Yes and no.

No, if you automate your DMs (i.e. write generic DMs to respond to anyone who follows you). There’s nothing more annoying than getting a DM from someone that says:

  • “Thanks for following me. I look forward to reading your tweets.”
  • “Download a free copy of my ebook, ‘How to Supercharge Your Network Into a Profit Machine!’”
  • “Thanks for the follow. Be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn too.” (and there’s no URL)

I know a lot of people who will unfollow someone who auto DMs them, especially someone they just started following.

Another DM no-no is blasting out a sales pitch to your entire network. Even if it’s someone who has been following you for a while, that doesn’t give you permission to send them something unsolicited. If this were an email system, that would be considered spam. Guess what. It’s called “spam” on Twitter too.

So when are DMs beneficial to promoting your brand?

There are times when a DM is wholly appropriate. Of course, it’s a great way to send private messages to each other, but there are a few other times when it can be appropriate.

  • When you need to alert someone to something important, but don’t want to embarrass them publicly (I’ve tweeted egregious spelling errors to a couple people)
  • When you want to ask someone to retweet a tweet for you, but don’t want to seem needy. Both Kyle and I are asked by, and ask for, people to retweet a message.
  • When you’re trying to ask someone a favor, especially someone more popular than you, and you don’t want to be shot down in public. It’s better to receive a DMed “no” than to have it displayed publicly for all to see. It’s like in high school, asking that cute guy or girl to dance with you in front of all their friends versus when you’re both alone. You can suffer alone, rather than in front of everyone.

Basically, DMs should not be used for marketing purposes. It’s for relationship building and private conversations. There is a sense of trust inherent in a DM conversation that it’s not going to be shared, and you violate that trust when you start introducing unwanted topics of conversation, like trying to sell me your ebook that makes me money while I sleep.