Social media is an instant medium and you need to grab your audience’s attention fast, what better way to do that then by sending a message directly to them? A direct message (DM) to a new Twitter follower will help develop deeper one-to-one relationships on social media, if done right. We all receive Twitter direct messages, and too often it’s not done so well. So, should these messages be automated, personalised or abandoned?
Direct messages are a big feature within Twitter, in 2015 they binned the 140-character limit to allow you to have more in depth conversations with other users on the platform.
This post covers how to use direct messages in Twitter to engage with your audience. Here are some steps to take to make sure your DM stands out from the crowd in the right way and doesn’t end up getting ignored.
Bad habits to avoid with a welcome direct message
Direct messages get a lot of bad press as they are commonly automated and usually generic, which often comes across as spam. This list of ‘don’ts’ will help you know what to avoid when constructing a welcome message to a new follower.
- Emoji faces
This has been a pet hate of mine in direct messages. Emoji’s are fantastic when used in context, but a creepy wink face is not the first thing to put in a message. They’re truly a love-hate thing and are often seen as unprofessional, so save the emoji’s for your friends.
- Social apps
Ending a direct message with ‘- via @Crowdfire’ or any other Twitter app is not going to leave a great impression. I don’t want to know what apps you use to do your Twitter dirty work. If you actually cared about social selling you’d spend a little (these tools are only about £5 per month), or even better write the DM personally.
- Me, me, me
Social media is like a networking event, talking about yourself is fine but there needs to be a balance. Ask questions and be personable to find out what interests other people have. There are too many instances where the first DM immediately points to a great download that I might be interested in – that’s too much too soon.
- The sales pitch
When a target customer connects with you on social media, they are not at the stage where they want to download all of your content or to get a demo of your software. This is the earliest stage a buyer will be at, don’t scare them by coming on too strong. It’s like asking a girl to marry you on a first date, it doesn’t work. Instead, be helpful, courteous and give them some recognition on Twitter – they’ll thank you for it.
- Promoting other social networks
There are a couple of things wrong with promoting your LinkedIn or Facebook page in your first DM. It feels like you’re just pimping yourself out and trying to rapidly grow your social networks. It makes me feel like I’m just another number in your social media count. And, whilst I may connect with you on Twitter; Facebook is for my personal network and LinkedIn is for business connections that I know.
- Not responding
Direct messaging on Twitter is simple, but if you get a response from the person you DM, then it’s just plain polite to follow through – and an opportunity lost. With the DM below, we were willing, but we never heard back.
- Manners matter
This is one of the strangest direct messages we’ve ever been sent. ‘Sorry, we don’t check DMs – but would love to hear from you!’. Really? You just direct messaged me, how do you expect me to contact you!?
- White noise
What does every introductory direct message start with? ‘Thanks for following/connecting with me…’. These get lost within an inbox because they are generic and pointless. Make your Twitter messages stand out by tailoring language, we’ll come onto that in a minute.
This may sound like real basics here, but using a hashtag in a DM doesn’t work – i.e. if you search for the hashtag, the DM won’t come up. Believe it or not, we’ve seen them. Unless you’re sharing your personal hashtag that you’d like that person to know about, don’t use hashtags.
Ok, rant over. Here’s the good news, because there are so many awful direct messages out there at the moment, there is a massive opportunity to make yours stand out for all the good reasons.
Top messaging tips
Good direct messages will help you get to know your network, form a strong introduction and an engaged following. There are good habits that rub off in these messages that you can use in yours.
Clever direct messages are tailored to individuals, the best messages go beyond using a first name and onto interests and location. Below is a great example from @ThePrezenter.
- Ask a question
If your new connection has already taken the time to open your direct message, you have their attention. The next step is getting them to engage with you. Asking them a question will make them think and reply. The important thing here is to make it relevant to them, so make sure it’s something that’s interesting to them and be genuine.
- Mutual interests
What do you and your new connection have in common? This is a very personal way to engage with someone and shows that you’ve actually taken an interest in them. Look for commonalities such as friends, connections, interests or content themes they regular share.
- Address automation
If you’re writing automated messages, apologising in the message can work very well. If you address the elephant in the room early then you can laugh about it later on in the conversation. It’s also difficult to be angry at someone who’s apologising. This example by @AndrewAndPete is one of my favourites.
- Be better than a thank you
‘Thanks for connecting’ doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. It’s an honour to have you follow me, means a lot more. Be honest and be genuine, let your recent connection know how much you appreciate them.
There is still a place for direct messages in Twitter, it’s just starting to move away from an automated minefield and into a meadow of personalisation. Should you use them? Definitely.
How are you using direct messages to engage with people on social media at the moment? I’m looking forward to hearing from you on Twitter and LinkedIn. Direct message me, put your skills to the test and introduce yourself.