In a profession where personal networking is the lifeblood, there are no compelling arguments in favor of lawyers on Twitter using tools that automatically send direct messages to new followers.
- It’s insincere – An automated “Thanks for the follow” typically has the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of conveying genuine gratitude and courtesy, it fairly screams “I read somewhere that this works.”
- It’s presumptuous – Increasingly, auto DMs contain an invitation and links to “follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn,” or worse, an offer for a “free consultation” — the social media equivalents of trying to go straight to second base.
- It’s alienating – Here I’m thinking specifically of TrueTwit, a follower verification service. If you haven’t encountered this yet, when you follow a TrueTwit subscriber, you get an auto DM asking you to join TrueTwit in order to follow that subscriber. Really? You’re so afraid of bots and spammers that real people have to apply to follow you? Pass.
If you really want to express appreciation in a way that will get your new followers’ attention, retweet one of their recent posts. It says more than “thank you”; it says “I’m listening.”
Heidi Cohen also considers auto DMs a social media #FAIL in general, but offers some helpful tips on when they are appropriate.
- On vacation or leave of absence. In this case, you need to give people alternate contacts.
- Offline for an extended period of time. You may not want to disclose the details but want people to know when you’ll be back.
- Changed jobs. If you’re the person behind the brand, you must explain the new contact
- Changed Twitter handles. In this case you need to re-direct followers.
If you’re an auto DM believer, I’d love to hear about it.