Thanks for the Follow! The Mystery of the Auto DM

Topics: Social Media

“Thank you for following! You can also connect with us on Facebook!”

“Thanks for connecting. Use our super-duper resource for business success!”

If you’re an active Twitter user, you’ve undoubtedly received plenty of similar direct messages in your inbox, most of which were probably sent automatically by a third-party tool. In the early days of Twitter, a direct message was a popular way to thank someone for following you. As third-party Twitter clients were developed and became widely used, many of them added functionality that allowed users to send an automated message to new followers, which removed much of the luster of a private thank you.

I don’t fault anyone for using the tools that are available to them to save time and work more efficiently, but I tend to find automated messages to be a bit impersonal. For many Twitter users, auto DMs are on par with spam and result in an immediate unfollow. I’m not quite that critical, but after receiving several automated DMs recently, I was curious. Are people seeing value from this practice? If so, I was interested to hear more. I asked a question on Twitter this morning to see if anyone wanted to chime in:

For those still using auto DMs for new followers, do you ever receive responses to them? Do you track new followers/unfollows? Curious.

A few people responded, none of whom were using auto DMs. All of them were responding to say that they didn’t like them, with a couple of the responses specifically mentioning a dislike of suggestions to “follow us on Facebook.” One response from Eric Guerin summed it up quite well:

Kinda’ takes the “social” out of social media, doesn’t it?

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t thank everyone who follows each of the Twitter accounts I manage, but when I receive a follow from a person or business that I feel warrants a “thank you,” I use a personalized reply. More often then not, I’ll receive a response, and the relationship is off to a good start. One of the key benefits of Twitter is the one-to-one communication it enables, whether between two individuals, or between a brand and its customers. Starting off a new relationship with a meaningful dialogue (as opposed to an impersonal auto DM) indicates your willingness to engage in conversations of value.

I did some quick research and found a post about a study conducted last year by Optify, which found that the use of auto DMs led to a 245% increase in unfollow rate. With these kind of numbers, it seems like those using automated direct messages to thank new followers might be much better off with no thank you at all, let alone a personal reply.

Are you using auto DMs with your personal or business account? I would be interested in hearing about the results you’ve seen. If you’re not using them, how do you respond when you receive one? Share your thoughts in the comments, or of course, send me a reply on Twitter.


  1. Do you think the value of a legitimate DM has decreased because of the use of Auto DMs? Probably hard to tell the difference in some cases. Great article Nick, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Posted by Lance, November 2, 2012 Reply

    • I think it has in some ways, Lance. Personally, I usually send a reply when communicating with a brand unless it’s something that’s better as a private communication. When communicating with individuals, it’s usually someone I know or communicate with regularly, so it’s more or less expected. That said, auto DMs and the rash of spam DMs have certainly caused me to be a bit more skeptical of any DM in general.

      Posted by Nick Nerbonne, November 2, 2012

  2. Automated comments (and in many cases automated tweets) are very impersonal. It’s the social media equivalent of the automated telephone attendant. Twitter is about communication and interaction with other people, not machines. In the past, I’ve actually unfollowed people immediately after receiving an automated DM.

    Posted by Jason Keisling, November 2, 2012 Reply

    • I think your comparison is a good one, Jason. Any time something is easily identified as automated, it feels much less personal. As you mention, the beauty of Twitter is the ability to communicate and share ideas with people one-on-one. Automating that communication would seem to defeat the purpose.

      Posted by Nick Nerbonne, November 2, 2012

  3. Even worse is when you get an auto DM, “Thanks for the follow” – but then they don’t even follow you BACK. Sheesh.

    Posted by Sarah, November 2, 2012 Reply

    • So true, Sarah. Not only is it impersonal, but you’re unable to reply to the message. Doesn’t make much sense.

      Posted by Nick Nerbonne, November 2, 2012

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