CMO JOE AND THE DM SPAM - Part 2: Joe Speaks

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, it might be a good ideaIn short, last Friday, I was DM'd a self-promotional book message from a CMO of a major corporation, which led to some twitter discussion on DM "Spam" and the way this high profile personality handled things.  I've assigned him the name "CMOJOE" because frankly, I don't thrive on conflict or picking on people (and this is not the point anyway).

Interested in hearing his perspective, I politely tweeted CMOJOE a third time on Monday morning, mentioning a post I'd considered writing. This time, almost two hours later, I got a DM response. After a few DM's and some phone tag, he asked me if we could talk in person.

It's always interesting adding voice to an online persona.  CMOJOE was bold and direct. While initially, I found him a bit defensive, perhaps he expected me to be hostile or write a scathing personal attack.  In time, however, our tone became more upbeat, and instead of mutually interrupting each other with negative assumptions, we started banging around thoughts and input.

In a very direct fashion, CMOJOE made his position on the DM very clear to me.  His opinion, as summarized is this:
  • When we follow people, we give them permission to DM us.
  • Direct Messages work - it's been proven time and again
  • A single DM is not the same as "spam" which he referred to as "repeated" (unpermissioned) messaging
  • His position has been adamantly against Auto DM, although he admits to conflicting opinions about its use -- as well as the potential value and benefit improved DM messaging tools might have in the future
  • He did not use auto DM tools - He manually pasted 3 different messages into individual DMs, over a 3 day period (to a list of about 21k followers)
  • He has no recollection of being a member of the FB "I Hate Auto DM's on Twitter" Fan Page 
  • The positive response far outweighed the negative: Hundreds of congratulations, thousands of books sold and only 17 people offended from his follower list.
  • He responded personally via DM to most detractors and spoke a few by phone.
  • It is very easy to take his responses out of context - especially responses to some very rude, personal assaults, and fragments of threaded 140 character messages
  • He supports and welcomes open dialog and debate
  • In the end, people who don't like his answers are welcome to unfollow him 
  • In retrospect, we can all do things differently - That's how we learn.  
  • If he could do it over again, he would   - but he would would adjust/improve his message.
  • In the end, his excitement trumped caution - He admits he was "really excited" about his book's success and wanted "to tell everybody"
It was a good discussion. I didn't agree with his angle on all points but I appreciated his candor. I found him to be a good match to my own energy level, frankness and intensity. While he defended his position in a largely unapologetic tone, he did express some regret for offending a few people with his message. He also asserted that the majority of those who are complaining, including those "polled" in subsequent blog posts were not on his Follower list.

We talked about South Dakota and continuing some brain hockey around dinner sometime, and that's pretty much how it ended - on a friendly note.

I'm trying hard to be objective with this.  The  truth is, whether you or I agree or not with CMOJOE, there's a lot of fodder for discussion in CMOJOE's case.  Here are a few things that jumped out to me:

CMOJOE underscored that he did not use an auto-bot to tweet DMs to his follower list. I'm pretty sure people's issues were related the content of the DM itself, rather than the means of delivery.  Tools can be an issue when they fail (e.g. sending duplicate messages to same account), but it is primarily the messages we that we're judged on. Our messages are always interpreted within the contexts of our relationships. The value we place on our audience is inherently attached to our communication.  Even though CMOJOE didn't use an auto DM, his message felt mechanized.  In the words of one tweeter "If it looks like spam, feels like spam - to me, it's spam."

Even if he had chosen to used an Auto DM tool, the outcome would have been the same with that message because it created a perception for some people of spam.  Even if, in the future, DM tools mature to enable segmentation and testing, so our messages are sent with more care --> they'll still just be tools.  They'll never accurately interpret the "context" of our relationships, they won't write messages for us and they can't replace common sense.

Bottom line:  Avoid the illusion of spam!  Nobody wants to talk to an auto bot.  Make sure your messages, regardless of delivery engine, do not undermine the personal nature of social channels.

While technically, I understand where CMOJOE stands on the topic and rules of opt-in and spam, I believe he placed undue emphasis on this issue. I may have opted in for DMs when I followed him in return. However, as CMOJOE admits, the rules for social engagement are still evolving.  The old definitions of spam applied to email don't map neatly to new channels - just like there's no magic formula for the size of a blog post.  So, while the "rules" may permit to DM your follower list with solicitations, social ettiquite may suggest otherwise.  In the end, it's all about who follows you, and how you handle it.

Using DMs to self-promote requires a lot of thought and care -- because it can really turn folks off.  This is really important to consider in the age of transparency, because offending the wrong people can be incredibly damaging - and news travels fast!  It's not about the size of the audience... it's about influence, voice and tenacity.  Fortunately for CMOJOE, there doesn't seem to be any significant collateral damage - other than managing responses, which had to be a time sucking effort - and the good seemed to outweigh the bad. 

