Twitter Autofollow and Auto DM Etiquette

Twitter Autofollow and Auto DM Etiquette

Mumma duck and kids Ah, to follow or not to follow – that is the question. But to AUTO follow or not to auto follow – that is a whole other question! And to AUTO DM?! Eek.

I received this DM recently from a Twitter bud:

“Please post me a link to something that answers the etiquette of the autofollow? Plus the rationale. I do without  knowing why.”

First, regards following, my policy from day one is to follow everyone back. Here are my two primary reasons why:

  1. Following those peeps back on Twitter who follow you says “hey, thanks for caring about what I have to say… I also care about what you have to say.”
  2. When both parties follow each other, you now have the ability to Direct Message (DM) – which is a private exchange between you and the other person and does not go out in the public Twitter stream.

I always like to say, “You never know when your next $100k client wants to DM you.” Granted there are other ways of reaching you – but Twitter is just SO darn efficient. And why create barriers for contact? I’ve made a LOT of lucrative deals as a direct result of having my DM feature decidedly ON! 😉


Regards automatically following those folks back who follow you: I first got started on Twitter in summer of 2007 and I was merrily building my following to about 7,000 a year later. I always manually followed back and didn’t auto DM. Then my velocity cranked up and I simply couldn’t keep up with following back.

So, I now automatically follow back using @jesse‘s platform I enjoy the extra features Jesse has, including the anti-spam setting – where the system unfollows anyone who unfollows you within x days. (One hallmark of a spammer is to follow 2000 people then when you follow them back, they unfollow you so they can go follow more peeps!)

Auto DM?

At first, I also chose to auto-DM all peeps I followed. I experimented with a simple invitation to access my 7 Day Facebook Marketing Tips with a link to my blog. Then I nixed that as I grew weary of receiving links myself.

Next, I used a message that encouraged my followers to let me know if they had any questions about Facebook and Twitter – oops, opened the floodgates on that one and couldn’t keep up.

image Then I just included a friendly message that merges in the first name field, e.g. “Greetings Roberta! It’s great to meet you in Twitterland.” But even that was starting to feel mechanical and inauthentic as I, again, received similar auto messages myself.

Not only that, it’s hard to strip out the bona fide DMs from all the auto-junk. I have my DM’s coming into my email and one of my VA’s filters them to identify important/urgent messages.

I’ve now opted out of of incoming and outgoing AUTO DMs via and [However, I gotta share – check out‘s suite of features on their paid version, including ability to send DMs to all followers.]

I’m not here to tell you what to do – it’s all a personal choice. I’m just sharing my experience!

What do you think? Do you autofollow everyone? If not, why not? Do you include an auto DM? I’d love to know what results you’ve achieved with the auto DMs – I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise on this one! lol.

Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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  1. Amy Harrison on March 4, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I used to think that an auto DM was a friendly way of reaching people who chose to follow me – until I started receiving them and had to say it did feel like a mechanical response. I don’t autofollow everyone, but I do check out everyone who follows me and I try to decide who I would be interested in following. I usually follow most people back as I think I can always stop following if I don’t enjoy their tweets – but you never know when that tweet of wisdom is going to come from someone!

  2. Sandy McMullen on March 4, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I am grateful that you are addressing this Mari. I don’t auto DM because I find them so hollow when I receive them especially when they are self-promoting.

    As for autofollow I still select people who are actually participating. Anyone with 1 promotional update following thousands I don’t boher but I can see that your strategy is much more efficient. I may try it in the future I still like to check people out to see if they are someone that I want to connect with right away about their site or something they are talking about.

    Sandy McMullen’s last blog post.. Survival Games by Design: Know Yourself and Stay Alive

  3. Laurie Phillips on March 4, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    I used to read auto-dms and check out the links but it became difficult to keep up because I got so many. I understand that for some (OK, for a small number), it will be the only self-promotion they do on Twitter, but I’ve still turned them off. I get too much email to make them a priority anymore.

    Like you, I auto-follow for the exact same reason. I never know who knows someone who knows someone else who needs my services, even if my follower doesn’t fit the profile of a potential client. After all, Twitter IS all about networking, right?

  4. David on March 4, 2009 at 5:24 pm



    I love that you shared your own experiences in this article in such an unbiased manner. I have had similar experiences with my non-personal Twitter account originally used to share info on activities and things to do in the DC area. Oh, the hate responses we received from providing a simple link to our site…

    Twitter “purists” should take note that Twitter (nor any social platform) was meant to be used in a single way. It is the unconventional and yes, different ways (some of them cheesy) that makes Twitter such a flavorful and rich environment.

