What If The Auto DM Was Used Differently?
I have never been a fan of using the automated direct message feature on Twitter. In fact, I downright hate it. How much? I will unfollow 90% of those who send me an automated direct message within minutes of my reading it.
I often finding myself challenging the norm. I’m always looking at ways to leverage the tools at our disposal in a different way, to achieve a different goal. Twitter’s direct message feature may be one of the best social media tools we have at our fingertips: it provides direct access to followers which could number in the 1000s even for a small brand.
As I see it, the problem with the automated direct message isn’t the use of it, it’s HOW it’s used.
Auto DMs tend to fall into one of two general categories:
- The simple ‘Thank you for following me” – This one may seem fine, but how unsocial is it to send an automated greeting to someone you just met? At least make it look like you took the time to personally thank me.
- The ‘Please follow me over on Facebook, LinkedIn, sign up for my email, you may be interested in, buy my crap’ – I get this is an opportunity to drive web traffic, promote your wares or get an email address but at least send me welcome note and ask how I am first. If I walked into your retail store and you asked for my email address or tried to sell me something without saying hello first, I’ll exit stage left…immediately. At least take the time to be social, even for just a moment.
But What If?
- What if automated DM’s were more like follow-up emails sent to subscribed followers?
- What if we used them differently?
- What if we treated our followers the same way we do when they fill out a contact form, sign up for a newsletter or get a free download?
- What if the content they received wasn’t a request but us giving something? Maybe a piece of advice? Maybe a free download without requesting an email address?
- What if the DM provided something of value to them rather than a pitch to buy, download, follow, try my crap?
Would you accept them or still see them as spam, insincere, rude or annoying?
The Automated Direct Message As An Effective Marketing Tool
To make them an effective marketing tool three things must change:
Expectation. When we sign up for a download, fill out an entry form at an event or sign up for anything, we KNOW we’re being added to an email list. We expect that. We know we’ll receive an email a few days later saying thank you. We know we’ll likely receive offers and requests (hopefully mixed in with some valuable content). So what is different between signing up for an email list and following someone on Twitter?
“….when you sign up for an email list, you expect to be emailed. It’s intrinsic to the nature of that transaction. When you follow someone on Twitter, though, your purpose isn’t to be contacted privately – it’s only to see what they publicly post. Receiving a DM isn’t necessarily part of the equation, so it can seem a little invasive, or annoying. (You already get promotional messages in your email inbox – do you really want them showing up in every one of your other inboxes all across the Internet?)”
– Tom over at Team Edgar in response to a discussion we had a few weeks back on an older article on Twitter’s change in its DM rules.
I agree completely with the reason we follow someone isn’t to provide private, targeted access but given the pervasive nature of them, I think we EXPECT to be contacted privately.
Perception. Direct messages are so maligned, even if used to provide value, they would be ignored or result in the inevitable ‘unfollow’.
Side note: If you scroll back to the top, you’ll notice I said “I will unfollow 90% of those who send me one within minutes of my reading an auto DM.” What about the other 10%? I have received messages which resonated, provided value or, based on the source, weren’t seen as spam.
Given my own approach and as much as I detest them, I think perception can be changed.
Personalization. Even once the expectation of receiving and perception of DMs changes, there is the small issue of tailoring the message. When it comes to email, we can easily segment to tailor our message. We can personalize each email. You know when you receive them they are automated but at least they address and speak to you. There still needs to be a tool which enables this functionality with a minimum of input on our part to make it effective.
There are a few tools already available and designed to send automated DMs but I don’t think any have the same functionality of most email or CRM tools (please let me know if any do).
A Final Thought
Twitter’s direct message feature holds some interesting potential as an effective marketing tool. It’s a huge opportunity to establish a relationship if / when used properly. If it will ever be accepted is a whole other story as a viable or trusted. For now, I don’t see myself using it on a broad, automated level. I may start playing with it on a manual basis similar to how I respond to all requests to connect on LinkedIn so don’t be surprised if you follow me and I reach out to you. It is, after all, social behavior and an opportunity to build a relationship and that’s the real value of social media.
What is your opinion on the use of direct or automated direct messages?
