Make the Most of Twitter: How DMs Can Personalize Your Brand

Interesting, customized and credible information can make the difference between engaging DMs that spur a sale and bland messages that end up in the trash.

Direct messages have a reputation of being spammy. Plenty of bad automated responses circulate around social media, and they’re frequently irrelevant to recipients, often only asking people to check out the sender’s profile.

I’ve previously explored why DMs outperform emails. The short version: DMs tend to have higher click-through rates than emails, and they increase your touchpoints while giving you a chance to share relevant content with people who have shown an interest in your space. In other words, DMs can help personalize your brand.

Some people remain leery of DMs, but that’s largely because many senders don’t see them as a strategic medium for one-on-one communication. By carefully considering who will send the message and how you’ll present the information, you can deliver personalized and engaging content directly to an interested audience.

Making it personal

You certainly could send a DM from your company’s Twitter handle, but there are times when it might be better to adopt a more personal tack. Sending DMs from the Twitter account of one of your executives (i.e., your CEO or head of marketing) can help those messages resonate with recipients.

If you want to grow the following of your corporate account, it’s better to send DMs from that corporate handle. On the flip side, sending a direct message from your company’s account can cause recipients to perceive it as impersonal. People are more likely to respond to other human beings than a faceless brand.

My company tracks DM campaigns from several individual employees, including myself, the CEO; our chief technology officer, Kevin Yu; and our social media manager, Teena Thach. We tracked DM performance over a 90-day period and found that Thach’s performed incredibly well: Her messages receive a 20 percent DM link click rate and a 13 percent response rate. Yu and I were closer to 12 percent response rates and 11 percent link click rates.

Thach’s incredible success is largely because she has a significant social media following and regularly tweets about her life, as well as marketing topics. Followers see her as a real person who’s likely to respond to messages.

That said, we cannot prove that there is a statistically significant difference in responses solely based on who sends DMs to potential leads. Each of our campaigns targets a somewhat different audience using distinct keywords, so there is natural variation in response rate based on those audiences. Regardless, people might have easily dismissed those same messages from our corporate handle.

Customize your message

While it’s crucial to put some thought into who says something, how you say it is every bit as important.

I always make sure my DMs sound like something a human being would say. That human element is vital. Be sure to state why you’re reaching out and that you’re offering something of interest to the user on the basis of information from his or her Twitter bio or tweets.

I spent some time browsing my own DM inbox and found examples of messages that did and didn’t resonate. The effective ones tend to refer to me by name, inform me of a product or service and give me a helpful link that relates to my interests. The bad DMs typically fail to grab my attention–they lack originality and information, giving me no reason to connect with the company.

The body of your message is important, but the keywords you choose can also make a huge difference in the success of your DMs. In general, you want to tailor the content of your message to what the customer typically tweets about.

Imagine you’re reaching out to public-relations and marketing professionals who follow @PRNews or major advertising firms such as @WiedenKennedy. You might start your message by saying, “Hi, I see we have some similar interests–particularly around PR and marketing,” before you mention the resource you’re offering.

Finding the right fit

So we know how important it is to nail down what you’re saying, as well as who’s saying it. I mentioned earlier how successful our DM campaign with Thach has been, but every situation is unique. When it’s time to determine who should send certain DMs for your company, consider the following:

  • Mutual interests: Does the recipient have something in common with the sender? Let’s say you want to talk to startup founders who might beta-test your new product. It’s better to have one of your startup’s founders reach out to these folks rather than your head of sales because your CEO or chief technology officer is more of a peer to the recipient than a random salesperson. It’s ideal to establish a peer-to-peer connection. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to use the Twitter handle of your social media manager to reach out to information technology administrators or chief information officers to discuss their IT needs. Thach’s larger social following is irrelevant if she doesn’t relate professionally with the recipients. Instead, you’d want to send DMs using the Twitter handle of the head of your IT team or your CIO.
  • Credibility: Who in your company has credibility with the recipient of the message? That credibility might stem from mutual interests or your social media influence, based on the volume and quality of the audience you’ve built on social media. People are more likely to follow and engage with influencers. If you’re debating between sending a message from employee A’s account or employee B’s handle, go with the person who has more social influence.
  • Expected response: If you don’t anticipate a response to your message, then it makes sense to author the DM using your corporate handle or your social media manager’s account. If you’re starting a conversation with prospects that will likely lead to more specific or technical follow-up questions, you might want to have a more technical person author the DM. Let’s say you’re asking people for more general feedback on your product. Suddenly, that technical expertise isn’t quite as important. You would instead want to send the DM from the Twitter handle of your head of product or CEO. Consider how you expect users to respond before you decide who should serve as the face behind that particular message.

Overall, there are benefits and drawbacks to messaging through corporate or employee Twitter accounts. By personalizing your message and defining your goals, your brand can share content and reach out to prospective clients in a personal and effective manner.

Interesting, customized and credible information can make the difference between engaging DMs that spur a sale and bland messages that end up in the trash.

Aseem Badshah is the founder and CEO of Socedo, a demand-generation system that helps marketers discover, engage and qualify leads via social media to increase revenue at scale.