This is the story of my early days on Twitter, how I discovered my Direct Messages (DMs) and why I never send a thank you to a new follower via one, plus how I deal with the messages I receive that may thank me for a follow.
When I first became active on Twitter, during the last few days of October 2008, I quickly followed about 1000 people. I knew one person on Twitter so I sent him my one and only message until a few days later, and then followed the two people he followed, then the people they followed, then the people the followed… until I found someone who had about 20,000 followers and I then began to follow people who were following over 1000 people.
From the beginning, I was more interested in following than being followed.
I find people interesting, often surprisingly wonderful and I can learn from others. I already know the stuff I know.
Suddenly my email was filled with messages from people I was newly following on Twitter. At first this was fun. Then it became a tiresome chore as I answered each one. I was even checking out links!
I sat back and happily watched my stream for about three days until I saw a message about something on Twitter called a DM. One of my earliest messages, since I was watching not tweeting, was to ask what a DM was. I put the question out generally as I had no idea how to reply or ReTweet.
That is how I discovered my DMs. Or, as I refer to it today, my Dratted Messages of Spam.
Dratted Messages of Spam
As I waded through over a hundred messages, wondering which ones I’d seen and answered and if any were new, I noticed that over two thirds contained links. Since I am polite it seemed important to answer each person, even those who did not follow back.
Less than a year ago the situation in my DMs was easier to manage as bots were sending an individual’s messages, but the hucksters had not caught on to setting up dummy accounts and getting unsuspecting members to spew there offerings of games, “free gifts”, amazing ways to get 500 new followers daily sent by people who have under 500 followers, and other …well, stuff that is junk to me.
However, there were some very nice people sending simple thank you’s for a follow. There still are. Some of those thanks you’s are not automated.
I wondered if I should send thank you for the follow DMs too? It seemed like a lot of work as I still did not know of automated services on Twitter. What to do?
I had discovered @ChrisBrogan, who was and is one of the wisest and best Social Media advisers I know. I scanned through all my DMs, which I had not deleted as I thought they might come in handy somehow – and I did not have a DM from Chris. No DMs thinking me for a follow from any of the good Social Media advisers I knew or even those who had many followers.
I believe I scrolled through Chris Brogan’s (@ChrisBrogan ) web site looking to find advice. I may even have figured out how to reply to someone in order to ask his advice. I wanted to be polite to the people who had decided to follow me, which was then about 150, but I was looking to get out of writing 150 more emails!
What I discovered is that none of the people who are great social media advisers send DMs when someone follows them. I followed their lead. It has been very successful for me.
To date, I have only sent one DM for a follow, which was a heartfelt message without a link to a celebrity musician I admire. Soon after that he unfollowed me.
When someone follows me, I follow back. A follow is a kind of “Hello”. I do not use an automated service to do it so I can see their avatar, the most recent Tweet and even check out the profile page. I often check out links to websites after we are tweeting in the stream. Is easy to follow back as we can always unfollow.
When I meet someone and say “Hi” I never hope for a thank you , just a “Hi” back. Same goes for a follow. I have never wondered why someone I followed did not thank me, but I have wondered why they chose not to follow me back if our interests are obviously related. Oh, well…
How I Handle DMs that thank me for a follow
I read but immediately delete all DMs that include a link in the thank you but follow me back — except if the link is from a fellow visual artist, writer, filmmaker or musician who is clearly not sending an automated or buy-my-stuff message. Those are the only links that I will check. I may even respond.
I immediately unfollow everyone who sends a spammy link but fails to follow me back.
I do this very quickly before they have a chance to catch up with the speed of their automated message and follow me back. I also delete the message.
I do try to respond back via DMs usually to those who send a thank you without a link.
People who mention my art and website or Tweets—showing that the message is not automated will generally get a reply.
People who use True Twit validation service have a strong chance of my unfollowing them.
If they have a nice smiling avatar and seem really new to Twitter I may follow the link and fill out the captcha, but I’m wondering if this person is worth following since they can’t be bothered to simply check out my stream and follower count themselves.
True Twit is a service that people subscribe to in order to make sure they do not follow back spammers. While the idea is good, since it is an automated service that also sends an automated message, I find it annoying although ironic. Even more ironic is that when one follows the link True Twit is pitching there service. So in essence it a kind of spammy link that the unsuspecting True Twit subscribers are sending automatically to DMs.
The simple way for anyone to check if a follower or someone you’re considering following is not a spammer, but interesting to you is to look at their stream. Plus, anyone with over 5,000 followers is probably not a spammer.
Yet, the need for someone to check out who is real to follow back exists. Probably some clever VA’s will step on and provide this service, which cannot be done by a bot. Or True Twit will figure out a way to validate accounts of recognized good Twitterers so those people never see or get the DM with the link to True Twit again.
Some of the True Twit users do just also follow back, but their automated message arrives in my DMs anyway. Those who do not manage to figure out that I am real and use no bots on Twitter I simply unfollow after a few days so that I can follow others who want a relationship.
I hang in with people have not followed back but send the bot message in DMs, “You can join the discussion by sending a message to @ “mytwitterID.”
This is a really dumb message that newbies are duped into sending by some bot service. This message infers that the follower is not already joining in discussions, which is dumb, because they did manage to find the sender to follow.
But, I was a newbie once, so now I wait a period of three days. If the newbie has not followed back, I unfollow. I might continue to follow if the Tweets were really interesting, funny or informative, but so far this has not happened. What we had potentially going was some relationship and that involves two way communications.
OK. Now you know how I handle thank you’s regarding DMs.
Follow me, I’m @judyrey . I will follow you back—and you know I won’t DM you with a thank you or link. I never send an unrequested shortened link in a DM.
And importantly, next it’s your turn.
Voice your opinions and ideas in the comments below. What works for you? What do you agree with or like? What do you do differently? Several of my blogs re Twitter have become a kind of ongoing discussion, which benefits the community.
Please do include your Twitter ID in the body of your comment so people can follow you!
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art. Download a free copy click: Manifesto of Post Conceptual Art– A Painting’s Meaning is Inherent in its Stroke.
Check out the limited and open edition prints in the estore.
Follow her on Twitter at @judyrey .]