    For my personal account, I have removed auto-follow so I can personally follow up in the hopes of striking up new conversations. It’s not always timely but it works for me right now. I do like your thinking about not missing out on any opportunities though.

    I also have a very low-key “thank you” message for auto-DM. I jazz up the message now and then but keep it from sounding too much like a robotic response.

    One last note:

    If you’re new to Twitter, it’s okay to experiment. Be imaginative and different when you can. I don’t always visit Twitter homepages so I like the links. Keep ’em comin’…

    Don’t limit yourself but keep in mind that you have to live in the Twitterverse with the rest of us.

  5. Andrea J. Stenberg on March 4, 2009 at 4:40 pm


    I was in a session on Twitter at Podcamp Toronto and this subject came up. A VERY heated discussion ensued. The consensus was people HATE automated DMs. Several people said they immediately unfollow anyone who sends an auto DM.

    I wrote about it on my blog and got a lot of interesting comments from my readers too.

    I personally like the links … if they are offering something free and of value. The generic, thanks for following comments I don’t like. I know they’re not from a live person.

  6. Jay Philips on March 5, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I don’t think auto-follow or auto-dm is a good thing. How is automating those being social?

  7. Denise Wakeman on March 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I autofollow as I subscribe to the same philosophy that you never know where your next client is coming from or how they would like to contact you. I also experimented with auto DM: first giving away a freebie (most people thanked me, a couple berated me for the giving the gift!), the moved to a welcome msg and then stopped auto DM altogether. Guess I followed the same trajectory. I’m not sure about the feature to DM everyone; could easily be abused, but I’m open to considering it.

    Denise Wakeman’s last blog post.. 8 Tips for Creating Video Tips

  8. Michael Stelzner on March 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm


    I auto follow and auto dm.

    However, my auto dm’s are very different.

    I do not promote myself or try to engage in discussion.

    Instead, I provide a simple link to an article that was NOT written by me on a topic I know my audience is interested in.

    Now, here’s some food for thought.

    When email first came out, it was a very private thing and people hated getting auto-response messages after a form was filled out (for example opting into a newsletter).

    But over time, it became a common and smart marketing practice to try and engage people.

    I see Twitter a lot like someone filling out a form on my site.

    I think as marketers we need to weigh the importance of engaging the follower in the same way we engage the email follower.

    Those who do not, I think risk the possibility of never connecting with a follower.

    Just put your marketing cap on and realize that we are using a social medium for a marketing purpose.

    Auto DMs are a fact of life. They will never go away. So let’s get smart about using them and not cave just because a few vocal people say stop. Rather let’s actually give people something valuable and non-promotional.

    Michael Stelzner’s last blog post.. Smart Marketing: Video Interview With David Meerman Scott

  9. Ash on March 4, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I really don’t understand the argument against Auto DMs. Like any communication, it can be inauthentic and abused but that doesn’t make it useless. If that were the case, we should all log off the Internet and go back to phone calls and faxes.

    I believe that Auto DMs have their place. I don’t use them currently because I don’t have to. However, I recommend it to clients where it makes sense with the idea that the message changes over time and follow up is required.

    Whatever you do, be yourself. Be active. Be involved.

  10. Kenny Barrow on March 4, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Good Post Mari!
    I have also gone through the same issues. I do auto delete those who unfollow me it’s only fair.
    “I always say what goes around comes around, be careful!”

  11. Lorrette on March 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Hey Mari

    Seems the subject of auto DM’s is one that sparks real passion. I personally don’t warm to the obviously automated ones but unless you go with the paid version, which many may not be in a position to do, perhaps a good rule of thumb would be to at least offer a useful gift or, as Andrea suggests, offer something of value.

    I absolutely agree with your comments on following everyone who follows you. Everyone is a potential client. I did not know about @jesse’s platform so I shall be looking into that and thanks for the tip.

  12. Yvette on March 4, 2009 at 7:51 pm


    Great question, and I like that you have shared your experiences with us.

    I’m a fairly new user of Twitter and still kind of learning the ropes.

    Currently, I do Auto DM, and have to be honest it does not feel authentic, but its a quick way for me to reach out to people who decide to follow me.

    Just like when you are introduced to someone, a quick hello and then you start building the relationship.

    In the beginning I did have a link to my website, but it just did not feel right, and frankly they can easily just click on my link from my bio.