Do you see a potential for using them?
Goodbye To Twitter’s 140 Character Limit…
UPDATE (16 May 2016) – “Twitter Inc. will soon stop counting photos and links in their 140-character limit for tweets, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
I mentioned back in an October 2015 post about a few of the recent changes with the big one the removal the 140 character limit for direct messages. For businesses, this was a HUGE positive move. It was hard to have any real significant dialogue whether it be with a customer or colleague when you were forced to send multiple messages for one thought. I remember a few conversations I migrated to LinkedIn just so we could actually communicate.
The ubiquitous 140 character limit remained for public Tweets. Now there is a buzz again over Jack Dorsey’s hint at increasing it to 10,000, the same new limit for direct messages. (Update: For now, at least, there will be no change in the character limit. It’s still worth considering a few ideas for what COULD be changed to increase character counts while still maintaining limits.) How it will affect Twitter’s role for businesses, especially small, unknown brands is obviously unknown but a few of my thoughts based on having used Twitter since 2009:
The Art of Twitter Effect
For someone who enjoys writing and provides copy editing services, Twitter’s character count means I am continuously perfecting my craft. Can I get my message across, can I get you to click-through to a link and can I get you to further convert using only 140 characters? And when it comes to resharing old content, I get to play with different content to see what gets noticed or picked up in searches.
Getting content seen and engaged with on Twitter has become an art form.
Based, at least on what has been reported, the skill in getting a Tweet seen will not likely change. What will change is what happens when a Tweet is seen. This’s where the real concern lies. It’s where the copy editing skills will shine and the art form elevated.
Web Traffic Effect
If your content is crafted well and seen in a feed or pulled in a search, the default action (and what you want) is clicking on your website link. That’s web traffic. That’s an opportunity to capture lead information. That’s an opportunity to convert.
What happens when content can be directly added to a tweet? No reason to click-through.
Yes, there still is a huge opportunity by creating compelling content within the tweet to get the click-through, but that requires even more action and time on the part of the reader (personally I’m always tapped for time):
- Get the reader to see or find the tweet.
- Get the reader to expand the tweet
- Get the reader to actually ingest the content.
- Compel the reader to want to more.
The last point is the tough one. The additional content has to be crafted perfectly to be read, understood and still drive one more action – for me ,a link click to this site. Depending on how the change is implemented you may even be able to add in an image, an animated gif or a short video. The bonus with the longer character count – you can have multiple CTAs and links. Regardless, your content will need to be able to encourage further action. Rather than focusing on web traffic depending on post length will they really need or want to read more?), your link CTA may need to be direct list sign ups, registrations, downloads or purchases. Suddenly not only is the art form alive, it’s is elevated to a whole new level.
For me, what still likely gets lost is website traffic. Granted list sign ups, sales and downloads are valuable, but I still have a chance at those when you’re on my site. It’s more about what else I get. You’re exposed to more content than just one article whether it be through links within a post or content in a sidebar. Regardless, the reader is ON my site. Even without additional content being consumed or traditional conversions, there’s still an opportunity to bookmark my site or grab an RSS feed.
On other platforms, I see less traffic to my site and I suspect it’s in part due to NOT needing to click. All of the content is already visible. While you can still create ‘teaser’ posts, I find those to be click-baiting when the opportunity is there to tell me more and you don’t. I know all you are after is that click. (The practice costs you search value – more on that in a minute).
A blog post in a tweet may provide new opportunities but I’m worried about the ones lost. I’m not convinced what we gain makes up for the losses.
The Readability Effect
Increase content within Tweets offers the plus of not having to follow a link but the length of the tweet could affect if it is read. Reading anything long, having to continuously scroll, then still potentially needing to click on a link could make for a very cumbersome read on mobile devices. I won’t even begin to consider writing a long post from a mobile device. Twitter’s current format favors mobile devices. In fact, aside from Instagram, it’s the ONLY social site I prefer on mobile.
One nice feature now is actually the ability to have a link to click for external reading. If I can easily open a browser window and bookmark a page to read later. Remove the link and if I see something I like, getting back to it could be a challenge.
