Should You Send ‘Automatic Messages’ When People Follow You On Twitter?

by Craig Perrine

I am relatively new to actually using Twitter, but I’ve had an account for quite some time now.  One of the developments I’ve noticed is that when I follow someone I immediately get back a message that usually offers me some link to a freebie, or something like that.  I think this is a potetially risky strategy, here’s why.

As an internet marketer I get what the purpose is of the ‘autoresponse’ direct message, it’s like the email autoresponder.  You want to ‘Follow Up’ immediately when your new prospect’s interest is ‘hot’.  From that perspective, it SEEMS like a good idea.

Here’s the thing… back when email autoresponders came out, people thought they were fancy, new, even cool.

But one thing that always stays the same is that stuff changes. 

If you are thinking ‘autoresponse’ is cool, you’re just so stuck in 1999.  This is 2009 last time I checked, and now email is old hat.  Starting in about 2005 email became something to manage, even annoying – especially if it is an autoresponse from some marketing ’scammer’ (that’s the perception, not my opinion).  I started email marketing in 2002 or so and watched the tidal shift occur and spent several years teaching internet marketers how to build real relationships with their lists and do it right.

Twitter is all about authenticity, spontaneous response and personal connection (which is actually consistent with how I taught email marketing, but that’s another post…).

Autoresponse in Twitterland is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  Now, to be clear, I’ve seen exceptions to this…  some are pretty good.   Here’s what they have in common…

* cool autoresponses appear… PERSONAL

* personally engaging autoresponses are hard to tell from a real reply (though I think I almost always can tell… they’re ‘general’ but friendly. Evergreen, but not truly personal)

* they don’t have links to a freebie that requires an opt in

I’m not saying sending Automatic Messages is inherently ‘Bad’. 

 But it’s clear to me so far that treating Twitter like an ‘email autoresponder 2.0′ is a big mistake.

A link in an autoresponse direct message feels like a phony gift to me… it’s impersonal.  After all, EVERYONE who follows that person is going to get the same ‘gift’.  If you want to make your new Twitter follower feel ‘unspecial’, this is a very effective way to do it.

It’s kind of like calling every guy you see ‘bro’.  Like ‘Hey bro, thanks for the taxi ride.’  or ‘Bro, why did you give me a speeding ticket…’  I don’t know about you, but I don’t call just any guy ‘bro’.  Know what I mean?

(By the way, if you have met me personally and I didn’t call you bro, don’t worry.  There may be hope for you yet, lol).

This is the age of authenticity in my opinion.  Inspiration, transparency, and just being ‘real’ stands out in a good way.  Being a slickster stands out in a bad way… and a lot of good folks are getting bad marketing advice on this and unknowingly stumbling onto Twitter and acting like unwelcome party crashers.  It wasn’t too long ago people were pimping some rather stupid MySpace tactics… and now where are they??? 

Anyway, that’s my take on it after getting bombarded with all sorts of autoresponse DM’s as I’ve reached out and followed more folks on Twitter.  I’ve followed like two links in automatic DM replies and I pretty much have not paid attention to the folks who sent them to me, just from my gut reaction to the tactic.  I can only imagine what a more experienced Twitizen (hey, I wonder if I made that up… probably not, lol) might think.  Some of the autofollows were so cheesy I just unfollowed the person for being a bonehead.  Why ‘Follow’ a bonehead???

I’m very fascinated with the culture and psychology of Twitter, and how marketers are adapting, even EVOLVING as they use it. 

Fact is,  many people are uncomfortable with marketing…. and we are all numb to bad marketing.  Some are even outraged by marketing of any kind. 

Not me… I’m in business for myself and I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.  Marketing at it’s best is simply sharing the benefits of your solution to the problems your prospects want badly to solve.  Helping people know you have solutions for their problems is a GOOD thing.  But how it is done, the context of the marketing message and who is targeted are all crucial details you need to be aware of in this overly saturated marketing day and age.  Any strategy that is out of synch with the audience culture or is in any way ‘fake’ or ‘cheesy’ is just not going to work out.

Let’s put it this way… I’m against bad, cheesy, BS marketing. 

Folks on Twitter seem to be against bad marketing, too.

Remember, people want to buy stuff… I do, you do, we all do.  As marketers, we need to focus on selling in the ways that we ourselves like to be sold.  Marketers who approach social media like nothing’s different are in for a rude awakening.  And Twitter is probably the worst place to learn that lesson the hard way due to the viral nature of the community. 

Twitter is a lot like a high school cafeteria… if you trip over your shoelaces and fall on your face, everyone will know it instantly.

As with any new culture, I think it’s wise to learn the ways of that culture before opening one’s mouth too much… so if you’re new to Twitter, I suggest listening and watching and learning as crucial first steps. I’ll admit, I was quick to see that I should have a Twitter account… but slow to figure out how it fit into my life or business model.  

So, if you agree or disagree, let me know by commenting on this post.   Follow me on Twitter ( @craigperrine ) if you’d like… let’s keep the conversation going.

And don’t worry, I won’t send you an automatic response ;)

- Craig

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ChrisSherrod June 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm

It’s annoying people on twitter but you can unfollow the people that do it which is real nice. Also the programs that do this can and maybe in the future be banned by twitter. For now it is working but I doubt it is really working as far as making money. Twitter is like a cocktail party and if you start handing out your business card and not talk to people it just makes sure that they hire you ever. This is social media/social networking not a pitch fest.

Lynette Patterson June 18, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I’m soooo glad you wrote this blog because just this morning, I was growling about the exact same thing. Clicking on my Direct Messages has now become an avoidance, a place I don’t want to go, a place of frustration. I counted over 80 new direct messages, of which only a handful where directed to ME as a person. For the first time this morning, I actually unfollowed some of the people who direct messaged me an obvious sell. And….it felt GOOD!

Auto direct messages cause wrinkles. Avoid them is my vote.

Connie Ragen Green June 20, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I agree completely with you on this topic. A direct message is not meant to be a way to market to someone who is more than likely not interested in your products. Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out here, in a way that makes sense.

Jo November 20, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I havent put up and automated response and was thinking about doing this…hence I googled how to do it and found this post.

Now I realise why I havent done it so far and its because I actually hate receiving these automated nonpersonal replies that Ive been putting it off.

No automated responses…but will have to think of something else.

Great article!


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