This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social.
Using Twitter as a communication tool between your business and customers opens you up to two different ways to connect. You have the public connection which people on Twitter can see and is the more common form of connecting with a business and then you have direct messages or DMs which allows for a more one-to-one form of communication.
Twitter’s DM feature is important and according to Twitter there are big plans in store for the messaging side of the platform down the line, so you need to make sure you use it efficiently. Just because people can’t see the private conversation that is going on between your business and a customer using the DM feature does not give you licence to use it as you please.
How messages work on Twitter.
First lets look at the very basics of Twitter messaging. In its current form, Twitter messaging is very basic. Previously you could only send messages to people who followed you and it was simply not practical for customers and businesses to connect efficiently when the conversation needed to go private. It created a barrier between the customer and the business and it led to a lot of exchanges like this.
@a_mitchelllll: I apologize for the wait, Ariel! Pls follow & DM your email, phone#, & store info so I can help make this right. *CH
— Domino's Pizza (@dominos) May 26, 2015
However now there is an update to the messaging feature which allows you to receive messages from anyone. The feature is turned off by default so you will need to go to your security and privacy settings in the Twitter app or on the website and turn it on yourself.
Using Twitter DMs for customer service.
With this feature enabled it will remove the barrier that previously existed between customer and business. This feature will allow users to reach out to your business directly without the need to follow first.
You should use DMs whenever it is deemed necessary, be mindful of the fact that there are sensitive details and pieces of information that people will not want to share publicly online. Information may be required from the customer such as reference numbers, phone numbers, account numbers and so on. This is the type of information that would require the use of a DM as opposed to being shared publicly for all to see.
Ask users to connect via DM if it is necessary.
Good Twitter DM practice is to invite users to send you a DM as opposed to reaching out via DM yourself. If a user reaches out to you using the typical ‘@yourhandlehere’ method then naturally they expect you to return a reply in the same fashion.
You don’t know how many messages Twitter users may be receiving, some of us get a lot of messages. This means that if you send a DM when they are not expecting you to then it could get lost in their inbox, they could mark it down as spam without opening it.
On top of that, if you respond to users using a DM when they have connected publicly then it can appear negative to the casual observer who may assume that you are ignoring the customers issue. Creating a public response, even if you are only asking the user to send you a DM will show that you are attentive in a timely manner.
Use DMs with care.
It is important to continue to use the correct etiquette when communicating privately on Twitter. Just because the conversation has been moved away from public eyes and into a private domain does not give you licence to say whatever you feel like. Never ever make the assumption that people will not be able to see your private conversations. It is a simple as the user taking a screenshot of what you say privately and posting it onto their feed publicly.
Treat the conversation style as if it is still in public on Twitter. Do not use the DM feature to send unsolicited marketing content, ever! This is a big no-no, when it comes to unsolicited marketing emails users have the choice. They can opt out of receiving those emails however there is no such equivalent function on Twitter.
If you send unsolicited marketing content to users then I guarantee you will see your follower numbers fall. This brings me to the biggest abuse of the DM system on Twitter.
Stop using Auto DMs on Twitter!
This has to be one of the worst things you can do with DMs. It makes my skin crawl with anger and just this morning I unfollowed a bunch of accounts who insist on using auto DMs when I follow them. In fact I now plan on keeping on top of this more so that if I do follow you and you then send me an auto DM promoting your material or otherwise I am just going to hit the unfollow button straight away.
You don’t need auto DMs, nobody needs them. It is infuriating unnecessary spam that clogs up the users inbox. I don’t go around clicking on the follow button for funsies. If I follow you it is because I have looked at your profile, checked out some of your tweets and then decided I like your content and/or Twitter style and I want to follow you.
Then after I decide I want to follow you I end up getting automated spam in my messages which either promotes something you do or promotes something you are selling, some of it is even as stupid as an automatic hello and does not promote anything at all (if you can’t tell I am actually getting angry just typing this up thinking about it).
What is even more bizarre is that some of you decide to resend the automatic DM until you get a response! So I decided to see what would happen and I replied to some of these persistent auto messages. All that happened was that the auto messaging stopped, none of the accounts bothered to actually reply back…
I promise you one thing for certain, you don’t need auto DMs. Nobody needs them and if you do use them then please consider dropping them for good. If I have not convinced you then keep in mind this one statistic that every survey seems to show time and time again. Automated messages are the number 1 reason that users unfollow an account.
The future of Twitter messages.
Twitter tells us that there a big plans in place for messenger but we have no indication of what those plans may be. Their messaging system does need a lot of work however at the same time it is a crucial component of business to customer relations on Twitter. Keep these tips in mind, remember that even private DMs are not necessarily private and above all, dump the auto message when someone decides you are worthy of a follow.
About The Author
Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis. He has an Advanced Diploma in Psychology and a Diploma in Digital Marketing And Social Media. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here. Or you can drop Mark an email at, [email protected]