The ReTweet Effect
There are two sides to how this can play out. The first is compounding the effect of losing web traffic. If web traffic is reduced by fewer URL clicks in tweets, it makes sense for the effect to carry over to ReTweets. In my case, approximately 15% of my web traffic is driven from my ReTweets. Not a significant amount of traffic but still another hit.
The flip side?
I see far too much content reshared that shouldn’t be. No time is taken to actually read the content, presumably because it actually TAKES time.
The end result can often be a hit to one’s reputation. While this will not change when using auto retweeters (really, I beg you not to do this), removing the need to follow another link may mean more content is actually read and less crap is reshared. End result – a less cluttered feed filled with better quality content.
The Search Effect
One big positive being touted by Jack is additional text being searchable. It just may be the best thing about removing the 140 character limit. With 1500 million visitors (as of 12/10/15) who do not log in, more searchable content matters. If you know how to write good copy (again, the Art of Twitter Effect) and Tweet often, this could be a be a huge win. Of course, it also means with everyone posting more your actual odds of content appearing in a search could decrease.
More searchable content, however, still doesn’t diminish the lost web traffic effect. It could also lead to wide scale abuse in due to keyword stuffing and other black hat ‘SEO’ practices.
(The Search Effect Side effect: This could create an internal Twitter SEO industry.)
The Conversation (or the Customer Service) effect
My favorite reason for loving Twitter (even more than the oodles of web traffic I get) is it’s ability to build and grow relationships. Yes, it can be done effectively elsewhere (I’ve been having a great conversation about life, this industry and working together on a few projects with the Fabulous Amy Donahue of Get Hybrid Social on LinkedIn), but Twitter offers me something exclusive – brevity
Twitter’s beauty has alwaysd been in its brevity.
Since I can get wordy – this article is over 2100 words – being forced to cut it short is a good thing for me. Then there’s the time management issue. Tweets were set to 140 character limit for compatibility with SMS messaging. As life has gotten busier, as demands for our time have increased, it’s been harder to sit down and chat for any length of time. I found myself scheduling time for conversations with friends. That meant longer intervals between speaking. Text messaging has enabled me to have ‘conversations’ and ‘talk’ regularly. It allowed life to proceed and still maintain or grow connections. Twitter, for me, works the same way. For business, it’s the equivalent of constant customer contact and top of mind awareness.
I’m concerned the messages could start becoming longer, requiring more time to read, longer replies and ultimately become too time consuming.
Not to be completely negative here, having the ability to expand a tweet still works for me (and I’m excited about the prospect). There are times I truly could use an extra 20 characters.
I really dislike abbreviations and shorthand (and you’ll rarely see me use them). To me they’re less professional and using them runs the risk of miscommunication. The 140 character limit means sometimes having to use them or change the content and what I really wanted my message to be. That’s one thing for my content but another for conversations and especially customer service.
I have a number of Twitter conversations most days and keeping within the 140 character limit is easy. But what happens when it’s a customer service question? What happens when the answer simply cannot be cut short? That means multiple, continued Tweets. It works but still a choppy conversation. It would be nice in these circumstances to have some extra real estate.
The Meta Description
This is not the first time the character count has been discussed. If there is no change, I expect it will be brought up again. That means thinking ahead. True, I do not need to change my posting strategy. I can still march on as I have been doing. I may even be successful for a time but….
Failing to adapt in a changing environment, however, rarely has a good outcome.
My posting strategy if and when the 140 character limit is removed:
What if Tweets were structured like Google’s search listings?
The body of the tweet, the 140 character limit you see now, would continue be the attention grabber, what gets you to stop and hit ‘expand’. It’s the article or page title in the SERPs.
The expanded content would contain the post link with a short description, effectively the post’s meta description. Like the meta description in search listings, it’s what truly determines if the link is clicked. Only in this case that ‘meta description affects the actual search results.
A Tweet for this article would look like:
The expanded version:
The art form remains. Instead of writing content to be seen in a feed or picked up in searches and getting the external click through, it’s slightly altered to produce an internal click. The bonus is in getting a few more characters to work to use (your link moves to the body of the Tweet).
