UPDATE: Twitter have reached out to us to clarify this story. And it’s very good news for celebrities.
Contrary to news reports, Twitter has not changed the rules for how Direct Messages (DMs) work for Verified accounts.
However, we have given a limited number of accounts the ability to receive DMs from accounts they don’t follow, in cases where having that capability may be beneficial (for example, enabling businesses to receive account information that users may not want to post publicly).
We do not have plans for making this capability more widely available at this time. Accounts with access to this feature must opt-in to utilize it.
We will continue to experiment with ways of helping people and companies get more value from Twitter. As with all of our experiments, we are listening carefully to feedback on this feature and will use that feedback to continue innovating and iterating.
As I wrote in my final paragraph it did seem mad. I’ve changed the title of this article to reflect the update, but to maintain the egg on my face (although I secretly blame TNW) everything else has been left as it was.
Since the feature was introduced, direct messaging on Twitter has always been governed by one rule: you can only send a direct message to somebody if they are following you. If the relationship isn’t reciprocal – that is, you aren’t following them back – then direct messaging is only one way.
This was a smart move, as it meant that unless you’re daft enough to follow spammers, trolls and mass marketers, they can’t fill your inbox with unsolicited crap.
For celebrities, this was also a major blessing. Someone like Lady Gaga, who has over 11 million followers, would be inundated with private messages from fans if direct messaging was two-way from the start.
Well, heads up, Gaga: in a new and largely unfathomable move, Twitter has made direct messaging two-way for all verified accounts. Which means every major celebrity on Twitter is about to be completely inundated with millions and millions of unwanted DMs.
The news is yet to be confirmed by Twitter, but was first revealed by The Next Web in a post earlier today. I’ve tried sending Lady Gaga a direct message myself and it didn’t work, but TNW seems pretty confident that this is going ahead, so it must be slowly rolling out to all. In May last year Twitter revealed plans for a Business Center for brands, which amongst other features was also going to allow brands to receive direct messages from any follower.
Business Center never seemed to materialise – or if it did, they kept it quiet – but this might be the start of that, or a variation thereof.
However, if this change is true, and much like those ‘power users’ who mass-follow to boost their followers total, this renders the direct message system essentially useless for Twitter’s elite. The major difference is that it wasn’t by choice. Can you imagine once this becomes common knowledge how much garbage is going to be in the inbox of the top 100 celebrities on Twitter when they wake up every morning?
Thankfully, Twitter has provided a way for verified users to opt out and disable the feature – I’d like to see a breakdown of how many celebrities immediately click that button once they figure out what’s going on.
It appears that Twitter’s logic is that it’s a bit of a nuisance for celebrities who want a given fan to be able to reply to a direct message to have to temporarily follow them, let the fan send the message, and then unfollow once received. Putting aside that anyone who behaves in this way isn’t worthy of any extra help, does it really matter? Do we really want to move more of Twitter underground?
This is another one of those changes by Twitter that seems to have been so poorly thought out that you just have to wonder what goes on during those late-night brainstorming sessions at Twitter HQ. Maybe there’s an awful lot of Johnny Walker. The network owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the influx of celebrities who helped push the service into the mainstream, and you really have to wonder what they were thinking when they made this decision. I can’t believe for a second it’s something celebrities actually want. And even if it is, they’ll soon change their minds.
For verified brands, it’s a different story. Two-way private messaging is something that could be very useful. And they can always block anyone who becomes a nuisance. But when you have millions of followers, you simply won’t be able to block fast enough. And even if you could, who would have the time to read through all those private tweets? Perhaps more importantly, who would have time to reply? And if the limitations of the system mean that you can’t effectively manager either, then what’s the point of making this change?
It seems so mad, that there’s a possibility this feature will only be activated for verified brands, although how Twitter will implement that is anyone’s guess. Perhaps only those who have advertised on Twitter will be open to direct messages from their followers. We’ll update when Twitter makes an announcement or if we receive additional information.
(Hat tip: The Next Web.)