When I started out on Twitter over a year ago (@kikolani), one of the first things I noticed was my Direct Message box. As I began to follow people, I was excited to get those private messages, assuming people were just that into contacting me after I started following them. They began as simple thank you for following messages, and eventually became a mixture of real messages and automatic ones. Now, I would guess that 90% of the items in my Direct Message box are automatic DM’s from a service that are generated every time I follow someone.
First off, I would like to say I have nothing against these kinds of messages, because after a few months of trying to send personalized messages to all of my new followers, I found that I was spending an absurd amount of time doing them, with not a high amount of results. I began SocialOomph (formerly TweetLater) to send welcome messages to all of my new followers. Just a simple message to thank them for following and direct them to Kikolani and my portfolio as well.
I have decided to change it up, and I thought maybe I would take a stroll through my own overflowing Direct Message box to see the current trend in Direct Messages. The following are the types of DM’s I found awaiting me in my inbox.
Thanks for Following
This is quite common, just a simple little “Thanks for following me” message. While those are sincere and to the point, I think I kind of like getting a little more information about them, like what they do or are interested in.
Check Out My Site
Probably the most common welcome messages, similar to the one I send out, is the ones that say “Thanks for following. You can find out more about ___ at mysite.com” (fill in with their area of expertise). I kink of like these messages, as I can instantly see what the person is about.
Join Me on Facebook
Another avenue of introducing oneself in DM’s is to ask to connect on another network as well. I tried this for a bit to my Facebook page, and did get a lot of new friends on Facebook, specifically citing they came from my Twitter greeting. Not a bad way to grow yourself on other networks, and it does seem a little more of a personal touch in some cases, assuming the invite is to their personal profile instead of a group or business page.
How Can I Help You
One of the ideas I thought was pretty interesting was an introductory DM’s with a question, such as “How are you doing?” or “How can I help you with ____?” (fill in with their area of expertise). I actually responded to several of these on and off, but didn’t receive responses back, oddly enough.
Reply to Me @mytwittername
This one seems a bit silly to me. Why would you use part of your precious 140 characters to send your username, when it already comes next to your DM? Maybe it’s for the people who read their DM’s in their email?
Get My Free eBook
Another trend that I see quite often is a link to a free eBook or report. It definitely is a friendly gesture if the link goes directly to the free item, but it usually ends up going to a signup page so they can email the book to you, along with future newsletters and updates. Not a bad way to build an email list though.
Buy, Buy, Buy
These are the best. I kind of think of it as someone walking up to you and saying “Buy this from me” without prior greeting or other formalities. Seems a bit like pressured sales, and I don’t think it is that great of an approach.
Join My Mafia Family
These DM’s look like invites to Facebook applications. Or I assume they are Facebook applications, as I have not clicked on any of them, and am unaware of Twitter offering Mafia Wars or any other such games. Maybe they are infected sites. And if they are from Facebook, might I add that I don’t like most of the application invites on Facebook, let alone do I want them seeping into my Twitter.
Some of the links in my DM’s (shortened URLs and regular ones) were pointing to infected websites that would have installed some kind of evil onto my machine if it wasn’t for Google’s “Web Site Has Been Attacked” warning or Kaspersky, the best anti-virus software I have ever used in terms of catching and blocking malicious code on websites before they harm your machine. These were links that were sent to me not only by strangers, but people I know and communicate with frequently either on Twitter or other networks who were hacked. Just like email, you can never be too careful about what you click on.
While there are legitimate reasons for using shortened URLs in Direct Messages (such as saving some of the 140 characters for the message instead of the link and tracking how many clicks you get from your DM), there are many more sneaky reasons. What looks like a new friend referring you to a great product could be someone sending you a masked affiliate link, or worse, a link to an infected site.
One way to find out the full link you are being redirected to is by using shortened URL preview options such as:
PrevURL.com will preview the full link from many URL shortening services, including:
Just fill in the shortened URL and it will give you the full destination URL, and sometimes even a preview thumbnail. ExpandMyURL.com does the same thing, but doesn’t work as many URL shortening services.
Bit.ly offers a Firefox extension that will show you the link preview when you hover over a http://bit.ly/ link. A majority of the links in my DM’s are bit.ly. If you don’t want to do the extension, you can alternatively add info in the bit.ly link (such as changing http://bit.ly/8n2DH6 to http://bit.ly/info/8n2DH6 to see the statistics, including the destination URL).
TinyURL offers a preview option that you turn on for your browser. Cookies save your preference, so when you click on a http://tinyurl.com/ link you will go to their site and see the full URL instead of going directly to the URL.
Your Direct Message Practices
Here are some questions for everyone in the Twittersphere. Do you send personalized or automatic welcome / Direct Messages on Twitter to new followers? Do you keep up with Direct Messages sent to you? What kind of messages do you prefer or despise?
For those who wonder why DM’s are still important, I just went cleared through all of mine (from August – about 800+, now down to a bit over 100) and found some gems, including:
- Two inquiries for freelance work on WordPress customizations
- Several compliments for my site or tweets
- One blog reader that noticed a site was duplicating my post content on their site (thanks @wchingya – their site is down now)
- Thank you’s in response to me RT’ing articles
- Messages letting me know a blogger referenced my site in their latest article
- Several invites to connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other various networks
So thank you to all of you who have DM’d me in the last bit, and I’m sorry for the delay in reply, as it took awhile to weed through all of my messages. Also, since I like to greet everyone who follows me, and I don’t want to come off as too promotional, I have updated my welcome message to the following:
Thanks for following! I can help with WordPress, blogging, social media & more. I will reply! I’m also on http://facebook.com/kristihines.
I hope this will sound more welcoming, encourage some interaction with my followers, and help them find more about me if they choose.