What I’d Like To See
I do like the idea of changing up Twitter. I think it could use a refreshing. I do however like much of what has made Twitter such an awesome platform for many of us using it. Going from a 140 character limit t0 10,000, while offering some positives comes at the potential expense of diminished web traffic and a few other negatives.
So what would I do?
Granted no one is asking my opinion, especially Jack Dorsey himself but that’s never stopped me before so…..
Simply thinking about how I would approach posting above, maybe a hybrid of what we have vs what is proposed may work best.
- Split Character Limits: 140 character limit for the visible portion of tweet and 155 (from Google’s meta description length) for the post body. This more than doubles the character count, adds the search value from more text, makes conversation (customer service and relationship building) easier, maintains Twitter as a great source of web traffic and still keeps with the initial reason for the character count. Add in a link, image or video at the end (not counting towards the character count).
- No links in the visible portion of the tweet. This should encourage more quality content within the visible portion reducing clickbait practices as well. It would force content writers to step up their game. While Twitter would still be a good source of web traffic, you will have to put in a little more effort to get it. Want the traffic? Your content needs to generate two clicks. One to expand the post and one to get to your site.
- A post save feature: Yes, I can click on a tweet’s timestamp, open it in my browser and bookmark it for later, but it would be so much nicer to have a ‘save’ button. Then I’d have access to the content long term. Even give me a column next to Notifications called ‘Saved Tweets’.
- An edit feature: None of us are perfect. (Thanks to Angel Rubia for the suggestion during today’s #DigiBlogChat with Carol Stephen.)
Are You Missing Out On Web Traffic By Not Using Twitter?
While Twitter is one of the best social channels a small business owner can leverage, far too many I speak with want little to do with it. That’s an absolute shame.
When I look at the effectiveness of a social media strategy, I’m looking to see how much web traffic is being driven more than page growth or post activity. Those numbers are valuable, but in the end, your relationship building, page growth, and likes, comments and shares have one end goal – increased sales. Since most social posts don’t usually convert directly, they, along with your activity elsewhere on these social sites, need to drive traffic to an external lead generation point – your website. Of course, you still need the traffic to convert but that’s the role of your website and sales teams, not your social pages and profiles.
How well a social channel does at driving traffic to your website depends on a number of variables, but all things being equal, or at least similar, Twitter is one of the best social platforms for that purpose. Since I have active and engaged profiles on each of the six major social sites and I post similar content, it’s easy to see just how well (and easily) Twitter works.
So how well does Twitter work?
- Twitter drove more traffic as reported by Google Analytics than the other 4 big sites.
- Twitter drove as much traffic as organic search over the same time period.
- Twitter was actually the 2nd highest source of web traffic during the time frame measured.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#123517″ class=”” size=””]Twitter is an amazing platform for converting social engagement into leads.[/perfectpullquote]
What’s even more impressive:
- Twitter had the lowest percentage (58.04%) of 1st-time visits meaning it drove the most repeat traffic (and if they’re coming back, you know your content is on the mark and your tweets are crafted properly).
- Twitter had the 2nd lowest bounce rate (Google+ was tops in that category)
- Twitter had the most pages per session and the highest measurable onsite time (Not a valuable measure in and of itself but notable for comparison purposes)
To be fair, Twitter’s conversion rate for goals I have set was minimal BUT anecdotally, it drove the 2nd most business (behind LinkedIn). The low numbers could be due to the goals I am measuring and/or how Twitter users chose to reach out to me when they decided to purchase. Twitter users may simply have chosen to come back by going directly to my site rather than through Twitter. With direct traffic being the second highest source of website views, the lowest bounce rate and the highest conversion rate at close to 17%, the latter is certainly plausible.
Direct traffic is a good indication of effective branding.
Unless someone knows your site URL (generally through traditional marketing, networking or social activity), they wouldn’t be going directly to it. In my case I haven’t done any traditional advertising and do (as of now) minimal networking. The majority of my branding is done via online activity (and I’ll add – none of it paid).
What makes Twitter’s ability to drive traffic even better? The ease of using it.
How Easy Is It To Drive Traffic Using Twitter?
