News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Friday, March 6, 2009

An open letter to Socialtoo about removing auto DMs

[AN UPDATE: I should note that hours after posting this open letter, Socialtoo chose to blacklist me as auto DM spammer. After a heated Twittersphere debate lasting roughly 24 hours, I was removed from this pariahs list. I want to thank the many Tweeple who came to my defense. There are many genuinely decent and fair-minded folks who saw through Socialto's petty and vindicitve act. However, the incident is an example of the conflicting interests on Twitter. It is a space being overrun by abusers who are indicriminately following anyone to amass large audiences. Unless Twitter ends automated follows and unfollows, the only people left on Twitter will be Multi-Level-Marketers and self-proclaimed Social Media "experts." It's time for people to take back Twitter from the social media whores who are polluting it.]

Original Blog Post:

Socialtoo, a Twitter application provider, recently discontinued the ability for its users to send an automated message to new followers. This apparently came in reaction to pressure from users complaining about the inconvenience and impersonal nature of these messages.

Personally, I am not offended by “auto DMs” and switched to a provider who offered them, Tweet Later. I was surprised -- and very impressed -- to receive this note from Socialtoo CEO Jesse Stay:

Raul, I've deleted your account. Can I sway you away from automatically DMing your followers? Most people ignore those nowadays, and those that don't get very annoyed by them. We actually disabled this service for that reason.

Beyond auto-reply, what other needs would we need to cover to get you back?

Jesse Stay

Here is my reply to Mr. Stay.

Thanks for your offer, Jesse.

I am not a person who believes in one-size-fits-all solutions. If people are genuinely annoyed by auto DMs, they have a simple option: Do not follow the person who sent it. However, the social media whores who indiscriminately gather followers are ones most “offended” by auto DMs. Why? Because their message boxes are filled with auto DMs from the thousands of other SMWs monopolizing Twitter. I’ve noticed no one is launching any “holier than thou” campaigns to do away with auto-follows and unfollows, which are truly much more indiscriminate and impersonal.

I prefer to think of auto DMs like an answering machine. If you try to contact me and I’m not home, as a courtesy I’d like to leave you a message to engage in real dialog. I think this is the way the auto DM function was intended. That is how I want to use it … as a courtesy and an invitation to get acquainted.

For the record, here is my auto DM message: “Hello! I am not online all day and use this auto reply as my answering machine. I will return your personal message.”

Socialtoo has chosen to respond to what you perceive as market pressure. I am choosing to go with another service. If you ever change your policy, I will return. Frankly, your user interface is better than Tweet Later. But they provide a service I value.

Thanks for the chance to engage in this personal dialog.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez


Jesse Stay said...

Raul, your followers, aka, "the market", have let us know their offense to auto-dms. Auto-dms, regardless of type, are either ignored, or hated by most, if not all users. They pollute inboxes and distract from where the actual conversation can take place. I built SocialToo to build and enhance conversation. Auto-DMs worked when there were only a few people using them. When we had thousands, no one could actually communicate.

It's for this reason we're now against auto-dms, discourage them, and if you use them, our users will very soon have the option to stop following those that do use them. As long as we're an auto-follow service, it makes no sense, for our users' sake, to allow auto-dm. As I said, I strongly suggest you reconsider your stance and not use this form of spam, regardless of the message - it's robotic, not personal, and fills up the inboxes of users with unneeded content that most people ignore anyway.

This is a stance we are not going to change - our service will continue to be one where our users can be free of spam and the content they don't want to receive. (notice, as always, our users will always have control to choose - it's not us deciding) We're working to make Twitter a cleaner place, a much more conversive place. Auto-DMs are not the answer.

--Jesse Stay, CEO,

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...

Dear Jesse,

Anyone who is offended by my auto message is free to unfollow me.

That said, I think the SMWs will continue to accept any follower, whether they auto-DM or not. Why? Because SMWs know that if they nix anyone, they will likely expect the same fate.

Listening to SMWs complain about Auto DMs is like listening to telemarketers complain about answering machines.

I've yet to hear a celebrity complain about Auto DMs. In fact, many Twitter celebrities have a just few thousand followers. Meanwhile, someone you've never heard (who is usually foisting a Multi-Level-Marketing scheme) has 20,000 or more followers. Numbers like these make it obvious who is really gaming the system. It's not people like me who are actually looking to find a community of people with mutual interests.

The wonderful thing about our market system is that each person is free to chose. You have made a choice. And so have I.

I wish you and your firm well and admire your candor.


Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...


Socialtoo just put me on their Auto DM spammers list. Me with all of 532 follower, a spammer.

Meanwhile, Socialtoo continues to cater to Multi-Level-Marketers who concoct pyramid schemes to build followers using your application.

I have to take back what I said about Socialtoo's apparent candor. Seems to me you guys are running scared. If you feel so threatened by someone expressing an opposing opinion that you try to blacklist me, then as President Obama said: "That says more about you then it does about me."

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Tish Grier said...

Hi Raul,

Your take on the auto DM is very different from my experience and knowledge of their use. I think it's different from how many use them and perceive them.

Over the time I've been using social media, I've found that many who auto DM are the "social media whores" who are looking to boost their follower numbers any way they can. They follow indiscriminantly because they've heard a marketing message that to have loads of followers means that you are super-popular and that you are an "internet marketing genius" and "social media guru" and any other meaningless term people want to use to make themselves sound special.

