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Twitter Users Missing the Point with Automated Follow Responses

Submitted by Chris on Monday, 11/17/0820 Comments

Like many of you, I use Twitter. (@chriswebb) I use it for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional but have always thought of it as a very ‘personal’ tool. By that I mean it’s an ecosystem of *people* that despite the distance and in some cases, anonymity, relate to each other. It is a social tool - I mean it is called “social media” for a reason.

But I am seeing a trend among several users who are opting for an automated response to everyone who follows them. For example, today I got the following warm-hearted response from someone I followed:

“Thanks for following me! Find GREAT Real Estate deals w/my E-Book (link omitted)”

Wow, how…personal.

So, do I respond personally to everyone who follows me on Twitter? No. But I also don’t send some impersonal canned response either. Instead, I’ll choose to actually engage you in conversation at some point using the tool. That’s the point, isn’t it? Just using Twitter and other tools like it as just another channel to send the same spammy messages one might use in other media is completely missing the point.

The same goes for Authors who use social tools as part of their personal platforms to help support their books. I encourage you to use tools like Twitter - in fact it is becoming more important that you do just that. But use the tools in the way they were meant to be used.

Why not just tweet a simple welcome to new followers?  Maybe 5 or so at a time?  At least then people know you are actually doing it and not relegating it to some cold, automated script. If you can’t manage that for some reason, then just skip it.  I’d rather see nothing than an autoreply.

Do you use an automated, canned response for your Twitter followers?

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  • sadukie said:

    If I see a canned response, I almost always assume it’s a bot, and that doesn’t make me happy. I’ll admit that I don’t use welcome messages for my followers. I check out their profiles to see who they are, what they tweet about, and determine whether I’ll follow them back. If I’ve brought new people to the Twitterverse, I may do a welcome and include how I know them. But canned and automated responses? Not for me… I’m a human and not a bot.

  • Jon F. Merz said:

    I’m not a big fan of the canned responses. Like you, I don’t always send a personal email, but neither do I send an automatic response, either. Usually, I go check out the profile and if it’s something of interest or something I can learn from, I’ll observe a few posts and then maybe start a conversation. Canned responses sorta turn me off a fair bit.

  • Eric Graudins said:

    I’d never use an automated follow, and I don’t like receiving them.
    We can all build our own personal Twitter base, and I’ll check people out before I follow them. I don’t want my twitter “inbox” to become a spamfarm.

  • Jonathan said:

    Yikes Chris

    Canned responses on Twitter are EXACTLY wrong.

    That is old school autoresponder styling. (Folks expect if from Aweber mailings, but not on Twitter.)

    Worse still, it’s truly ghastly to watch some of the old style Gurus trying to keep their ‘unquestioned’ God like status. For this reason several of them have HUGE trouble genuinely interacting with people. They truly think they can dictate “from the bottom upwards”.

    Heh. I had the temerity to mildly disagree with one a while back … he got mad and dissed me to all his followers without any real reason. It had NIL effect on my own followers.

    Long live social media. Authenticity will rule :)


  • Ann Kingman said:

    I used to send a personal, “thanks for the follow” message to new followers, but since these canned responses have started becoming popular, I’ve stopped. Why? Because I can no longer tell the personal welcomes from the canned responses (unless it contains link spam or hype). And I’d rather not send a message at all than have people think I am using an autoresponder.

  • Sharon McPherson said:

    I’ve never used autofollow applications, because as others have mentioned, I like to check out someone’s profile page before deciding to follow them back or not.

    And I would bet that those who do use them, would be surprised if they actually took a look at the profile pages of their followers, to find that many of them are just bots and spam accounts. Of course if all they worry about is being able to “boast” about the number of followers they have, this probably doesn’t matter to them.

    I try to always send a welcome DM to my new followers. To make it stand out from an automated welcome message, I’ll use their name, and/or mention something I found interesting in their Twitter bio or the page they linked to from their profile page. Which btw, is a good reason to include at least a first name and a little bit about yourself on your profile page.

    Yes, this approach takes some extra time and effort, but in my opinion, it’s a great way to start a “relationship”.

    Sharon McPherson

  • Chris (author) said:

    Thanks to everyone who has left a comment. It’s good to see that I am not alone in my line of thinking here!

    Sharon - good point about personal info on your Twitter profile page. If I don’t see at least a link to a blog where I can learn a little more about a user, I am unlikely to follow.

  • BookCalendar said:

    No, I do not use an autoresponder. They are very much like canned spam and people do not like it.

    I also find it somewhat rude. I would rather take the time to respond to peoples responses. I don’t spend a huge amount of time looking at welcome messages.

    I tend to focus more on people’s replies to messages or posting messages.

  • aeropolowoman said:

    I’m a stickler for “thank you” notes in the real world, and have applied that same standard for Twitter. When I send a “thank you” to a new follower or a follow-back I use their first name and add a comment specific to them. My belief is that it conveys warmness and a willingness to communicate/share/learn. I’m aware I may be connecting with a spam bot cement wall, but someone built that wall. Who knows, maybe I’ll eventually end up connecting with the cement — learn a lot — then write an award-winning feature on the “Secret Life of Cement.” OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s not that far from the effective relationships that have been built on Twitter.