    Then I changed it to a simple message similar to yours, but could not keep up.

    Then when I started following “carrie wilkerson” I really liked her Auto DM and somewhat changed mine modeling hers, becuase it did not feel so robotic, if you know what i mean.

    And that’s how I’ve left it for now.

    I don’t auto follow everyone, but I do try to check out everyone who follows me and select to follow people who are actively participating & providing value. Not just self-promoting.

    However, your points on Auto Follow are very valid and its food for thought for me.

    I think you just have to experiment and see what works best for you and it also depends on your biz strategy too. I guess just be active & provide value its all about networking – right?

    Anyhoo, for me the jury is still out.
    For now, a quick hello (no self-promotion) and then making sure you interact with your new followers (if time permits) works for me.

    Bravo, on this post, Mari!

  13. Ian Stone on March 4, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Hi Mari,
    Thank you for this information. As someone new to both Facebook and Twitter it is wonderful to get some commonsense advice.

    With Love for I Love You
    Ian Stone – Metaphysician & Founder of HEART Energy Healing System,
    Human Energy Assessment Release Treatments
    Simple ways to Heal Your Human Life Energy Fields
    Metaphysical Institute
    Metaphysical Institute Blog

  14. Dr Wright on March 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I unfollow if you start magpies and using ads. I want to hear about what YOU are doing however, I do not want an ad

    Dr Letitia Wright
    The Wright Place TV Show

  15. Kathy Colaiacovo on March 4, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Mari, You are always so full of information! It’s always appreciated!


  16. Nancy Marmolejo, Viva Visibility on March 4, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Thanks for the post Mari, I often wonder how others are thinking on this subject.

    I go back and forth in my mind about auto-follow and auto-dm.

    I love the time it saves me, and I’m all about saving time. (My life is not spent plugged in, I have a family to look after and a business to run).

    What I dislike is the way people abuse these features and start spamming. I am adamantly opposed to people auto-following/auto-dm’ing me with links, I think that’s tacky. If you really want me to read something, why not put it in the public stream and gift it to everyone?

    For now, I will continue using it as it saves me time. But I’m going to keep a close watch on things and weigh out whether stopping this practice is worth it.


  17. Megan on March 4, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Great article! Does anyone know how much tweetlater pro costs, and how do you all feel about free v. pro?

  18. ian david chapman on March 5, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Hi Mari,
    great post, I have followed a similar route that you took. I follow back everyone who follows me. Regarding DM’s the climate is definitely changing, @alexkaris did a survey recently and 70% of people disliked auto DM’s, that was when I finally turned mine off.
    Etiquette is so difficult to pin down because its often so personal and in social media its constantly changing. What was cool and new one month becomes lame and spammy the next.

    ian david chapman’s last blog post.. How To Manage Your Personal Friends And Business Contacts On Facebook

  19. Sam Adkins on March 5, 2009 at 8:33 am

    I agree about following back. It seesm kind of arrogant to me that I might have people follow me but not be prepared to DM them when invited. I have a tweetlater auto Dm with definitely NO links. It just thanks the person for following and looks forward to getting to know them. Thanks for the tips on jesse’s aoftware. Will check it out!

  20. Jesse Stay on March 5, 2009 at 2:38 am

    Mari, in order to be a good corporate citizen, we actually removed Auto-follow completely on SocialToo. We’re taking the lead here, and in fact leading the charge to compete in the exact opposite space of helping you stop the spam. If you join us we’ll be adding as many services as we can to allow you to block auto-dm. Thanks for the great mention, Mari!

    Jesse Stay

  21. Jesse Stay on March 5, 2009 at 2:38 am

    BTW, you can read more about our move on our blog –

  22. Bill on March 5, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Do you include an auto DM?

    How do you do this?

  23. Rheda Wilson-Duff on March 5, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Thank you for the information. Being fairly new to twitter, I never understood how to thank people for following if it wasn’t done via DM. Where would I find the time to do it? Your information is far more informative than anything I’ve seen yet.

  24. Janet beckers on March 5, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Hey Mari thanks for this post. In the past etiquette was all about please, thank you and the one i could never understand about “may I leave the table I ahave had eloquent sufficiency”. Now it is twitter etiquette and is no less important.
    I always apply the same rules to twitter as to an offline networking event. Auto dms to me are the same as the person who hands you their business card when introduced – very tacky. So I turned mine off. Better just to concentrate on helping people. This always works with off line networking.