BTW, the guy who auto DM'd me is a multi-level marketer, who also wanted to "friend" me on Facebook. Facebook is, for me, very important to my integrity as a business person and a good friend. Why would I (or anyone else, for that matter) want a guy like this as one of their "friends"?

I've been not offended by only one auto-DM. that was someone by the name of Dave the Shoe Guy, who's marketing campaign really got to me--nothing like a cool middle aged guy speaking to a cool middle aged woman. And, when I DM'd him personally, he responded! I'm fine with him, too, because his presence is strictly for marketing his service and products (some I happen to like) and is not phony about wanting to be my "friend."

Auto-DMs are certainly something to think about, and I don't think the conversation is over :)

Jesse Stay said...

Raul, being followed by that account does not mean you're necessarily a spammer. It just means you auto-follow other people, plain and simple. This is the list SocialToo will use to give users that already auto-follow the choice not to receive people that send dms on follow. I think you're interpreting all this wrong. However, as I said, if you're worried people are going to stop following you for auto-following, why not stop? If you're not worried, this has no affect on you. It's simply a way we're giving more choice to SocialToo users.

In fact, when we implement this, they'll even be able to whitelist your account. I encourage you to encourage those that follow you to whitelist you, and then it's their choice, not yours on whether they receive the auto-dms or not.

The main criteria of appearing on that list is that you use auto-dm, that is all.

Site Ducky said...

Hi Raul -
I've been watching this debate go back and forth the last few days and one thing I haven't seen any mention of is "how do you tell what is a DM and what is a genuine response to a follow"? They are often cleverly crafted. I was truly embarrassed when I realized that the first ones I received I thought were "real" - and I responded to. Which of course garnered no response back. One of those "oh duh" moments! Left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Nevertheless I jumped on the bandwagon for a few days until I realized I was only compounding what I discovered to be a real problem in my own DM box. I used @socialtoo and @optmeout services to mostly remove DMs - but I am still suspicious. If a DM doesn't somehow reference a tweet I made or something specific on my profile, I assume it was auto-generated and ignore. Just a thought to add to the conversation - Thanks for your post!

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...


There is no point in hiding your intent any longer. Socialtoo is not really interested in providing a better experience for the Twitter community. You can say whatever you want. But your actions speak volumes.

You have chosen to mark me as a pariah because I had the temerity to publicly question why you continue to offer auto-follow and auto-unfollow services. Truth is, it is these services you offer that are most abused by multi-level-marketers and other social media predators- not Auto DMs. On the contrary, Auto DMs are an inconvenience to these spammers.

You yourself admitted auto DMs made sense when Twitter was smaller. Well guess what? For people like me who are using Twitter genuinely, it IS smaller and it makes sense. Why should I give something up because your organization is interested on enabling the real spammers?

To blacklist me with 538 followers is a laughable effort at intimidation. Every time you lash back at me you are exposing yourself as a supporter of spammers, not a defender of the Twitter community. So go ahead. Blacklist me all you want.

No one is going to be fooled.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

promodiva said...

Kudos to you for taking a stand.

Like you, I choose to use DMs, and for the same reason. There are still plenty of marketers who use DMs, (like all other Twitter tools at our disposal), in moderation. And, there are still plenty of us that have refrained from collecting followers as if they were baseball cards.

If social media is all about establishing genuine relationships, I would maintain that acknowledging the fact that someone has decided to follow me on Twitter is just a common courtesy.

As an aside, I also use TweetLater, and have found that the service is excellent. I think once you see how diligent Dewald is about service, you'll be pleased you made the switch.

With kind regards,
Traci Hayner Vanover

@RobMcNealy said...


Thanks for approaching this delicate topic.

Yes, I think auto DM's can be abused, but I think they can also be a great tool as well. The device is neutral, it's the intent and execution which make all the difference.

I use an auto DM message that asks followers to connect with me on FaceBook and MySpace, so we can have better dialogue. I like to network and meet new people. Twitter is a good startign point to meeting people, but FaceBook is better for threaded conversations.

I am not a spammer, and I don't try to sell anything to anybody on Twitter. I am trying to meet lots of people and develop relationships.

My "Market" has only complained twice out of nearly 48,000 auto DM's. That is hardly a mass consensus, but it leads me to believe that Social Too's faux outrage is nothing more than a marketing stunt, rather than an authentic attempt to curb a real problem. I find it interesting that they built their service on a auto DM's and now that they abused it auto DM's so long and got a lot of pressure about it that they had to stop.

However, they are using the fact that they are no longer using them as a marketing campaign. Clever.

I have been blessed with being able to connect to some very wonderful people on other platforms using an auto DM.

I think people that use auto DM's to ask me to buy something are cheesy, but I don't really care about it. I ignore it. People that get so easily offended themselves should really get a life.


LGR said...

Just came across your blog and Twitter accounts thanks to endautodms and SocialToo. For the record I followed you on Twitter.

While I do not use an auto direct message I dislike the way SocialToo has decided to become the unofficial Twitter police and have attempted to publicly shame people into changing how they do things.

MarieAndree said...

This is for Jesse:
When you say "We're working to make Twitter a cleaner place, a much more conversive place. Auto-DMs are not the answer." I wonder what you're talking about. DMs are private and the conversive place is on the public timelines not in the private DMs. DMs (AutoDMs or manual ones) NEVER show up in the public space so this is doint nothing to "make Twitter a cleaner place"
Or did I miss something?