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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 http://socialtoo.com. 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 http://tweetlater.com and http://socialtoo.com. [However, I gotta share – check out http://tweetlater.com‘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

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is widely known as the Premier Facebook Marketing Expert and a top Social Media Thought Leader. Forbes describes Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” IBM named Mari as one of seven women that are shaping digital marketing. Mari is an in-demand keynote speaker, corporate social media strategist, dynamic live webcast host, and popular brand ambassador. She is coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day, and author of The New Relationship Marketing.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!


  3. 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.

  4. 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"

  5. 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 http://friendorfollow.com/ 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

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

    Check this link, it might alter your question:


  7. 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

  8. 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.

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

    Do you include an auto DM?

    How do you do this?

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

    BTW, you can read more about our move on our blog – http://blog.socialtoo.com

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