Twitter Direct Messages: Why I Don’t Read Them Anymore

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When I spoke at the Cool Twitter Conference in Los Angeles recently (I’ll be speaking there again in San Francisco on September 24 and in Orange County, CA on November 5), there were many in attendance who mentioned that they didn’t even use their personal email anymore to communicate with their friends.  After all, all of their friends were on Twitter, and they all had their Twitter accounts activated so that Direct Messages sent to them would automatically be sent to their cell phones.  Why bother with email?

In fact, a friend at the conference asked why I hadn’t responded to her recent Direct Message.  After all, I had received it on my cell phone, right?  Wrong!  The default setting for in Twitter is that you do not receive text messages from Twitter Direct Messages on your cell phone, the simple reason being that it could cost you money and therefore needs your approval.  I used to have email notices sent to me when I received Direct Messages, but like many other people, I chose not to receive them because that is exactly what the spammers want to happen!

Long story short, I only read my Twitter Direct Messages when I access Twitter to tweet.  I look at them after I look at my @Replies.  But, to be honest with you, I am starting to not even bother looking at them anymore…

Twitter Direct Messages: Why I Don’t Read Them Anymore

With more than 20,000 followers, it is true that I get more communications in general than the average Twitter user.  But with so many people joining Twitter, and so many companies seeing Twitter as a new marketing channel, it is not hard to imagine any Twitter user quickly increasing their follower count into the hundreds over the next several weeks should they choose to do so.  And with that will come an influx of both Automated Direct Messages and clearly Direct Messages that I would refer to as spam.

I did my best by telling people why you should not send Automated Direct Messages on Twitter.  I would spend time actually replying to every Direct Message I received with a shortcut to that post.  Well, as you can imagine, it has done nothing to stop the influx of Direct Messages, although I may have lost some followers in the process.

The net-net is that, despite the spam filters that I have put in place (which I will blog about in the future), I sometimes receive over 100+ Direct Messages in one day!  You can imagine how important communications can get lost in here, so I am starting to tell friends who use Twitter Direct Messages to either send me an @Reply (preferable), or if it is personal to send me an old fashioned email 😉

If you think about it, LinkedIn and Facebook do not have this problem because only Twitter has an API that allows 3rd parties to create an Automated Direct Message application.  If Twitter would simply start disallowing people to utilize those automated services, I think that my Direct Messages would be readable again.

Of course, if too many people start sending too many @Replies that should not be for public consumption, another issues is raised.  Social Media Today had an interesting article on this subject recently entitled “Eight Twitter Habits That May Get You Unfollowed,” and indeed the article recommends that many people should use the Direct Message instead of an @Reply to send a personal message.  I think a healthy portion of @Replies, if done properly, actually shows a personable side to you that will hopefully strengthen your brand.  Rule of thumb: if it’s something you wouldn’t be embarrassed to mention in front of others that can overhear you at a Starbucks, I think you’re OK putting it in an @Reply, so long as you tweet @Replies in moderation.

So that’s my new policy: I will not read Twitter Direct Messages anymore.  And I will ask my friends who “DM” me to send me an @Reply or email wherever possible.  How about you?  Do you still use Twitter Direct Messages efficiently?  Do any of you have a similar experience?  Would love to hear from you!

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Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
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Neal Schaffer
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  1. says

    Very interesting post. I wonder though, if Twitter reduces the amount of email (hooray!) then will email become effective for marketing again? I would liken that to some recent articles suggesting that with the reduction of junk snail mail, now snail mail might be effective for direct marketers again. Just a random thought, which is where random minds tend to go.

    As to your main point, don't you think that it would be good to maintain both options – DMs and @reply? That way, depending how many followers you have, you could use whichever is most efficient. Although, I would like to see Twitter do something about the level of spam; or someone come up with an effective 3rd party app to control it.


    • says


      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Interesting comment on snail mail. These days there’s probably a higher chance that you’ll at least look at snail mail than spam. I guess the issue is with social networking sites it is very easy to blast a message (Twitter being the easiest) and it is free!

      It would be ideal to maintain the DM system, but I really think Twitter HAS to do something to remedy the situation. Yes, I do use tools so that I avoid the spammers, but the spammers get more sophisticated in technique so it is impossible to avoid them. When email first started there was no spam filter…if Twitter wants to get to the next level, they really need to develop a “DM Spam Filter”.

      – Neal

  2. InnaRE_LA says

    I'm on the same page with u, Neal.
    I don't read DM on Twitter, though, I know what I'm getting, since Twitter forwards them into my email. Some of them need to be answered, they ask me more info about my posts( as u know, I use Twitter to post my RE updates), but !majority! of them are AM. It is very annoying, even if it is simple 'thanks for following', still….
    sorry, I don't answer them.

    Happy Twittering:)

  3. says

    Hi Inna,

    Nice to see you here 😉 I'm glad we're on the same page. It really is a shame, but the more followers you get, there are always going to be some that send you spam, whether it be real spam or an automated message. Why can't Twitter start using a spam filter like Gmail?

    – Neal

  4. says

    Hi Inna,

    Nice to see you here 😉 I'm glad we're on the same page. It really is a shame, but the more followers you get, there are always going to be some that send you spam, whether it be real spam or an automated message. Why can't Twitter start using a spam filter like Gmail?

    – Neal

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