RAQ – Why are Auto Direct Message Replies in Twitter Bad?

In Tweetcamp III, as in previous Tweetcamps, I have provided Twitter etiquette guidance for those new to Twitter. More recently, thanks to @shwen, I’ve called that section “How to build ‘Tweet Cred.'”

One of my strong recommendations is to avoid using services that send automatic direct messages to your new Twitter followers. If you’ve been in Twitter and have followed even a few people, you’ve probably gotten some messages like this in reply to some of your follows:

Thanks for the follow! I’m so glad we’ve connected. Looking forward to your tweets.

This was sent by a robot, not a person. And it’s a step away from what Twitter is all about, which is real conversations with real people.

A SMUGgle recently asked, “So why are these automatic direct messages so bad?” So in keeping with our “Recently Asked Questions” format, I’m answering here to make it available to everyone.

And if others have additional comments or reasons (or even a contrary opinion, though I’m doubtful of that based on the reactions I saw in in the #Tweetcamp3 stream), please add them in the comments below.

Let me give you a real-life analogy taken from our recent experience with high school graduation parties. My wife Lisa and I are at the stage in life in which we attend lots of these, both for extended family and friends of our kids. And of course it is the common courtesy for graduates that when someone attends your graduation open house and gives you money, you should be sure to send a thank you note. (My daughters are still finishing theirs.)

The thank you notes we received from two grads, whose open houses were held he same day, illustrate why auto direct messages to new Twitter followers are a bad idea.

Let’s call these young men Tim and Mark (not their real names.) We received notes from both “Tim” and “Mark” at about the same time. The language on both was similar…something to the effect of “Thanks for coming to my graduation party and for the gift of money for my graduation. I’m going to use the money to help pay for college expenses.”

But while “Tim’s” was written by hand, “Mark” had photocopied the text and pasted it into the card, and then just signed his name.

Which do you think gave us a warmer feeling?

Lessons for Twitter:

  1. When someone new follows you, it’s not necessary to send a direct message to acknowledge it. It’s better to not acknowledge a new follower than to have a machine do it for you.
  2. Save your direct messages for personal, special communications. Many users choose to have text messages sent to their phones when they get direct messages, so if you are sending an impersonal “form” tweet as a direct message you are likely alienating followers.
  3. If you want to acknowledge your new followers, do it personally, either through a direct message you write based on having checked their profile and tweets or, better yet, through an @ reply that indicates to your followers that this person has interesting things to say.

Twitter is a person-al medium. Let’s keep it that way!

What do you think? Do you have other reasons why auto d messages in Twitter are bad? Or do you think there is any place for them?

RAQ: How Can I Find Journalists in Twitter?

From the mailbag:

I met you a few months ago when you came to speak at my PRSSA meeting, and now I graduated and am working in PR and realize how important everything you talked about really is. I have been enjoying SMUG, and have since passed on the links to my co-workers, and we are loving it…what a great resource. I was looking through the Twitter curriculum, and I am having a hard time finding a specific answer, so I thought I would ask. I am trying to find journalists from North Dakota who have Twitter handles, but am having a tough time. Do you have any suggestions, or is it a pretty lengthy process?


Google is always a good place to start: when I searched for Journalists in Twitter, I found this MediaOnTwitter wiki and another wiki with sections for journalists using Twitter and media outlets using Twitter.

Those don’t get you too far in finding North Dakota journalists (and I always think it’s funny when people build wikis that are alphabetized by first name.)

So another good step is to use Twitter.Grader.com to find the “Twitter Elite” in a particular geographic area. You can search for North Dakota or any of its cities, such as Fargo, Grand Forks or Minot. These won’t necessarily get you journalists, but you might find some. 

Another suggestion would be to look on news media Web sites within the state, to see whether any of them have Twitter listings.

Based on my quick survey, it doesn’t seem there are a ton of North Dakota journalists on Twitter, but I did at least find the Fargo Forum’s account.

It’s probably going to be a long process to find twittering journalists, with you adding them to the list of those you follow as you gradually discover them (and as more join the service.) As you do build your list, though, you may want to add them to one of the wikis listed above, so you can work together with a community to build a worthwhile resource. The MediaOnTwitter wiki seems to be the best organized one, at least from my initial review.

OK, fellow SMUGgles: What other advice would you offer for finding journalists on Twitter?

RAQ: What Does RT Mean in Twitter?

Here’s a question from Julia:

I’ve seen a lot of tweets that start with RT, like this one


I’m thinking it means “Return Tweet”???  But I’m not sure.  Is there a new lexicon of TLA’s evolving as a result of Twitter and do you know specifically what this one means? Maybe this should be a RAQ if you think relevant?


Answer: RT means “retweet” or “re-tweet” and it’s a way for one Twitter user to pass along information found on Twitter to his or her circle of followers.

For example, if Julia sees this recent tweet of mine:


She might want to pass it along to her followers, who may or may not be following me. She would use the following syntax:

RT @LeeAase http://snipurl.com/bovi2 – UW selling students’ personal information for $90 apiece

…and would add any additional comments that fit within the 140-character tweet limit.

By using the RT @LeeAase she is crediting me for finding and originally tweeting this, which alerts her followers that I was the source, and then they might decide to follow me directly.

When I originally responded to Julia via email, she replied:

Ah!  That makes sense.  There have been times I’ve wanted to pass something along, but didn’t want the person I learned it from to think I was stealing their thunder (so to speak).  I love that they’ve solved that issue…

That’s exactly the reason for the RT. The ethos of social media is

  1. to share and pass information along, but also
  2. to credit the original source.

Two little characters – RT – plus the username of your source, meets both goals in Twitter.

RAQ: Adding a Photo to a WordPress Post

Julie asks:

What is the best way to post a photo on a blog? A photo that I tried to cut and paste from a Word document didn’t take. Please let me know when you have a chance.

Here’s the answer:

Continue reading “RAQ: Adding a Photo to a WordPress Post”

HR Executive Forum Web 2.0 Presentations

I had the pleasure on Thursday of presenting on Mayo Clinic’s social media activities at the HR Executive Forum in the Twin Cities. It was great to also hear from: 


  • Jacqueline Prescott, co-founder of Frank, a consulting firm helping organizations by focusing on the 2.0 mindset (Check out Biz Behind the Buzz)
  • Bethany Kinsella, BBY Digital Director and a key leader of the Web 2.0 revolution inside Best Buy;
  • Jim Emanuelson, VP of Information Systems Applications who leads a web-based mentoring program at Land O’Lakes


Because the Q&A portion of the event was somewhat truncated, I offered to post the presentations here and invite all the participants to share their questions, comments and ideas. Bethany, Jacqueline and Jim all graciously provided their presentations, which I uploaded to Slideshare.net. They are embedded below.

Please share your comments or questions for any of the presenters in the comments below. Hopefully we can have a good conversation about how to employ social media tools in your organizations.

Click the Read More link to view the presentations and share your comments.

Continue reading “HR Executive Forum Web 2.0 Presentations”