The beauty of Twitter is in how little posting, and therefore time and effort, it takes to drive traffic. You still need good content and to learn how to craft your Tweets to attract attention, but master it (heck, just moderately excel at it) and you’ll be surprised at how well it works.
Over a 90 day period, I post just 514 Tweets from content on this site (the smaller light blue circle).
Those tweets earned 44,617 impressions and 53 link clicks (the smaller circles)! My following at the time? Roughly 2400-2600; a relatively small number by standards.
How Little Work Was Actually Involved?
Think about it. Only 514 tweets over 90 days. That’s less than 6 per day! Since my content was already written, all I did was leverage my previous work. My tweets came directly from work I already did. Posting time? My Tweets were scheduled via Hootsuite‘s bulk scheduler reducing the actual time spent posting to maybe an hour one afternoon per week! (Not sure how to do this?)
Here’s a better graphic showing just how much value I received from only a handful of Tweets. You can clearly see the number of impressions relative to the number of tweets.
Simply posting a handful of 100 -140 character snippets from your blog posts probably won’t drive the traffic you need but it will get you on the right track. I’m actually tweeting 15+ times per day. It’s the additional posting, the sharing content of others and being social, which has helped increase my following and build the great relationships which have contributed to my results.
Yes, it does mean more time posting, but since there is no stress on me to find or post content, I spend more time reading, engaging, being social and having fun. That makes it easy and enjoyable to find a few minutes at various points during my day to Tweet. It’s actually time I look forward to having. As an added bonus, it has made finding content almost effortless too! (Things tend to fall into your lap when you’re not really looking.)
The bottom line
Twitter is phenomenal for building relationships, creating visibility for you or your brand and driving traffic to your website.
If you’re not using it, why?
Protecting Your Brand’s Reputation
Before you ReTweet, repin or share that content – READ IT!
We should all aware by now that what we post online, especially public content, will live forever. What you post can have profound, long-term effects on your brand reputation. Even a single post, tweet or comment can take on a life of its own.
Where am I going with this?
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#123517″ class=”” size=””]While it’s generally sunk in that we need to be careful WHAT we post, it seems that isn’t necessarily the case with what we REPOST. [/perfectpullquote]
I was dumbfounded recently when I read an article that was heavily repinned and RT’d. The content discussed how to drive more reach for your Facebook Fan Page and ultimately your website or blog. Catchy headline, catchy image. The issue was the actual content. The author was advocating click baiting – something in itself I find unethical – but more importantly, something Facebook discussed in August: ‘Facebook is announcing the pursuit and war against attempts to entice clicks through headlines that are misleading.’
I couldn’t believe so many people were sharing content that would actually HURT others in their social media efforts and was exactly what Facebook was working to stop! Regardless of why the content was shared, it was obvious it wasn’t read first (though I will concede that some share may have been from those that did read it and agreed with the Black Hat practice).
Since our brand reputation is affected by what we post, both our own and curated content, it’s imperative that we read everything we intend to put our name and stamp of approval on, even if that takes time, regardless of the source.
When discussing this topic with a colleague it was mentioned that content from a trusted source may need less scrutiny and maybe none. It may be true that the source may will be far less likely to share or post such content, even the experts make mistakes.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#123517″ class=”” size=””]It’s not just about whether the content is true, the link legit or the image authentic, it’s as much about what is said.[/perfectpullquote]
Sharing great content (even from a trusted source) doesn’t mean your brand reputation won’t come under fire. Sharing content counter to your beliefs, what you advocate, what your followers / fan base expect can be just as damaging. I have generally have no desire to share the content of even the best known / trusted social media or marketing experts (or experts in any field) if I do not agree with their position. Would you give someone who’s views are counter to yours access to your audience? Unless you’re looking for a debate, no. Yet sharing their content on your social media profiles is doing just that.
Four Simple Takeaways:
- Read first, then share, regardless of the source (& do it every time).
- Don’t Share, re-post or ReTweet without following all links.
- Don’t repin without tracing the image back to its source.
- If you’re unsure of the content or it’s source – DON’T SHARE IT!
It may take longer, but a few minutes now can save your brand reputation (and the time to repair it later).