On Twitter: Direct Message or No Direct Message

by Susanna Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau)

Update: Shortly after writing this article, the first tool mentioned here (Sendible) started failing us. After a month of back and forth with their support we cancelled all our accounts there! A while later Sendible’s CEO got in touch with us, appologized and offered us a couple of months free account to try it again. We wanted to give it a try, but since we already had other tools in place which worked well for us, we never got around to test Sendible again.

I have a confession to make: I am a Marketer. Most of the time I have a clear motive for all my activity in social media: I want results. Goals may change, and results may differ but in the end success is measurable and it is the thing that counts.

It’s not only me: Behind most of the helpful and useful information, the questions and the answers, the books and whitepapers we give away for free, there is a purpose: Some marketing goal to reach. And one quite common goal is, to get a message to your followers.

On Twitter, getting a message to followers with tweets is usually a matter of chance (followers might or might not see your tweets). There also is a more straightforward method to reach out to your followers: Direct Messages.


There are many different opinions about using direct messages on Twitter. One that I hear quite often in various forms is: You should not use Direct Messages for marketing.

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Why should I not use Direct Messages to promote? I am told, people would not follow me, if I do (Can you see me smile, when I get this advice from people with less than a thousand followers, while I just reached 150.000 followers?).On Twitter Direct Message or No Direct Message

Other opinions are: Use the Direct Messages but do not promote in the message. Connect. (To be honest, I gave up to personally connect to each new follower somewhere between the 20.000th and the 50.000th follower.)

I think this advice is shortsighted and narrowing down possibilities. Some promotions with Direct Messages might fail for one reason or another, others will work well, because they somehow manage to resonate with your audience’s needs.

The truth is: I use Direct Messages to promote.

It might surprise you, when I tell you that sending Direct Messages to new followers has been one of the best marketing channels for us for years now. And I don’t mean just in getting the message out, I mean successful in measurable results.

The secret is to provide value to the recipients of your Direct Messages: Why are people following you? What do all your followers have in common? If whatever you promote will provide value to your followers, they will gladly accept your offers.

Why should anyone dislike a promotional message if it helps him/her?

Here is my advice, if you want to try out using Direct Messages on Twitter:

  • First check, if links you want to send, get through. Twitter does not allow links to some websites in direct messages. Shortlinks (bit.ly, tiny.url…) will not get through in Direct Messages either.
  • Try to target well and promote things your followers are really interested in. Not everything you want to sell, will sell in Direct Messages.
  • Try different messages: Apart from the “product” you promote, the wording within the 140 character Direct Message is the most important aspect of any DM campaign.

If you really want to try Direct Messages on Twitter, and your account has a considerable amount of followers and is growing, you might want to consider using an automation tool to send the Direct Messages. We have tried quite a few tools, some were not working properly, some went out of service, some I would not recommend.

Here are the tools, that I found more than worth a try:

1) Sendible

Update – has completely messed up its service, and is not working properly any more. Not recommended any more! Links removed!

Allows you to send direct messages to new followers. Every hour Sendible will check for new followers and send a maximum of 10 direct messages per hour. This sums up to a maximum of 240 direct messages a day, which is in line with Twitter’s limit of a maximum of 250 DMs per day.

In addition to direct messages, Sendible also can send mentions to new followers. These are tweets that start with @twitterhandle of new follower. These tweets only show up in the feed of the mentioned account.

Mentions are an alternative to direct messages if you want to send a link to your followers, which Twitter does not accept in the direct messages.

Sendible has many other features. However for using just a few features on a single Twitter account the smallest plan should be more than enough.

2) SocialBro

Direct messages with SocialBro work slightly different. Instead of sending messages to new followers, SocialBro offers in depth tools to analyze your existing followers and save segments to lists. You can then set up campaigns, sending out messages to these lists. While this may sound less convenient, it also offers more flexibility, as you have the option to reach each follower more than once.

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  • Tanya Reynolds

    I unfollow anyone who spams me with promotional direct messages, *always.*

  • Bananadrama

    Nope. I have never found a canned mass DM helpful in any way. You can talk to me on Twitter without being so lazy, if I’m important to you.

  • TheSocialMarketers

    Hi Larry, yes, that DM is a nice approach. I remember that I got a similar one from Barry Feldman (if I remember correctly) back in the days when I was starting out.

    I don’t believe that anyone really hates auto DMs – what people hate is the self promotional approach that people take with these.

    Humor is a good way of making even self promotional stuff carry a little value to the recipient.


    • http://larrygmaguire.com/ Larry G. Maguire

      I agree Jonathan, there needs to be more in the delivery.

    • Odd Duck Social

      Nope, I *really* HATE auto DMs! If I just followed you, then it was because of your profile and tweets on Twitter. Getting a message to “Like” you on Facebook or go to your website, is NOT what I am looking for, yet. Let me get a chance to know you before you try to get me into your sales funnel. If I like you, you WILL get me further hooked, but give me a chance.

      Think of it as meeting someone F2F at a cocktail party. Do you say, “Hi, I’m so and so and just give them your card?” No, you make a little conversation and based upon the verbal and non-verbal communication you make the decision to share your card.

      And no, I don’t like the automated “hello” type greeting either. It is canned and no matter how creative still comes off that way. If you want to thank me for following you, then do so publicly, retweet me, or favorite me. There are multiple ways to show gratitude without being intrusive. And yes, I do, have a background in marketing, but I am also and individual.

  • http://pet-issimo.com Petissimo

    Don’t have an issue with auto DMs at all. I always follow people who follow back on other social media – if they give me a quick link to do that, then it saves me some time. If they’re too promotional in their approach it only takes a second to ignore. People seem to kid themselves about why the majority of us are on social media! Ok, so someone was ‘a bit too direct’ – big deal!

  • http://bornagainonline.net/ Blake Croft

    I’m usually not a fan of auto DMs, but I received one like this earlier this week, and I had to reply! It wasn’t market-y you know? It was just a message saying hello. Now I’m rethinking everything. May even test this out myself. 🙂

  • John Matheson

    You need a good reason to DM me or I am gone.

  • 1NONewsladder2

    Try to DM market me and I’ll block you if you’re lucky.

  • Dok Rok

    That’s a good way to get instantly unfollowed by me. If I did not ask for your spam or unsolicited offers don’t clog up my DM’s with your unwanted propaganda.

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Vivien Reyes

    All the points are right because when we want results sometimes the goals may change and the result may differ but in the end succcess is measurable and it is the thing that counts.