Bottom line:  Don't let "rules"dictate your approach - let relationships. Message others in a manner that builds and preserves trust and relationship.

CMOJOE admitted he was excited and busy. Frankly - if my book rose to the top at Amazon, I would be stoked, too.  In truth, whether we face a deadline, we're time starved or just rushing -- every single one of us, on Twitter, Facebook or other channels.... in a moment of haste, excitement or even momentary poor judgment, can inadvertently say or do the wrong things.  We can't always delete tweets, posts, profiles and/or affiliations we've made - because it's probably been seen -- it's out there in some version, somewhere.  You might get lucky and dodge a bullet or find that others are watching more closely than you thought.  In any case, we deal with the consequences of our haste. We must ready ourselves for the scrutiny of the crowd, with the knowledge that people can often be unfair, overly personal in their critique. 

Bottom line:   Stop and think:  It's not necessary to be paranoid. It is a good idea to take a breath and ask a couple questions BEFORE sending out any self promotional solicitation:
  • Is this the right thing to do?
  • How would I feel getting this message?
  • As the recipient, what would I do with this message?
  • Does this compromise another individual, violate trust or open doors for misunderstanding?

If CMOJOE hadn't gotten back to me, and offered to call me personally and taken the time to follow up when he failed to reach me the first time, I'd simply have a lower opinion of him. Responding to constituent concerns in a reasonable time frame is key to managing delicate situations and diffusing any crisis.Whether we agree with the opinions or actions others take -- every detractor presents an opportunity to openly show ourselves to be gracious, open, thoughtful and responsive.  Every response is an opportunity to further underscore --  and help people understand  -- our position.

To some, CMOJOE may seem like an ego-centric self-involved promoter (I received some tweets that speak to that).  Let's be fair, though:  He is also a busy executive who was in the middle of a resignation, a press junket an an onslaught of messages (email, social and otherwise).  To his credit, he took time to respond individually and subjected himself to open debate with a crowd that at times got personal (and his responses were sometimes brusque and equally direct).  However, regardless of whether people agree or disagree with what he did or how he answered challenges -- or  whether or not people think his choice of using a DM to promote his book makes him a hypocrite ---> CMOJOE did himself a great service by putting himself out there and responding proactively. 

Bottom Line:  Taking time to listen and respond proactively underscores your respect for people and relationship.  Assuming this position helps diffuse conflict, breeds respect and provides a sense of resolution for detractors.  Ultimately, people want to feel they've been "heard" - and once they do, they're more likely to listen. 

I've heard it argued that alienating people is wrong -- that it won't produce positive outcomes.  Not only is this a gross generalization, the assertion flies in the face of the truth that there are many, highly offensive and tremendously successful people out there.  Consider polar opposites Glenn Beck and Ariana Huffington. They have both offended their share of people. Consider Steve Jobs!  CMOJOE isn't even a polar personality, by comparison.  The truth is, when we engage with people in any medium, we run the risk of alienating people. Ultimately, we're all managing risk in that regard - and while we minimize that risk, we need to maximize the reward -- both for our followers and our "brands."

Looking at CMOJOE's case strategically, his direct goal was to drive people to buy his book.  His related objectives may have included using Twitter to inform X people of the book's success, motiviate X followers to spread the message, and build X amount of buzz in the Twittersphere to support the pending announcement of departure from "Big company".  Whether that's 100% accurate or not is not the point -- it's an illustrative example to show that, judging from his own calculations, CMOJOE had his eyes on the prize.  This is something many of us in social channels are curiously shy about!

Bottom Line:  We don't work this hard for nothing.  Instead of being afraid of not alienating anyone, we should place our emphasis on fostering loyalty and response with the right people, and measuring our outcomes against established goals and objectives.

In summary, CMOJOE don't see everything the same way,  but like him, I'm open to debate and try to be fair minded.  Thank you for honoring me by reading this second part of the series.  If you have a moment tell me:  What do you think?  What other lessons or insights can be extracted from this situation?  Lemme have it!

(Note:  Again, please use care in your comments.  I try to treat others as I'd like to be treated and have decided not to name, or link to the "real" CMOJOE.  If you know him, just call him Joe.  Thanks!)


Connie Reece said...

Leigh, I would probably have reacted the same way you did, given that you had not had any prior interaction with Joe. While we do opt-in to DMs when we reciprocate with a new follower, we do not expect the very first DM from that person to be a solicitation or advertisement--no matter how well-written, and whether it was sent by a bot or hand crafted.

On the other hand, once I've built a relationship with an online friend, I do welcome hearing about their successes and often help promote their books, blog posts, whatever. But that's due to the fact that I have a relationship with that person--a vested interest in them.

