Twitter has released direct messaging (DM) from the shackles of the 140-character limit. This move has many users praising Twitter while others have started running for the hills. Why? In this blog, we’ll explain what these changes mean for users and discuss best practices for getting direct messaging right.
Why Twitter Changed Direct Messaging?
The 140-character limit obviously restricted the amount of characters used in private messaging, but it did more than just that. You weren’t able to have a long discussion with someone in one swoop, reach out to someone that wasn’t following you, or have others message you if they weren’t following you. These limitations frustrated users so much that many never used it or stopped using the feature.
Now one may wonder if Twitter made the changes to direct messaging to honestly appease the masses or was it the competition that started popping up that forced Twitter to make the upgrades. Apps such as Snapchat and Whats App might have had something to do with the recent rollout, as these apps don’t have a character limit and have some pretty innovative features that were leaving Twitter in the dust.
Seeing the competition and the decline of private messaging, Twitter knew it was time to drop the 140-character limit. Twitter positioned the change in an effort to serve the public better. Today’s Twitter’s direct messaging allows you to:
- Communicate one on one or a group of people
- Send messages without following other users
- Access direct messaging using a button placed on profile pages
- Add photos and emoticons to direct messages
- Opt in to send and receive messages from any Twitter user
Please note: Many of these changes are still in progress and vary by device and area.
5 Best Practices for Twitter Direct Messaging
While opening up these options to users may seem like loosening your waistband after Christmas dinner, users have to be careful how they use direct messaging. There’s a Pandora’s box waiting to be opened, unlocking flying errors and bad PR moves.
Fortunately, we have some best practices for direct messaging:
Use DMs to interact with other users and businesses.
Olsy Sorokina, blogger at Hootsuite, mentions that many industry experts and high-profile businesses receive a huge volume of mentions every day and sending them a tweet with just a mention may not be enough to get the user’s attention. Twitter has a function now where you can embed a tweet in a direct message. Doing this will help get your tweet noticed by the most popular users out there and increases the chance for a response.
Address customer service issues.
Customers can address customer requests using private messaging. Not only are businesses most likely to respond in a timely manner, but having it documented in this tool will help leave a paper trail should it need to be referenced later.
Always be responsive.
Regardless of the situation, any direct message should have a response. Of course, assess what kind of response is needed. Is the direct message spam? Is it a customer reaching out with a question? Legitimate messages require a timely response, especially on Twitter. Simply ignoring a message from another user may have its own consequences.
Avoid sales and spam.
Do not use Twitter messaging to send sales tweets or, worse off, spam users. Direct messages are meant for conversation, not for a sales pitch. Doing anything of the sort guarantees a drop in followers quickly.
Be cautious when using auto-responses.
Ever get flooded with direct messages after following other users? Do they ever offer anything of value? Use auto responses to engage with followers and assure them that following you is a good decision. We’ll talk more about auto responses below.
A Few More Notes on Auto-Responses
If you were to ask what Twitter users thought about using auto-responder messages, there’s a split vote between using them and avoiding them at all costs. Many say that using an auto responder is a bad idea, is disingenuous, and displays an inability to engage. While there’s a strong sense to avoid auto responses, many advocate them as long as they’re done right. Think about it. You receive how many followers a day and night, and need to figure out how to respond to each and every person. Auto responses can be helpful. If you choose to use them you need to ensure they are adding to the future conversation.
Here are some things to remember when setting up auto responses:
Provide value – Sending a “Thank you for the follow,” message isn’t very valuable and is almost annoying if that’s all you’re responding with. Let your followers know you appreciate the follow and present another call to action to connect with you further.
Ask a question – These responses are not expected, and they show you’re interested in what followers have to say. If your followers respond to your questions, make sure you don’t leave them high and dry.
Include links – Be careful when including links. Twitter has a specific policy on what you can include. Some links to websites or products may come off as a spammy and might actually result in you losing followers. However, links to your other social channels and blogs are perfectly fine and encouraged.
Track links – What’s the point of including links if you’re not going to track who’s actually clicking on them? Measure what you’re sending out. If it’s not getting a response, change it or lose it altogether.
Offer a freebie – People like free stuff. Offering free things is such a creative way, with significant return, to respond to tweets, mentions, or follows asking users to download a free white paper, read a blog post, or offer a discount on a workshop you lead.
Direct Messaging is a Powerful Tool
If done right, Twitter’s direct messaging tool can have a tremendous impact on both a Twitter user and a business. After all Twitter is known for being an engagement channel, so why use direct messaging for anything other that? Tame the sales pitch. This is not the channel for it. Focus on conversation, responsiveness, and offering value to Twitter users and you’ll start to see the benefits of using Twitter direct messaging.