    Janet beckers’s last blog post.. Get Your Head Straight

  25. June A. Yasol on March 5, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Check this link, it might alter your question:


  26. Amanda o"Brien on March 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks for the great post. When I first joined Twitter I was excited to DM people after they started following me but yes, after awhile it became too much. The auto DMs are so annoying and fake. I get very discouraged when I get an auto DM from a new follow.

    I applaud you for being able to follow everyone back. After my 300th Real Estate follower and my 400th Social Media Expert and my 200th fitness/bodybuilding expert – I decided to look a persons feed over before I follow them back. I am very proud of the quality of my twitter feed. I only wish there were more hours in the day to read all of them.

    I also found using is a great tool to see of your followers who is following you back and who is following you and you aren’t following back.

    Hope that is of some help and again thanks for all you do Mari!

    Amanda o”Brien’s last blog post.. Facebook Changing Layout Again

  27. Madalyn Sklar on March 6, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Hey Mari,

    Great post! I too have debated on this subject. Until I found SocialToo I did it all manually – follows and DMs. SocialToo has made it easier to reciprocate followers because I believe in following back. I was using the auto-DM feature but in a non-robotic way. I got great response from it! I am disappointed to find out it has been removed. After reading Jesse’s blog post it makes sense. Thanks Jesse! I agree that many are abusing DMs. I’m a big believer in using social networks as a 2-way street. I help bands promote themselves on Myspace and it’s frustrating to see so many of them disable HTML code in their comment box only to use it widely themselves. They don’t get it.

    Madalyn Sklar’s last blog post.. FREE Teleseminar: "The Ins & Outs of Facebook and Twitter"

  28. Eleanore Duyndam on March 6, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Hi Mari,

    I don’t mind people sending me an autoDM when they follow/followback. The numbers are just too large to respond to every follow with a personal message. I don’t use autoDM for any types of promotion, only to say “thanks for following and I’m following you back”…AND I include a my link!
    I guess I’m different than most people, in that I don’t mind if people give me a link to their product, service or offer in their autoDM to me when following. I actually appreciate the link, because I want to find out more about them and it makes it easier for me that they have given me the link. So, I treat others how I want to be treated. I have a radio show and I assume that they are following me because they’d like to hear the show. So I give them the link to my show in my auto follow DM.

    I don’t take any of it too seriously and I try not to be offended or worried about how other people decide to use twitter.

  29. Bob Meetin on March 8, 2009 at 7:03 pm


    I’m still a relative newbie to social media so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I’m taking an incremental, specific path to increasing both followers and followings, both in the neighborhood of 300 at this time. Yes like the rest of the bandwagon I could follow techniques outlined to increase your followers to 1000 or 10,000, but the numbers mean nothing without knowledge and a plan.

    I’m running along in very manual mode, not running with auto-dm’s or auto-follow’s yet. Laboriously manual mode – I first look at a potential’s bio/twitter page and look at the numbers of followers, how many they are following, and the number of tweets. I probably follow 90% of those who find me, my business account. Most of the other look like spam material. 2000 followers and 3 tweets, you know. Or maybe they’re so far off target that it doesn’t make sense.

    I will not be able to do this much longer, but I make an effort to read and learn from as many Tweets as possible. I set up a taxonomy for organizing educational tweets into categories – blogging, CMS, Twitter, social media, SEO. Thus for me, at this time, I need to filter out, in advance, what isn’t “relevant”. I’m sure this will change as I get further along, but for now “auto’s” just aren’t happening.

    P.S. Regarding the Twitter Power Workshop with Joel Comm last Monday – I hung out in the audience; that was great!


  30. Andrea on March 9, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    You rock Mari! I have been keeping up with you for a while and I really like where you went with this article. I believe only in genuine social networking; I don’t know how I will manage when I get as many followers as you; but I love the fact that you are being transparent and regrouped your technique to be more personable; and thanks for the insites I will definately be using and sharing them.

  31. Clarissa McIntosh on March 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I do not auto follow because I do want to see who I am following and actually look at their websites. I do send an auto message to thank people for following me. Then I ask a question that starts conversation. (Mine asks what brings my new follower joy.) I usually get responses to my question, which is cool, and it generates relationship building for me. Just my two cents!! 🙂

  32. Marian Sparks on March 12, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Hi Mari,

    Excellent question! So here’s my practice today (hey the world is ever evolving….)

