Why I Auto Follow and DM on Twitter

Posted by Kristi Hines - November 11, 2010 - Social Media - 7 Comments

In a follow-up to Mark’s post yesterday on whether to follow or not to follow on Twitter, and what criteria you use to determine whether to follow someone, I thought I would share the Twitter strategy I have been using for the past year. I do two things that some people in the Twitter world consider a no-no. I auto follow everyone who follows me back, and I send an automated direct message to those who follow me using Social Oomph, a free service.

Why the Automated Strategy?

A week or two ago, I was asked on Twitter why I didn’t send a personalized greeting publicly to my new followers. I’m not trying to brag by any means, but I get anywhere from 10 to 60+ followers a day, with exception to the 7th where I only got 3 followers. Needless to say, it would be tough to check out all my new followers on a daily basis and reply to each of them.

Direct Messages

So, instead of replies, I go with direct messages. I alternate the DM’s regularly. For a few months leading up to Blog World, I asked new followers if they would be attending the event, and received several responses from people who were attending who I later got to meet, which was exciting.

My current direct message is a simple: “Thanks for following! Do you have a question about blogging, social media, or search marketing? Please let me know!”

The responses have been pretty good recently, with several people daily taking me up on the offer and asking questions. These questions have usually required 3 – 4 DM answers, and one I invited to email me because it was a lot more in-depth. So anyone who asks gets a personal answer, and the knowledge that while I automate a portion of my responses, I back them up with personalization as well.

The bonus for me? Several of these questions are going to lead to great post topics!

Auto Following

The auto following ties directly into the direct messaging, as people cannot message someone if that person is not following them. Aside from just the initial DM contact, I have a lot of great interaction with people I have been following for awhile through DM, which wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t following them. Also, I have received several messages that I was happy people chose to DM me about instead of publicly tweeting, such as the times when my website was hacked or when someone was sending a link to a site scraping my content (definitely don’t want those guys to get any public tweets for being jerks).

Twitterfeed

My other automated strategy is executed through Twitterfeed, which allows me to automatically share blog posts from sites I like on Twitter. There are sites out there that hands down come out with nothing but great content, and for those, I feel no need to review the content before I send it out to my followers. It allow me to maintain a consistent Twitter presence, even when I’m not able to tweet. And I know it is appreciated, because I will see retweets of those posts by my followers.

Occasionally, (under five times in the last six months) I have gotten some feedback from people who didn’t like a post from a particular site. At that point, I will review the site to see if their content is heading down south, or whether it was just a particularly cranky follower, and make the decision whether to cut that site from my auto feeds or put them on probation. Ultimately, I end up reading all of the content I tweet out automatically, because I use it as a source for my Friday roundups.

Does it Hurt?

Now an explanation for the chosen thumbnail for this post. Does my follower to following ratio balance hurt my Twitter rankings? Not from what I can tell. I currently have a 60 Klout rating and a 100 on Twitter grader. I would say, in terms of Klout, having the Twitterfeed is an advantage as it makes sure my Twitter is being updated with content that people want to retweet, leading to more mentions of my username.

Who Do I Really Follow?

The way I sort my following is through Twitter lists. I have lists for Twitter users who tweet about SEO, social media, blogging, etc. I have personal lists for people I know in real life. I have local lists for those in my area, such as my Arizona bloggers list. I have also been playing around with several Formulists that have proven to be helpful in checking out new followers, seeing who has recently unfollowed me, finding more local followers, and so on.

The Downside

So of course, with any strategy, there are some cons. Being an auto follower means that I get targeted by spam accounts who are just looking to build their follower base by following, getting followed back, and then unfollowing. I periodically flush my following, looking for people who aren’t following me that I don’t recognize, haven’t tweeted in a long time, or have no gravatars. Also, the auto following leads to a nice amount of direct message spam.

But with what I do get from valuable interaction from others via direct messages, I have to say that the cons in this case definitely do not outweigh the pros. It may change in the future, but for the last year, it has been working just fine. And if Chris Brogan can manage it with 160K following, I certainly can with only 10% of that.

Your Thoughts

What are your opinions on automated Twitter interactions and strategy? Please share your thoughts below.

About the Author

Kristi Hines

Kristi is a freelance writer, online marketing consultant, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter.
7 comments
Hayden
Hayden

in my auto DM i ask users to @reply with a code that has my account follow them back. 0 spammers now.

Karen E. Lund
Karen E. Lund

So here we have the "Auto DM Turing Test." If you can't be sure whether a DM is automated or live, it's OK. I don't auto follow or auto DM, for reasons of my own which haven't changed. But I don't see anything wrong with auto DMs if they sound human. Hey, I've gotten DMs and @mentions that may have been live but sounded like spam because they were crammed with self-promotion. (How much self-promotion can you fit in 140 characters? More than I would have imagined!) A friendly greeting to new followers isn't bad--emphasis on "friendly greeting." Yours is, and so is the one Naomi posted. So if it works for you and your followers seem happy, stick with it!

Naomi Trower
Naomi Trower

Hi Kristi, I have a similar stance. I look at auto DM's as personal voicemails. I can't come to the phone at all times and it's the same w/Twitter. Most people send me this back to me from my auto DM. It this an auto DM or is this you live? It's so personable that people question it. Here is my message: "I appreciate you so tell me something about yourself. Here is a free chapter from my book http://bit.ly/c545x1 Enjoy!" I believe automation mixed with live personality is the best mix. Great discussion! :)

Doc Sheldon
Doc Sheldon

Hi, Kristi- I used Oomph for a while too, but about a month ago, I cancelled it. Seemed like it was just bringing me more spam. Like you, I periodically go through and unfollow dead weight. But I've gotten pretty selective about who I follow. Because I work in both blogging and the SEO communities, I've picked up a lot of new followers from Ann's MyBlogGuest community. On new follows, I just check out their ratio and # of tweets, and then look at who follows them. If I'm still in doubt, I'll take a look at who they follow. I generally shy away from folks that follow more than they're followed, though. Great food for thought, Kristi. Thanks! ;)

Elijah R. Young
Elijah R. Young

Hey Kristi, I think that automation gets a bad rap because of the spam issue, and the lack of real conversation that alot of brands pass off for social media campaigns. That being said, I'm still all for it. To build a successful business, you have to build systems, or ways that your customers can get the same results over and over again, and automation online is a great way to do that. As long as you keep the conversation alive, automation makes your brand that much more powerful, and frees you up to build the other parts of your business. --@elijahryoung

Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines

That's how I feel. I think that since I don't worry about having to do certain types of activities (like creating a new tweet for all the blogs I follow), it gives me more time to listen to other conversations and respond to them. Thanks for your thoughts! :)