  • Mike Figliuolo said:

    Thanks for posting the article! Check out my super fat burning diet on my site!

    Sorry… couldn’t help myself. I personally hate the autoreply bot. It’s also annoying to see tons of “Wecome new followers @annoying @annoying @annoying” in the twitter stream. We don’t care who’s following you (unless it’s Shaquille O’Neal). Instead, shoot new followers a personal DM. Nothing fancy. Just acknowledge their follow and let the conversation begin.

  • Brent Haeseker said:

    Great article. While a canned “thank you for your follow” message doesn’t really bother me (as it is usually the only canned ones I get from a follower) I agree it is not the best use of the platform. It is waste of time to make someone check their Direct Messages just to read the same line you’re seen a hundred times before.

  • Joshua said:

    This will never change until the collective conscious of the people using these tools change. Until people start treating the internet with respect realizing that they are talking to “people” and not machines, this type of thing will never stop.

    More and more moronic people are joining the conversation each day and I for one think that before you sign up for a social network you should be required to take a course in online conversation and prove that you will follow the rules or you should be kicked out of all networks and have your internet privileges stripped as well as be punched in the forehead.

    This type of behavior is the social equivalent of being at a party and having some jackass telling you that he has the secrets for you can make millions without working or asking you to read this awesome e-book on how to buy real-estate as soon as you shake their hand. How many of you out there would keep talking to someone who did that? If it were my party, I would throw him out by the back of the neck without hesitation.

  • Jay Krall said:

    Is there a meaningful difference between an automated response and a manually produced response that’s equally innocuous? Rather than thank every follower in the same way, why not make a substantive comment or ask a question of those new followers whose tweets really interest you?

  • BloggerSavvy said:

    I’ve been using an automated feature. Quite frankly I’m now considering turning it off. It helps to get bumped into seeing things from the receivers perspective.

  • Leanne Boyd said:

    I was so glad to see your Twitter message, and come here to read the rest. I am fairly new to Twitter, and have been overwhelmed with what a positive force it is, for finding like-minded people and actually getting involved. I’ve received a large share of the tin-can messages, and now I have turned that off for coming to my email. I zip through them on Twitter, and have found some personally written DMs that were important. The rest is just like all the other spam. What I don’t understand about those using this method… don’t they realize that this is an instant negative in my/your mind (the receiver)? That it will affect their future communications with me/you?

    In teaching at online university, one of the first things you take up, with a class, are the rules of Netiquette. The written word is quite different from fact-to-face spoken words. It is much easier to alienate and offend, just in slight misuse of simple wordings. The LAST thing people want to see in any inbox, is spam. It is an offense in the Twitter world, which, by nature of the very model, is intended to be personal interaction… even if that interaction is based on a hunt for business information.

    I delete these types of DM. Several individuals, upon taking a deeper look into their web site or their postings… I remove them.

    I have taken a lot of time to write personal posts after pondering a person’s site or blog. Yes, this is social interaction. Nobody should be treating their posts like an attempt at “killer sales page.” If you have something to offer, post it, INVITE me. Don’t DM me and shove it at me.

    I love the TwitWorld!

  • Robyn said:

    When someone comes to a party at my house, I don’t keep talking to other people and let a robot at the door welcome them. To me, that’s what automated welcomes are like. Impersonal and impolite; a clear indication that you don’t value ME as someone with whom to exchange ideas so much as just a warm body to add to your twitter stats and as a selling opportunity.

    Each person brings their own agenda to social media. Mine is to learn from others and to contribute positively to the conversation. If I’m not learning from someone and my replies and DMs are always ignored, then I unfollow. And I generally DM those I unfollow to tell them why.

  • Chris (author) said:

    Jay, I actually prefer your point of view, but have seen others do a “mass welcome tweet” which I suppose is better than a spammy auto-DM but not a good as what you are suggesting.

    Interesting that both Joshua and Robyn used party analogies, but I suppose that’s a good way to think about it.

    Great comments everyone - thanks for sharing.

  • Global Patriot said:

    I send an individual thank you DM to every follow, and I do my best to put in a personal note based what I found in their twitter bio - it might be a reference to where they are from or their profession, or passions, as I want them to know that I took the time to find out a bit of who they are.

    In most cases I also check out their blog/website, and if listed, their LinkedIn, Facebook or StumbleUpon accounts. It’s common that I discover something about them that is of great interest to me and will help to foster future conversations.

  • Angela Connor said:

    Those canned responses take the “social” right out of “social media.”
    I am not a fan and I agree with you that they are certainly missing the point. I just received one the other day that said something like: “I look forward to changing the world together.” At first I thought it was sincere but then I wasn’t quite sure how this person checked me out and was able to determine that I would somehow become a partner on a quest to change the world. At any rate, I think you get out of any platform what you put it. Put in canned responses and content, you will get the same thing in return.

  • SpRnch! said:

    Hey Nice BLOG! come over to and network with us!!!!
    Now that is cool… a way to name drop and make a joke at the same time…
    All jokes aside? Yeah… Tweet will definitely pull out all the raw unadulterated spam you can think of.
    something new for something old I guess.

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