This is a good case study, and I'm glad you and Joe were able to talk about it.

Leigh Durst said...

@Connie - thanks for the comment, Connie, and for understanding what I'm trying to do with the post.

Leigh Durst said...

Post script: I'm now flooded with DMs asking who the guy is. You can probably figure it out but not with my help. I WILL tell you who he's not:

He's a guy who hasn't committed any crime. He didn't hurt anyone, kick any puppies or spurn the elderly or disadvantaged. He's not out shilling for a scam, and he didn't break the law. If he did, I might share his name.

It isn't my goal to harm him -- OR to give him undue publicity - but to talk about the communication principles at play here. This interests me much more than drama.

Michael Benidt said...

The fact that it works should never be confused with the fact that it's intrusive and offensive.

But, as one of his followers said, (we'll call him @JoeTheSalesGuy):

"Let 'em rap yer knuckles while you cry all the way to the bank. Cheers pal."

With followers like that, who needs detractors?

Leigh Durst said...

Wow, I hadn't seen that comment, although I did see him retweet some other opinions that were sufficiently brusque.

Aliza said...

I think the mistake that was made is glaringly obvious in CMOJOE's first premise:

When we follow people, we give them permission to DM us.

That is fundamentally NOT TRUE.

When we follow people, we are interested in viewing their Twitterstream in our Twitterstream. We are NOT giving implicit or explicit permission to send us a DM.

Yes, by following someone - and IF (and only if) that person follows you back - you are now able to send/receive DMs, it is NOT a given that I follow you to give you permission to DM me.

By fundamentally making a false and arrogant assumption that by me following you, I now give you permission to DM me, you risk acting in an offensive manner. Some people have higher tolerances than others for offensive, arrogant, inconsiderate behavior.

I received the same email. I was stunned that someone who seemed to "get" Twitter would commit such an obvious faux pas. I ignored it. I have too many more important things in life and work to care about someone who's being a jerk. I didn't even give it enough consideration to think of unfollowing him. I just noted that he lost a lot of credibility in my mind, and I had no interest in buying a book from someone who lacks credibility.

We can't please everyone all of the time. But we sure can be courteous and not be presumptuous about peoples time, interest and attention.

Promotional Products said...

Leigh- Thanks for sharing. It is interesting to follow both parts of this story. I think @Connie is right about having a similar reaction the first time meeting Joe. Keep up the great work here!

Promotional Products said...

I always hate that people get offended by a DM, they followed me, I feel like I can contact them in the medium that they chose to follow me in. Great look at the use of DM.

@EdgeGirl said...

I just found your blog after looking at the image for the Social Media Celebrity.

LOL Thanks for that.

I agree with @Connie and recently had a "colleague" (loosely used) be a bad girl.

She sent me a snotty reply to something in the Twitter stream and then wrote about how she was the "x expert" and so blah-blah-blah.

I pondered whether to ignore or respond and figured that perhaps the written medium didn't contribute to the right interpretation.

I mean if your an expert do you really have to broadcast?

Especially to someone else in your field?

So I replied with a jovial note and was then met with another snotty reply.

THEN she began using the @myname (and @othernames) to promote her business activity in my stream.

It is the ME keting thing you referred to previously.

So, I unfollowed her and put her into a list that I check now and again.

I've watched her work her way up through various channels. She's change her mind, used a trademark name variation and get sued, stole a couple of ideas from someone else--etc.

Okay, so my point?
Engagement is fine if you have a relationship but it is a balance...and it isn't a good idea to overstep boundaries in real life or in cyberspace.

But people just don't think about it.

One of my LinkedIn groups is networking on Facebook. BUT when the first two came over, they didn't introduce themselves and just started posting links & promo on my page.

Since we agreed to network, I left a message suggesting that people introduce themselves as a first step--to me it is just good manners.

SM is used so many different ways that there isn't a standard.

As for me, I selectively follow people and find big fluctuations because of it.

I only use auto DM when someone does. My request is that they send me a burning question and their URL so I can check them out.

It is a test and I find it odd that few reply.

That tells me that they really are not interested or not that Twitter savvy.

Your thoughts?

Leigh Durst said...


I thought you said it well when you said "Engagement is fine if you have a relationship but it is a balance...and it isn't a good idea to overstep boundaries in real life or in cyberspace."

WIth regard to the Auto DM thing on Twitter... I think yoru approach is interesting and a great litmus test. I don't use auto DM but I do respond in person from time to time and the results are mixed.

In the end, I think some people just want to do the follow game... and the more tools they use, it shows me they're probably interested in self-promotion. Time tells all... and I typically don't follow people if I sense they're in it only for themselves.

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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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