Can direct messages on Twitter enhance consumers’ experience?

Joanna Michaels, Director
Inspired by my recent Twitter discussion with a managing director of Strawberry Social, Rebecca Fitzgerald, I decided to write a post about one of Twitter’s most controversial features – direct messaging.
We all have seen the typical auto- DM that lacks personalization or any other consideration for the recipient. These range from general ‘thank you’ messages to a variety of pushy, promotional posts encouraging, or at times even begging to check, follow or like a blog, Facebook page or a podcast. The majority of Twitter users are so fed up with these non-personal spammy interactions that they delete any auto-DMs that land in their inbox, or often unfollow the sender altogether. The impersonal and mostly spammy character of DMs doesn’t agree with the very nature of social media. Social media users look for opportunities for genuine human interactions, meaning they simply don’t respond to robots. Twitter has recently introduced some changes to its direct messaging feature. One of them removed the 140 character limit that restricted the length of private messages. This change was welcomed by many, who appreciated the enhanced opportunity for self-expression. Some, however, criticized it greatly for eliminating the brevity that most users cherish about Twitter. The other even more important update allowed users to send direct messages to others, regardless of the fact whether or not they follow each other. The new feature is turned off by default and in order to receive direct messages from anybody and everybody, users need to adjust settings manually. This change is of major importance for businesses, as in the past they were unable to directly respond to queries received from non-followers. This significant communication barrier has now been removed. However, businesses need to tread carefully and respect consumers’ privacy, particularly when it comes to using the new feature for sending direct messages to consumers (both followers and non-followers). Receiving unexpected communications from brands may be perceived as intrusive and result in a backlash. Brands will need to learn how to use this feature strategically, focusing on customer service excellence as opposed to self-promotion. So let’s take a closer look at direct messaging feature to establish how it can enhance consumer’s experience. While DMs can be terribly annoying, one can use this feature in a much more considerate way. It boils down to a simple rule, which is pretty universal when it comes to social media; I’m talking here about adding value. So if your DM is aimed at adding value through sharing a link to a free e-book download, a coupon code or any other short-term promotion that can benefit your existing connections, then by all means, send it! You may also consider sending a DM with a direct link to your Linkedin profile if you are looking to connect and network with your Twitter followers on a more professional level. If you decide to include a question in the content of your message, make sure you monitor your account for responses and handle them in a timely fashion, to maximize the opportunity for personalized engagement. DMs can also be very helpful when dealing with delicate customer service matters, personal information or when trying to move a public complaint into a private conversation. If a customer complained about your product or service, by mentioning your brand’s Twitter handle, ensure that you respond to it by requesting to move the conversation into direct messaging. That way you can let everyone know that you acknowledged the mention and you are working on resolving the issue. It also proves that your business is positively encouraging personalized communications with its clients. Finally, remember to measure the success of your direct message communications, if you are using the feature for conversions, i.e. downloads, subscriptions or coupons. You can do it by simply adding a link to your message and using a link tracking platform like I hope you found this post helpful, if you have any questions or suggestions I would love to hear from you, so please get in touch via TwitterLinkedin or Facebook.

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