Ah, the good old days.  Those days when we were free to lay in the back dashboard window of our car as our parents drove 90 miles per hour down the highway.  The days when the tinkling ice-cream truck that came through the neighborhood, wasn’t driven by a guy who didn’t look as if he was just released from prison. The days when we used to look in our Twitter Direct Message column and actually have valuable messages like someone trying to get ahold of us to sign a multi-million dollar contract! Okay I made up the part about driving 90 miles per hour.  I think the speed limit was 70 back in the 60s.

Many people overuse the direct message column, and some don’t use it at all, even when the message is not beneficial to the public. We have basically lost control when it comes to Twitter’s features and what they are to be used for, so for those who have been using Twitter for years, this is a reminder.  For those who are new to this social medium, this is a warning!  It is time to reclaim our direct message column on Twitter!

The direct message feature on Twitter is intended to send private messages to a specific person.  If I need to give my phone number to someone to contact me I would put that in a direct message.  If I have a question that ONLY applies to that person such as “What time shall I call you today?” That is a direct message- no one else needs to see that question.  If I want to thank you for following me and get on your radar, a direct message is great….IF IT IS PERSONALIZED. Here are a few examples of GOOD and BAD direct welcome messages:

BAD: Thank you for following me-I have a free e-book for you to help you make millions of dollars using Twitter. (You may as well be giving them your copy of the yellow pages that is still sitting on your front porch!)

GOOD: Thanks for connecting Jim.  I look forward to learning lots together- Have a great Monday! (WOW- no gifts?…no advice on how I can get thousands of followers?…Ahh I like you already!)

BAD: Thanks for following. Click here to learn how to make your tweets to run 24-7 http://YourAnIdiot.com

GOOD: Hello Karyn, It’s great meeting you here in Twitter Town!  Here’s to big biz success! Have a great weekend.

Now I can hear your groans already.  You’re thinking, “I don’t have time to send a private message to each person that follows me.”  THEN DON’T!

If you want to get on the radar of the person you are newly connected with a personalized message will do that.  If you want to annoy your new friend and be immediately labeled as a spammer, send an automated junk mail!

And before I leave the area of welcome messages, there are some that use a validation service called True-Twit Validation to ensure the people following you are real people and not auto follow bots.  Here’s my short advice… STOP USING THIS SERVICE!

The longer reason involves two parts.  First, who cares who chooses to follow you?  You don’t have to follow them back.  There’s few things worse than a WELCOME that involves some work.  That’s like saying at a live networking function, “Hi my name is Gina, before I give you my business card and allow you to listen to me talk about my business, can you please enter your information into this computer so I can do a quick background check to see if you are worth my time?”  Remember Twitter is like a PR tool.  You want your information going out the world.  It is who you choose to let into YOUR stream that is more important. Now I actually will block porn sites from even following me so that I don’t show up on their list of people they are following.  BUT even if I didn’t, I don’t receive their junk unless I choose to follow them back, so this True-Twit service is only turning off REAL people who don’t want to hassle with going over and jumping through a few of your hoops to prove they are worthy of receiving your information.  I now unfollow these people and move on!

The second part of the reason I feel that True-Twit validation service is a bad move on Twitter, is that is shows you are too lazy to connect with people yourself.  Do the work and quit making it harder for people–we have too many other things to worry about.  There, enough said on that one.

Now if you are asking questions that others probably have or that someone else would benefit from hearing the answer such as, “When is your next webinar?” or “What is your favorite social media tool for connecting with realtors?”  These questions would be better posted as an @Reply to the person so others can look forward to the answers as well.

And if you are complimenting or thanking someone for something they did don’t hide that from the world, put that in an @Reply and you will shine more than hiding that under a direct message.

OK, some of you may completely disagree with me and I’d love to hear your comments on this topic.  I feel it’s time we reclaim our DM column back!  Stand up to those auto-repsonders and tell them “We’re not going to take it anymore!”  Let’s go back to the good old days.  Maybe this summer we will even see some not-so-creepy ice-cream truck drivers too.  Hey it could happen!

@GinaSchreck