If you have been in business or worked for an organization for any length of time, you already know how important it is to get along with people. In person, you have learned to dress like your peers (and when not to), to perfect your handshake, to make idle chit-chat before a conference call or meeting starts.
Twitter society has similar conventions for what is “done” and “not done.” Here are some of the unspoken rules, especially as they apply to organizations.
Using Direct Messaging for One-on-One Conversations
Most messages you post on Twitter are public, viewable by anyone in the world. With direct messages (DM) you can send a private message that is readable only by the recipient.
It’s simple enough to do: type d, space, and the recipient’s name, such as d estherschindler. If she is following you, the message appears in Esther’s Direct Messages tab, and (assuming her Twitter preferences have the default settings) she receives an email message with the contents of the DM.
When to use direct messages, however, is a little less cut-and-dried. You need to be cognizant of two things:
- Your Twitter followers’ perception of the public conversation
- Your relationship with the person you’re DMing
DMs are ideal for conversing about semi-private information. A customer support representative might request (publicly) of an unhappy user:
“Please DM me your account number so I can find out what happened.”
One reason is for the security concerns regarding publicly posting private information such as account numbers. Also, seeing the account data on a public Timeline doesn’t help anybody.
The same reasoning applies to two-way conversations that span several public messages. It’s fine for you to have a back-and-forth conversation with a follower, but unless you are both scintillating or insightful, take it one on one in a DM. Asking a colleague, “What time do you expect to arrive at the conference hotel?” doesn’t need to appear in other followers’ Timelines. They don’t care.
The usefulness of DM conversations shows up even more when you find yourself disagreeing with someone. Even if you want to make your squabble public, keeping it private will only enhance your reputation.
Don’t Auto-DM New Followers
In early Twitter days, individuals and organizations sometimes sent a DM to new followers, usually with a welcome message attached.
The practice has, thankfully, become uncommon. It’s considered pushy, at best. Many followers who receive an automated DM immediately roll their eyes and maybe even unfollow you. Some people make a point of complaining about spam DMs. It’s a lose-lose situation. Save DMs for personalized messages.
Right, you’re thinking. Maybe that’s true for other people. But if I set up an auto-DM for new followers, saying, “Welcome aboard! You might like to read our (fill-in the blank) [link]”, I’m sure to get a marvelous response.
However, even if Auto DMs seem to convert better than other messages, you will alienate many others. Really, you will.
If you’re truly interested in cultivating new contacts, then send a truly personal message. Tell me why I will be interested. Cite something in my Twitter stream or other public contact information to demonstrate your certainty. Otherwise, you are sending unsolicited messages – which some could rightly would be banned as spam if they arrived by email.
Don’t Thank Follower, for Following You
It used to be somewhat common for organizations (particularly small businesses, and especially marketing-centric businesses) to greet new followers publicly. We used to see Tweets like this:
Thanks for the follow, @oneperson @secondperson @thirdperson @enoughalready!
Initially, it seems like good manners to welcome people who took the trouble to follow you.
But it isn’t. This gives no useful information to anyone reading your Twitter stream-especially if you gain more than a trivial number of followers. Have you ever seen someone with more than 1,000 followers do this? No, you haven’t. Can you imagine what their Twitter stream would look like if they did?
From the recipient’s point of view, it’s overkill. It’s like having someone with a megaphone announce, “Mark just walked into the building! Everybody look at Mark!”
There are a few exceptions. One is when you want to publicly greet someone you know personally and professionally, who might be of interest to your followers.
For instance, French Wine Tours welcomed a new follower, a nearby Chateau, when the winery joined Twitter. We assume the tour company often brings its guests to ” this winery:
@frenchwinetours Thanks for the follow @Chateaudebreze we send someone your way nearly every day! Welcome to Twitter!
Another irresistible “Thanks for the follow” message is when you are followed by someone famous in your industry. You can tell yourself that being followed by that person gives your organization more credibility, especially if yours is a small organization for which celebrity attention means a lot – and that’s probably true.
Even so, try to make the “Thanks” useful to your other followers, as the French Wine Tours did. A follower interested in wine tours would be happy to know about the Chateau as both a destination and a useful Twitter feed. Plus, their Tweet demonstrates that the wine tour company is well connected.
Or say something with substance that helps or supports the new follower. In this case, the second Tweet has a lot more substance:
Thanks for the follow, @kirstiealley!
Thanks for the follow, @kirstiealley! We think your weight-loss program is outstanding! You dance better than anyone!