Nobody likes spam. It’s gotten so bad that the Federal Trade Commission requires companies to allow consumers to unsubscribe from bulk mailings. They even established a Do Not Call registry to keep telemarketers at bay.

Why, then, do marketers keep spamming away? They continue making those cold calls, sending junk mailers, and — most of all — hammering inboxes with inauthentic emails.

These days, many customers are also on Twitter, a relatively clear channel where customers actually want to interact with brands. The platform is a particularly great way to reach Millennials, who comprise more than half of the platform’s user base and value authenticity far more than previous generations. And while nearly everyone is familiar with Twitter’s 140-character replies, its direct messages (DMs) offer a more intimate, personal way to connect.

Using Twitter, you can tag the specific person you wish to connect with — but these messages are public. Sending automated Twitter replies turns off authenticity-seeking customers: It’s essentially publishing the same comment to a public forum over and over again. If you reply automatically to the wrong tweet, and it’s obvious a lot of people received the same message, it can lead to criticism rather than new customers.

Direct messages, on the other hand, are akin to email in that they can be sent privately. They’re also not limited to 140 characters, so you can provide more content. And because only its sender and recipient can view a DM, the channel provides authentic one-on-one interactions.

By sending a personalized DM at the right stage in a customer’s journey, you’re not just showing a strong social media presence — you’re also piercing through the noise of inbox spam to reach customers as individuals, on their terms, in specific times of need.

Why DMs Outperform Emails

Use Direct messaging to support your customers, gain feedback, and make your followers feel you’re listening. DMs effectively get customers’ eyes on your content because:

  • They bring the clicks. Direct messages have much better click-through rates than email. Inboxes are cluttered, so marketing emails get about a 3 percent click-through rate, but DMs get nearly 30 percent. That’s 10 times better than email — and the percentage only increases when brands send more than 50 links via DMs.
  • They increase your touchpoints. When you send automated emails, you hope customers see them. But DMs trigger notifications on both Twitter and email, so customers can’t miss them. Customers also have the option of enabling DM notifications on their phones.
  • They open content-sharing opportunities. Target DMs in a one-to-one fashion to give each customer the exact content they were looking for based on previous Twitter activity. While you can’t rifle through the customer’s emails, you can check their follows, tweets and retweets. This helps you identify and send content — an eBook or a blog post, for example — targeted to a customer’s specific interests.

Break the Boring DM

Unfortunately, most marketers can’t get past spammy, boring DMs. To avoid direct messages that customers will ignore or delete, content should be personalized. Here’s how to add a touch of personality to your messages:

  1. Tailor content to what the customer tweets about. Because there are no profiles associated with email, any content sent to a customer is essentially a shot in the dark. But on Twitter, you can read customers’ previous posts, check out their followers, and examine their retweets, allowing for personalized content sharing. And, thanks to the personal nature of DMs, customers won’t feel like they’re getting one-size-fits-all treatment.
  2. Use customers’ names in DMs. Writer Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” It’s a simple gesture, but always be sure to use customers’ names in DMs. This makes them more likely to read messages, feel personally attended to, and recommend your brand.
  3. Don’t just promote; start a conversation. Nobody wants to feel like a task on somebody else’s to-do list. Show that you’re listening by asking questions through DMs to learn the customer’s needs, and make tweets as personal as possible. By introducing the author in many of its tweets, biotechnology brand, Illumina, humanizes itself and helps followers feel like they’re conversing with a person, not a company.

There are more than 300 million Twitter users — all prospects whom you have a better chance of reaching through DMs than emails. Customers on Twitter want to see your content, and a valuable, personalized DM engages like email never could. After all, why else would they have followed you?