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social media how toDo you use Twitter for business?

Want to improve communication with customers?

Twitter’s recent tweaks to its direct message feature make it easier for users to reach you directly.

In this article you’ll learn how to use Twitter’s updated direct messages feature to improve communication with your customers.

use twitter direct messages for customer service

Discover how to use Twitter’s direct messages for customer service.

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How Twitter’s Direct Messages Work

With Twitter’s recent updates, you can set up your account to receive direct messages from any Twitter users, whether or not you follow those users.

Previously, direct messaging was impractical for customer service because you could only send direct messages to users who followed you. This created a barrier between users seeking customer service via Twitter and businesses providing it. Unless your account and the user’s account followed each other, the conversation was stalled before it ever began.

Now, you can opt to receive direct messages from anyone. This feature is turned off by default, so you have to go to your Security and Privacy settings to manually switch it on.

twitter direct message optin

You must change your settings to take advantage of Twitter’s new direct message policy.

Use Direct Messages for Customer Service

If you want to provide the best possible customer service on social, consider enabling this feature. With it turned on, any fan, follower or curious customer can send you a direct message without you following him or her first. This streamlines communication with customers and empowers users who want to reach you directly.

Twitter’s new direct message capabilities are especially perfect for social customer service when providing support is contingent on sharing personal information.

For example, if users report issues on Twitter or have a question about which you need more information, you can invite customers to direct message you with details that they don’t feel comfortable posting publicly.

As with any new feature, there are pros and cons to using it for your business. Here’s a look at how Twitter’s Direct Messages feature can help improve customer communication, and how it could potentially harm customer relationships.

deltaassist direct message invite response

Users may be more comfortable sharing sensitive or personal information via direct message.

Invite Customers to Direct Message You

Here are a few advantages of inviting customers to direct message you, rather than direct messaging them yourself.

Your Message Is Less Likely to Fall Through the Cracks

If users reach out to you via an @reply, they typically expect an @reply in return. (Just like if you send someone an email, you expect a return email, not a phone call.)

Because users who tweet an @reply may not be expecting a direct message in return, they might not notice if you send one, or they could receive so much direct message spam that they habitually ignore their Twitter inbox. To avoid this, invite the customer to direct message you.

Customers See You Addressing the Issue

If you respond to an @reply via direct message, casual observers may think you’re ignoring the customer’s issue. Even if it’s better to continue the conversation in private, creating a public record of your initial reply shows others that you respond to inquiries in a timely manner.

twitter direct message invite

Asking customers to direct message you lets everyone know you’re working to resolve the issue.

Use Direct Messages Carefully

The ability to send direct messages to Twitter users who have opted into the new feature is a tempting marketing opportunity for businesses.

In theory, you could send users direct messages almost as often as you send emails. You could privately deliver promos, invites, announcements and more to previously inaccessible users. Using direct messages for this kind of marketing is bad form, however.

Sending users unsolicited marketing material via direct message is different from sending them marketing emails. When users give you their email address, they might opt to receive materials like marketing messages and newsletters. There is no equivalent for that process on Twitter, so users can’t give you explicit permission to contact them via direct message with unsolicited marketing.

Using direct messages to send automated or marketing material can have negative consequences. Here are two ways that it could potentially harm your business.

caution shutterstock 126382220

Tread carefully when you use direct messaging for marketing. Image: Shutterstock.

Users May Block Your Account

Twitter users are outspoken about their dislike for impersonal direct messages. In fact, automated direct messages are the number-one reason given by users for unfollowing an account.

In the past, users who received unwanted direct messages could simply unfollow the account sending them. Now, if users have opted to receive direct messages from anyone, they can’t just unfollow the account as a solution. Unless they opt out altogether, the only way for those users to prevent unwanted direct messages from filling their inbox is to block the account sending them.

If they block your account, they wouldn’t just be unfollowing you; they wouldn’t be able to see your tweets at all, and you wouldn’t be able to see theirs. So a Twitter user who has a negative impression of your brand would have the power to tweet about you without your being able to respond (or even knowing that it’s happening).

Your Messages May Be Flagged as Spam

The other serious repercussion to sending unwanted direct messages is that the recipients may flag your messages as spam, reporting them to Twitter.

marking a users message as spam

Avoid sending messages that could be construed as spam.

Naturally, this doesn’t reflect well on your Twitter account, especially if your messages are flagged on a regular basis. The best way to avoid being flagged as spam is to stop sending unexpected messages, particularly promotional ones.

In Closing

Because Twitter’s change to its direct message policy is relatively new, it remains to be seen how it will affect overall direct messaging habits, and whether it will become a popular way for users to seek out customer service.

For now, all you can do is opt into receiving direct messages from anyone and keep a close eye on your inbox. There could be significant differences in how frequently you receive messages, so be prepared.

What do you think? Do you use Twitter Direct Messages? Do you see users taking advantage of direct messages for social customer service? Are the increased risks for spam worth the benefits? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Caution sign photo from Shutterstock.
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  • The spam factor is scary to me. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. But I LOVE the idea of being able to tell a follower to DM me with more info. I think that will be very helpful and encourage more personalized communication going that direction.

  • I intend to allow direct messages, but I hope members don’t start spamming me with all kinds of offers. I do think it’s a great improvement and will help customers to reach their utilities and other service providers directly and vice versa. I’ve gotten great customer service when I went to the Twitter customer service account vs. trying to connect by phone or email.

  • Dany Bravo

    For business it is very helpful but for individuals it will be very irritating, receiving DM daily from different companies. There must be some rules and regulations to control and monitor it.

  • Roberto Nagel

    Question: If – in a service situation – you ask a customer to DM you,
    can you then DM the response back? Or does the recipient need to have
    this function activated as well?

  • Kristina Hughes

    Twitter direct message method is really helpful to contact with the potential customers of business industries.. Mention the twitter name first in the comment section and write a brief description about your business..

  • Jim Shaffer

    Sounds like a solution looking for a problem. Our clients call, email or text. All are working fine.

  • treb072410

    Thanks for sharing Tom. Great information you shared here..

  • It definitely seems like the risk factor is higher for the average user than it is for, say, a business — which makes it all the more important that businesses not abuse the system!

  • Thanks!

  • Certain businesses/industries will definitely get more use out of it than others. Some businesses field so many CS/support requests on social that they have specific handles just for that purpose – I can see this streamlining the process for them quite a bit, particularly if/when it requires asking the user for information and details they’d probably rather not tweet out loud. (And then for some businesses, they may change their settings and almost never use the feature at all.)

  • Good question! We tested it out, and it looks like if a user DMs you first, even if they don’t follow you AND they haven’t opted in the receive DMs from people they don’t follow, you WILL be able to message them back.

  • relesol

    Thanks for sharing about of twitter and it is useful and helpful..

  • Valentina Portnova

    Thank you very much!
    I’ll try to think of the variable is Gift Shop!

  • miller

    i hope make friends with working in social media.add me my skype is faceeboohao@hotmail.com

  • Brian Dane

    yeah I had way too many times where my cable company have done that and then stopped responding in the middle of trying to solve a matter, if you are going to use this follow through all the way, and free me from your “I am sorry you had a bad experience bla la bla” patronising tone.

  • Twitter direct messages is being updated in real-time which is very useful for customer service. With that being said, businesses can easily monitor their brand and answer concerns at the same time.

  • I agree- spam is definitely a consideration in Twitter, and I am bombarded with it. However, I wonder how this will effect the marketing community and general connection strategies. For example, the instant DM when someone follows you. This is discouraged nowadays but it is still widely practiced, and I do see the benefit in it as it serves as a kind of meet and greet virtually.