I awoke this morning to 6 new direct messages on Twitter and, ever the optimist, checked them on the way to work to see if the miracle had happened – if at last I had received a real DM, from an actual person that was in any way engaging or interesting. Alas, what I had were the usual collection of automated responses to following new people:

The cheesy – “Hi it’s xxxx – let’s keep this amazing video/blog/website between ourselves… OK?” – link to promotional video for their business

The collector – “Thanks for following me on Twitter, why don’t you follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, snapchat, Instagram etc…..”

The seems-quite-like-someone-took-time-over-it - “Hi (insert name), I enjoyed you tweet about (insert tweet text) I think you will enjoy my product/service/tool”

The validation irritation – “@username uses validation, please prove who you are etc…”

The disingenuous – “Good to connect, lets connect on LinkedIn too linkedin.com/nameofperson”

In fact, in three years of using Twitter, I haven’t received a single interesting DM, not one! They have all been automated and have one thing in common – I feel less inclined to have anything to do with the sender.

So I followed you on Twitter, that means either your tweets were interesting or you followed me and I wanted to reciprocate. That doesn’t mean I want to follow all your other channels; or send a LinkedIn connection request that will be ignored; or immediately buy your product. Verification is annoying, so I am not going to do that, and I suspect that you not being monogamous when it comes to keeping the amazing video “between ourselves”

For me the Twitter automated replies highlight some of the dangers of using social media as a company or representative of a company: it’s very easy to hit a huge audience, but very difficult to send an automated mass message that is meaningful.

From a personal point of view I say “don’t bother!”, if you are genuinely interested in what I have to say, send a real message – ask a question, start an actual conversation. If you want me to take an interest in what you are selling – take the time to demonstrate that you understand why I would need it.

It’s really easy to set up an automated reply to new followers – but realistically it must have the same success rate as the emails you get from people claiming that you have won $50,000,000 on thee Ugandan lottery and they urgently need your bank account details. If you really are interested in what someone has to say, or genuinely think they can benefit from what you do, be prepared to take a bit of time to engage them. As for me, I’m still waiting on the first DM written by an actual human!