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I realize beginning a new blog with a snarky as hell post might be a recipe for disaster.  But you know what they say:  “blog about your passion.”  I certainly hope I won’t be writing only about these types of issues, but this is one that’s been tugging at my brain for many weeks…and I’ve got to start somewhere.

There are many ways to make the internet cry, and I hope to highlight all those ways over time.  The plan is to highlight the worst the internet has to offer, whether that be a specific site, app, practice, tendency or perhaps even a person.  I hope to update this series weekly, but we’ll see how it goes.

Today I want to chat about the notion of the “Twitter Follow Direct Message Response”. For a long time now, I was under the impression that I was the only one that hated this practice, but it appears I am not alone.  Augie Ray posted a thoughtful post a few days ago that also called this practice into question.  After my initial draft of this post was completed at lunch today, Augie Ray posted a follow up that included the results of a survey that suggests a great many of you likely agree that this practice is spammy as hell.  To my way of thinking, the auto DM serves no real purpose.   It has been adopted by many Social Media Gurus and other wannabes within the Twitterverse and it drives me absolutely insane.

Personally, I’ve adopted a policy of automatically unfollowing anyone that responds to my follow notification with a DM of any sort.  One day I hope to turn this crusade into a true Internet Movement or at least a meme.  In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to categorize the various types of DM responses (along with examples & commentary) that I have seen just over the last two months.  In order to protect the “innocent” I’ve made up personas contained in quotes in the content that follows.

Inane and Cheerful

Welcome to my Twitter world.  I hope you enjoy my Tweets.  Have a wonderful day.

OK.  What purpose does this serve?  I get it.  You’re perpetually cheerful.  Other than spreading your positive energy throughout the universe, what does this DM do to engage me?  Are you asking me a question? Beginning a conversation? Adding value of any sort whatsoever?  Hardly.  So why do it?  Seriously.  It’s not YOUR Twitter world.  And the reason why I followed you was because I either A) was already enjoying your tweets, or B) had hoped to one day enjoy your tweets.  But now you’ve ruined it.  Completely. <unfollow>

Downright Silly (and possibly nefarious)

Life is like Mario Brothers you gotta slam a few dragons before you get a pronces visit “http://spammybit.lylink.com

Huh?  You must be a complete idiot, or trolling for someone to click a link and hoping to increase that conversion rate by being cute and off-beat.  Whatever.  <unfollow>

Validation Service

“Overly pious dipshit” uses TrueTwit validation service.  To Validate click here: “http://truetwit.com/IAmPompous&Special

Maybe there is a use vase for TrueTwit that I just can’t seem to get my head around.  Answer this question for me.  What is the harm in your twitter account being “followed” by a bot, or some other nefarious agent?  I’m not suggesting that being followed by bots is a good thing, but I don’t necessarily see the harm in it.  Instead, what you’ve done by utilizing this service is create a barrier to building relationships with real, honest, decent, presumably hard-working humans.  I will admit that I have on occasion clicked through and validated I am a human with this service, but no more.  You send me a DM with this type of service, and I simply ignore.  The exact same result as <unfollow>.

Overtly Promotional

Thanks for following us get SEO, PPC, Web Analytics, Mobile & Video Services at “XYZ” web site “http://xuzurl.com

This isn’t TOO bad, but it assumes a couple of things.  First, it assumes I don’t know much about you.  Further, it assumes I want to know more about you.  Lastly, it assumes I want to click through to your website to find out those things.  Look, we only just met.  I may have followed you because of one single tweet that was retweeted.  Or, I may have just been on a kick and followed a bunch of other people that were on a list.  In short, we’re still complete strangers.  When I’m realy interested in you (like after you’ve added value to me or my tribe) then maybe I’ll take the time to check out your site and see a bit more about what you offer.  Until then , this level of detail is unwanted, unwarranted and unwelcome.  Kind of like meeting a complete stranger in a bar and having them whip out a credit report and a college transcript for you to inspect. <unfollow>.

Confusing Social Media Channels

Love to connect with you on Facebook also.  http://facebook.com/I’mConfusedAboutSocialMediaChannels

This is a particular pet peeve of mine.  I believe that many people in this crazy world we call social media use various channels for different purposes.  I may be wrong (let me know your thoughts in the comment section below).  Personally, I use LinkedIn to build my professional network.  Generally, I connect with people I’ve worked with or admire and would someday like to work with on LinkedIn.  Facebook is different.  I limit my connections there to personal friends.  I do not connect with my work colleagues there – ESPECIALLY my team members both upstream and down (unless or until we no longer work together).  Facebook is for family members, personal friends and old acquaintances from school days.  There are a few exceptions, but typically I only add people to this group after we’ve shared a few drinks and/or stories together, and even then it’s not a sure thing.  I don’t commingle these two groups with my twitter connections, and I don’t think you should either.  Generally speaking, I do NOT want to read your tweets in my Facebook or LinkedIn streams.  There are a few people that are exceptions to this rule, but that’s a post for a different day (in fact, this concept of channel definition may be the next installment of THINGS THAT MAKE THE INTERNET CRY).  Anyway, the fact that you don’t understand these two beasts are different is troubling to me on a level that makes me want to <unfollow>.

The Combo Pack

Thanks for following “our overly important selves”.  We go on the air real soon with reports on remaking a very special industry.  Become our Friend on Facebook, too!

Wow.  This one combines the last two into one.  First you’re assuming I know or give a hoot about what you’re working on, and second you’re assuming I want to friend you on Facebook?  Ummmm, no.  <unfollow>.

So what are your thoughts?  I’ve had a few pleasant exchanges with tweeple that follow me after tweeting about my <unfollow> policy.  Many seem to be rethinking their practices.  Do you DM people that follow you?  If so, why?  Do the survey results outlined by Augie Ray change your mind about whether this is a good practice?  How do you respond to people that DM you after you follow?  Do you unfollow? Do you inform them of your displeasure?  What’s the best way to change this behavior across as wide a swath of Twitter users as possible?

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Sean McGinnis

Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct
Sean McGinnis is Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct. He is also a (digital strategist, blogger, consultant ) and public speaker. You can find Sean on