social networking

Authentic or Not? Part 4: Automatic Direct Messages

automated messages robot
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

automated messages robotAs the social networking scene becomes more crowded, busy, and chaotic, more people are experimenting with automating or outsourcing social media tasks.  But does this violate the spirit of authenticity which is so highly valued within social media?

So far we’ve discussed

Part 1: Ghost Tweeting, Facebooking, & Blogging
Part 2: Automatically following back
Part 3: Ignoring Tweets & Status Updates

Today we look at automatically generated direct messages.  Are they disingenuous or a useful time-saver?

Automatically-Generated Direct Messages…

…or auto-DMs as they’re known in Twitter are when a person sends a private message to one of their followers using an automated tool.

Facebook has its own message system.  People with a personal profile can send messages to up to 20 “friends” at a time.  Organizations with a fan page can send messages to thousands of “fans” all at once.

Advocates of auto-DMs argue that when a person follows or fans a person/organization, he or she is indicating they want to get information from that person/organization.  It’s like subscribing or opting in to an email list.  There’s nothing wrong with sending out a newsletter to a list of subscribers, so there’s nothing wrong with sending a mass FB message or Twitter DM to everyone.  Plus fans/followers can always unfan/unfollow if they want out.

Critics of auto-DMs argue that they don’t want private messages from the people/organizations they fan/follow.  They’re essentially spam.  And if people want to send the same message to all their fans/followers why not just post it publicly?

The Auto-DM Welcome Message

Many Twitter users use a tool that automatically sends a single welcome message to each new follower.

Some critics say all auto-DM welcome messages are bad news.

Others say it’s only disingenuous if the person is faking it by trying to make the message sound like it’s manually written and sent.  If the auto-DM says, “Welcome, this is an auto-DM, but I love you man” then that’s cool.

Advocates of the auto-DM welcome message say it’s a nice way to welcome a new follower and saves time.

So, what do you think auto-DMs in Twitter and mass messaging in Facebook?

Authentic or Not?

–> Authentic or Not? Part 5: Scheduled Tweets and Updates

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • Generally, I'm not a fan of the automated messages. However, I think it completely depends on the content of the message and the nature of the company or organization sending it. I think it COULD BE done well, though it often isn't, and you have to be very careful and strategic in implementing anything automated. And use it SPARINGLY. It can't come off as impersonal at all. Bottom line is, at the end of the day, the personal one to one contact is going to win every time. But when that's an impossibility, I think there could be a place for the auto-DM.

  • I too am not a fan of the automated messages. I do look at most DMs and if I see my name mentioned, then I am likely to respond or at least click on a link shown, especially if it is to facebook or another social site. Please don't try to "sell" me in the DM.

    • Don, I am sick of sales DMs as well, particularly those hyping affiliate programs, programs to get thousands of Twitter followers, and ways to get rich using Twitter.

  • I think automated messages lack the authenticity of a truly social conversation. But, that's just my thoughts!

    • Hi Jyll (cool spelling by the way. 🙂 I think you're right, but just to push back for a moment, does everything in social media have to be social?

      For example, let's say you really like a particular singer and follow her on Twitter or Facebook. What if on the day before she releases her next album she mass DMs/messages all her fans/followers with a link to where you can buy it before the general public or at a special price? it's not social, but would you like to get a DM/message like that?

  • It can be a nice touch if the message is right, but the worst one I received was from an author that I thought was being friendly. The author had asked to follow me and I followed them in return. The message thanked me for following and ended with a question that I answered in a reply. I expected a response (it was that kind of question), and when I never received one, I realized it had been an automated message. Personally, I was offended. If you ask me a question in a PM, I consider that an invitation to enter into a conversation.

  • Hmmm – I'm reconsidering my use of auto-DM's when someone follows my Twitter account. It's origin was to acknowledge the new follower, thank them and suggest some others I find worthy of following. The messages rotate randomly (thanks to SocialOomph) and I don't automatically follow new followers, so the realization the conversation couldn't continue until I do follow them puts a new light on the practice.

    For now, I've discontinued the auto-DMs until I have more time to determine my approach.

    As a side note – I was unable to login using OpenID (an OpenID from Yahoo). Usually, I can just put in and get a Yahoo login page to continue, but that is not the case here. So, I had to dig out my actual complete URL and submit that, only to find that Yahoo will not authenticate for any site not using OpenID 2.0

    • Steve, discontinuing the auto-DMs seems like a good idea to me. When you figure out yoru new approach, I'd be interested to hear what it is.

      Regarding OpenID, are you saying you used to be able to sign into the IntenseDebate commenting system here using your OpenID, and now you can't? I just checked and OpenID is still one of the login options. Are you saying you tried to login with your OpenID and it failed?

      • I haven't tried using OpenID until now, but when I did, it failed, with Yahoo! (my OpenID provider) stating the version of OpenID used by the site was too old.

        quote –

        Sorry! You will not be able to login to this website as it is using an older version of the the OpenID technology. Yahoo! only supports OpenID 2.0 because it is more secure. For more information, check out the OpenID documentation at Yahoo! Developer Network.


  • Too be honest, I never look at DMs on my twitter account. At the start I did, but as my connection have grown – I stopped, because I couldn't be bothered to trawl through them all. I have it on my to-do-list that I should put a notice on my profile that I don't read DM's (something that I recently noticed @garyvee doing). So for me, I don't send automated DM's. If I want to connect with people – it just use the @reply as it is much more personal for connecting with people. I always read the @messages.

    Don't know if I am doing it right – but that is how I use it at the moment!

    Great conversation starting here! Thanks to all for your thoughts – I've enjoyed this one.

  • That's interesting, Matt. I find it fascinating how many different approaches people have in using the same tool. I don't think there's one right way. Some are better than others. Mostly some are better fits for certain people than others.

  • authentic – maybe.
    but I hate them, especially if it comes from someone who does not follow you –
    how can you send a message to someone who can't respond back.
    Auto DMs should only be done if there is a mutual follow

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