chronic Retweeter’ as one of the worst Twitter “types”, I was inundated with friends who felt it was them. It isn’t you. Because you’re worrying about it, and that means that you have a SOUL. Why do people retweet a retweet of a retweet? Why? The worst is when it’s boring stuff! I actually – ok, I need to breathe here, because I am FURIOUS – I actually SAW SOMEONE RETWEET SOMETHING ABOUT MAKING ARRANGEMENTS. So, it went “@stupididiothole RT: @completenincompoop You cool to meet on Friday, mate?” What???? I DON’T CARE.

DON’T damage your business. Using Twitter for a business account is a very tricky…well, business. You need to do it just right. And purely offering endless promotions or constantly sending the same link over and over again? It’s bad form. And it’s more or less pointless even being on Twitter.

DON’T use ‘Who Unfollowed Me?’ Because we’re not six years old, and we’re not in the playground. I simply do not understand the point of these apps. It’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for you. Well done, you’ve ‘named and shamed’ me for unfollowing you, and in doing so, have completely proved why I was correct in doing it. Now get back to your game of hopscotch. Or drug dealing, or whatever it is kids do these days in playgrounds.

DON’T use auto-DMs. (as proposed by @RoseGallagherr) Why? Because the very use of them is a massive turn off. I’ve swiftly unfollowed anyone who uses an auto DM, especially if it’s a personal account. Seriously, there is no possible reason for you to use an auto DM if you are an individual. I once got this “Thanks for the follow! I promise to keep things interesting and not to spam you”. Well, you already have. Bye bye.

DO know when to drop someone from the conversation. You start off in a lovely Twitter conversation with two or more people. You eventually run out of things to say, but they go on, a huge orgiastic Twitter Love-In. And for the next half hour, you’re still being copied in on every single tweet they send. My rule is, if someone hasn’t replied for, say, two tweets, they’re out of the convo, so remove their name.

DON’T make digs at people. I really dislike this. It’s when someone sends a ‘general’ tweet saying something bad about you, or what you’re doing. I had this issue with one girl, who kept sending tweets that were very clearly about things I was saying. I sent a tweet thanking my blog readers, because I’d just got more views in 10 days than I’d had in the whole of the previous month. Minutes later, she sent a tweet saying ‘Just can’t understand why some bloggers are OBSESSED with stats. I’m just about the writing. Maybe I’m just different’. Nuff said. Reader, I unfollowed her.

DO keep it organic and DON’T flood. “Flooding” is the practice of sending tweet after tweet after tweet to promote your business or website. I suspect foul play, because there’s obviously no way someone could sent 20 tweets in a row without the aid of Lord Voldemort. You’re clogging my feed, maaaan. Plus, I’m REALLY not going to visit your website now, out of spite.

DO cheer up love, it might never happen. AKA, don’t send tragic tweets. “I always knew you’d do this to me”, or “I just can’t go on like this anymore.” Oh God, darling. Do I need to call the Samaritans? It’s not that I’m being hard-hearted. I hate seeing these tweets because I find it upsetting that the author feels that Twitter is the place for them. Again, Facebook is for personal stuff, Twitter is not. Actually, maybe not Facebook as much as, say, a therapist. Please don’t tweet like that, you make me feel all worried.

DON’T fish for followers with no good reason. Yeah, I’ve done this. We’ve all done this. Here are just two of the lines I’ve used: “I have 384 followers. Please help cure my OCD by getting me to 400”, and the other day, I offered a snog for the 600th follower, purely as a little comment on those people who keep promising giveaways at different numbers. It’s so tempting to angle for more followers, but ultimately, it’s a silly idea. The followers you get won’t be the right ones – or even real people. Specially not if you’re offering a kiss. Anyway, don’t keep pressing for more. If you’re a good Twitter user, you’ll get them by being amusing or informative, not by asking for them. Also avoid #FOLLOWBACK, #PIGGYBACK, #FOLLOWLADDER, and #FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GIVE ME MORE FOLLOWERS, I’M SO UNPOPULAR.

DO use “Proper English”.  (As proposed by @Captain_Char) Text speak is for texts. No, wait. Text speak is for idiots. Unless you are my current favourite Twitter account, which is the @Y_U_NOOO’ account (sample tweets: “GIRL WITH PRETTY GIRL ROCK AS YOUR RINGTONE – Y U NO PRETTY?” and also “VOLDEMORT, Y U NO USE MAGIC POWERS TO GROW NOSE?” Hilarious stuff) Otherwise, text speak is irritating, ugly to look at, and pointless.

DO watch your hashtags. (As proposed by @nbamford and @QueenB_Belinda) Unless it’s really hilarious, please take your finger off the hashtag button. For the most part, they are clumsy and overlong. Hashtags were originally used for bookmarking your tweets. I occasionally use them as a kind of non-sequitur, or something that negates the body of my tweet in a mildly humorous way. But overusing them is soooo frustrating. Like this: “Off out tonight #great #reallyexcited #firsttimeoutinages” AAAAAARGH. #annoying #soannoying #imcomingtokillyou

DO be humble. Cripes. Please don’t retweet every single compliment you get. Read the tweet, smile at it, and move on. I don’t want to read about how hot you look in your shorts, as commented by some random sleazy male. If you’re a business, then by all means do retweet, because that’s a customer testimonial and is nice to read. Just…don’t do it too much. But individuals? NO. Oh, and another one (proposed by @Wuthering_Alice) DO NOT RETWEET YOUR #FFs. I repeat. FFS, do NOT retweet your FFs. It’s utterly, utterly pointless.

DON’T retweet “celebs” who offer “life advice”. (As proposed by @CaptainChar)This seems to be a bit of a pandemic at the moment. “Will Smith” appears to have an awful lot of fortune cookie wisdom to be shared: “The only person who will love you is yourself, so go and love yourself. Right now. And take some photos” etc etc. Seriously. I’m pretty sure that ISN’T Will Smith, and even if it was, it wouldn’t be excusable.

DO use DMs if the conversation gets a little heated, sexy, or just long-winded. (As proposed by @aladyofseams) If you’re having a conversation with someone you know, and it’s about personal matters – or country matters – then hop onto DM. Seriously. Y U NO KEEP YOUR PRIVATE LIFE PRIVATE?

Yours sincerely,

Amelia, AKA The Twitter Dominatrix, AKA Adolf Twittler.

Chronic Retweeters will be punished as I see fit.

P.S. It’s a freaky coincidence that Voldemort got mentioned TWICE in this post. Or is it???

P.P.S This originally started as ‘ten commandments’, and spun wildly out of control.