This is going to be a really short post (I hope). A topic that came to mind as I was working out a proposal for a client. I realise some people are still unaware on how to effectively use the Direct Message feature on Twitter. Or rather, I should say many still think of Twitter as a “broadcast” tool. And uses the DM like a “personalised broadcast tool”. *shakes head* Let’s get back to basics.
How word-of-mouth is disseminated on Twitter
When a tweet is being sent out, you will first reach your immediate followers (1st degree), which their retweets will reach their immediate followers (2nd degree) and so forth. Any replies, retweets or following will expose your message and profile to new people. So think of a multi-level communication structure when you send that tweet out.
So never think no one is reading. Someone always is.
Think : Why Twitter?
- If you have chosen Twitter as a channel, I would expect you are looking to converse and engage folks in conversations.
- You want to share as well as get the latest news, be in the know-how and obtain real-time responses.
- You want to be seen, be heard and be noticed.
- You want your word to be spreaded.
- You want to grow a sustainable community (following).
- You want to syndicate your content from other platforms.
Think: Why Public?
You want your conversations and content postings to be public because of all the reasons above. It’s a great place to know people and lead your conversations into a private discussion. However if it is your intention to be seen, be heard and be noticed, feeding your content on DMs (especially when you have yet to build a personal relationship with the other party) will make you seem spammy. And by doing so, you lose an opportunity to encourage retweets.
The great thing about Twitter is you never know who is reading what. Something that might not seem interesting to you could be intriguing to someone else. Hence if you want the word to be spread around, it’s always a general principle to have that word in public. Unless of course, it is meant to be private in the first place.
Think: Why Direct Messages?
- Chats : You may be engaging with a very sensitive or hot topic with someone and your conversations are flooding your stream. Now, people hate “flooding”. So take this conversation in private.
- CRM : You found a disgruntled customer. You want to address the problem. Reach out in public, show that you are listening and you want to take the problem forward. Bring the conversation into private mode and resolve any pressing issues, including obtaining customer information to rectify the matter.
- Private & Personal Notes : You want to get some attention and you don’t think it’s necessary to announce it to the world. It could be a note to a personal friend that doesn’t fits your professional image. A date with someone with meeting details that you would prefer to keep it private. All contact information should be exchanged privately.
Think: When NOT to use Direct Messages?
- When you are intending to mass send the same message to everyone and make it look like you are actually trying to be personalised. Actually, this applies not only to Direct Messages. You shouldn’t even attempt doing that on Twitter (or anywhere). Most people would generally classify that act as spamming.
- Automated messages. Similar to the above, except this is even worse. Never send an automated message especially when your intention is to tell someone to “visit my website”, “check out this cool video”. Trust me, you would be reported soon.
- When you don’t exactly know the person well and have nothing personal to say. Especially for brands. You would want to be deem listening publicly. So even if you are trying to garner some direct feedback from fans, make it a point to greet the person publicly first and ask if you can speak in private. (Just like you wouldn’t ask for someone’s number without getting his/her name first.)
What’s GREAT about Direct Messages?
- It gives you an opportunity to get to know someone beyond face value on Twitter. An avenue to exchange private information without fear for being stalked by strangers.
- You do not have to worry about your messages being flooded in the streams of replies and that someone you are talking to may just happen to miss it.
- The need for DM encourages 2-way following. That is because you can only DM someone who is following you.
Ahhem… okay, the post didn’t end up being very short at all. But there are definitely more to share. The “Direct Message” feature is a great tool but use it wisely. The downside of it is that many people has ceased to check their DM due to an influx of spams. Ask around, you would realise many of your friends probably don’t check their Facebook Inbox messages too for the same reasons. So DM does not guarantee you will definitely reach who you are trying to get. Again, the great thing about Twitter is the ability to reach hundreds and thousands of people in real-time. So you really want to be OUT THERE.
Use DMs, but use DMs wisely.