How I Get a 23% Response Rate to Cold DMs on Twitter

If you’ve followed me on Twitter recently you may have received a message like this:

Hey Jake, thanks for the follow :) What are you working on at the moment?

Now, to the untrained eye that may look like a sincere olive branch of friendship, but actually it’s an evil, devious, scheming, auto-DM.

There’s a fair amount of negative emotions surrounding auto-DM’ing on Twitter. I’ve always been vehemently against it myself, too. But since I’m the CEO of a content marketing startup and I’m a fan of self-experimentation I thought I really should give it a shot. In all honesty I was only really doing it to write a moany blog post about it.

Setting everything up

After a brief and terrible experience with a popular auto-DM’ing service, I settled with Unfollowers. The landing pages didn’t fill me with hope, and the dashboard’s kinda nasty, but the core functionality works really well. I went for the Voyager plan ($6.90 a month at time of writing) to remove the horrible “-via unfollowers.com” tag.

I was anxious to avoid the types of message I really dislike getting sent on any network. Insincere and Salesy. Basically I was avoiding this:

Happy to connect. Check out my website http://www.contentacle.com — amazing software for bloggers and inbound marketers — I know you’ll love it.

In Unfollowers the actual message setup was really quite easy. You get access to a bunch of merge variables (I used the first name) and an option to limit the amount of DMs you send per ‘instance’ (an instance in the paid version is an hour).

Lastly you can add variations of the message you’d like to send new followers. I chose to just use one variation, but if you add more Unfollowers will rotate them every time it sends a DM.

The messages themselves are sent once an hour so there may be a slight delay before you see them start to go out. I pressed save, went to make a coffee and by the time I got back a few had been sent.

Results

I ran the experiment for 16 days from September 31 to October 15, during which time I sent 537 auto-DMs. Out of those, I received an impressive 121 (22.5%) responses. Of those 121 responses 1 (0.8%) was clearly annoyed, 2 (1.7%) jokingly commented on the fact that it was an automatic message (I’d already spoken to them, so it was pretty obvious!), but nobody tried to virtually kill me. Which was pleasant, and unexpected.

Ah, caught your autobot redhanded
Haha! Sorry. :P

The diversity of responses was great. I had conversations with people from all over the world in English, French and Spanish.

no hablo inglés
Lo siento! Cómo estás?

I spoke to CEOs, founders, web developers, house-husbands and everyone in-between. People that were on Twitter for work (like me) and people that were there just because.

i do tweet for fun only
Great! Twitter’s fun.

Some lead to super long responses, and some lead to one word (that often didn’t make sense).

Thank
No worries

Even the worst though were pretty polite.

If you followed me, you’d know
I just did :) But I’m not sure that’s totally true — I follow > 1000 people, it’s difficult to keep track of everyone!

The most surprising thing for me was the amount of leads I generated for Contentacle. As you’ve seen, I mentioned nothing about myself in the initial message. I also didn’t ever bring it up. Yet over half of the respondents asked about what I was up to.

Tell me more about your business Jake? :-)
I’m actually making an inbound marketing product at the moment for @cntntcl — it’s a platform to plan, manage and publish content as a team (like Trello meets Google Docs, for content). I’d love your feedback if you have time! http://contentacle.com

And 8 people asked about Contentacle by name.

How is Contentacle going? Great name, BTW.
Thanks :) Contentacle’s going really well — we’re opening up a private beta in the next few days, looking at a public launch in 2–3 weeks. At the moment we’re just finishing off the platform and writing tests.

I’ve got a few calls coming up this week, a couple of private beta testers lined up and a dozen extra emails on the newsletter. Not bad for a few automated messages.

Key takeaways

1) Auto-DMs can be a good thing, but try not to be a spammy spammer.

2) Only use auto-DMs to start conversations, and be prepared to actually have a conversation when they respond.

3) There’s some really great people out there. Once you take the time to engage with them you’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn, and how many people’s lives you’ll touch.

4) If you go into it just trying to promote yourself people will almost definitely hate you. You need to actually care about other people’s businesses — ask some questions when they respond.

Next Steps

Honestly, I need a break. Since starting the experiment I’ve spent way more time than I’d like on Twitter, and I genuinely think I’m getting addicted.

I’m definitely going to keep the auto-DMs but tone it down a little. As of now I’m turning Unfollowers down to 3 tweets an hour to make replying a bit more manageable, but long term I wanna run some A/B tests to see if I can further increase the response rate and have even more meaningful conversations.