    AUTO-FOLLOW – I don’t autofollow. Mainly because I want to know who I’m following. I have found people (non-spammers but definitely marketers) who follow me and then unfollow me if I don’t follow them back in the X amount of days. I understand why they do it. But personally I view it as attention getting. If you truly want to connect and I’m slow in getting back with you (perhaps because I’m working on my business), then @ me on Twitter. When we engage, I prioritize following you over the other new followers because I’ve had a chance to get to know you!

    AUTO-DMs – Yes, there’s abuse and yes, it’s odd when you get a DM that is off & even self-serving. My practice of use/non-use has morphed over time as I’ve grown comfortable with my “twitter skin”.
    Initially, I auto-DM how honored I was that we’ve connected. And I truly am, because you never know where that connection will lead! Then I decided that I wanted to engage people more. So I appended the DM to ask the follower a question. Tried a couple of different ones and ended up with “What’s your favorite business topic for conversation?” I received interesting and funny responses that allowed me to connect and engage with fabulous people. So if you’re some aerospace mag and you receive my DMs which seems odd to you, then you’d know that I’m focused on biz.
    Now I no longer use it after speaking directly with twitterers who have 2K plus followers. They speak to how draining and irritating the Auto-DMs are simply because they receive so many of them. But who knows, I may pick it back up again…

    Bottomline, I think the Auto-DMs are appropriate if you’re sending the RIGHT message AND your target audience is the one follow you. Your use or non-use will vary based on Twitter growth both in followers and in building YOUR community on Twitter.


    Marian Sparkss last blog post..11 Dynamic Teleseminarians & Entrepreneurs Who Can Help You Grow Your Business If You Let Them

  33. Regina on March 27, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Hi Mari,

    Super great post. I concur with what you said as well as Denise and Ash. I love twitter and even when someone wants to dm me with a promotion, so be it. I don’t mind. We’re business people with the same agenda… to do business. I say take the one’s that appeal to you and disregard the others. Hiring a VA to handle that for you is also a great option.

    Reginas last blog post..Weekly Press Release Planning

  34. Jimmy Vee on April 9, 2009 at 5:14 am

    As a marketer, I think that you should use every opportunity to get a message in front of qualified prospect and build a more complete relationship. With that being said, there are a few important elements that need to be observed based on what I just said.

    Take notice, I said qualified prospect. If you’re going to use an auto DM with something more than a generic hello, make sure that the people you follow are going to be interested in what you’re offering in your auto DM.

    I think using a boring, irrelevant auto DM is worse than using an auto DM that makes an offer or allows the recipient to get to know you better. Auto DMs that push affiliate offers or MLM type of offers are annoying, unoriginal and as worthless as tits on a bull.

    I personally use an auto DM that shows my personality and reveals my personal style. The auto DM encourages new followers to watch a video so we can get to know each other better.

    The video is created specifically for new twitter and facebook friends and gives people a real taste of who I am and why they would want to follow me and actually read what I have to say. I push the benefits for them of paying attention to my tweets and updates.

    In the video I ask my new friends to take a few additional steps to connect with me on a deeper level. Driving people to my facebook/twitter pages, groups and email newsletter. I have found this works really well. For those who don’t like the video, me or the auto DM… I say screw’em.

    You have to be willing to turn off some to get others to fully embrace you. Try to please everyone and you’ll be invisible to all.

    Jimmy Vee

  35. Dave Fisher on April 14, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Mari, great topic. I am new to Twitter and still trying to get a grip on it.

    Bill, In response to your question
    My advice, is try it the free version , you will have to report each auto Tweets daily , that will take a bit of time. Once you got a handle on it in a few days then sign up for the Free Trial of the Professional edition. If you like it and it works for you then it is 30$ a month or just revert back to free version and post messages daily again.
    If you cannot make 30$ a month on Twitter then you might try something else.?

    I use auto Reply to new followers only. Just a Hi and thx but NO link to anything.

    I have not tried the AUTO DM yet but it is very interesting that you can send a mail to your followers just like you would a mail from your list.
    Does anyone know how this works ? Does it get read?


  36. Putra Eka on September 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I was using socialtoo to auto-follow my twitter followers. But since I heard that twitter will be ban the auto-follow account I stopped. Now I’m using to tweepi to manage my followers

  37. ???? ?????? on June 22, 2014 at 3:25 am

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  39. Sam Jackson on February 13, 2016 at 10:04 am

    I can also confirm that TwitterDMer is not working… I will try TweetManager. It also appears that True Twit gives the option to automate messages to new followers, I’ll check that.

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