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!)

CMO JOE AND THE DM SPAM - Part 1 What would you think?

I was recently followed by a CMO of a huge corporation. Let's call him @CMOJOE. On Friday, out of the blue -- without any past contact, he DM'd me on Friday, actively promoting what I feared was a course in SEO magic...but turned out to be his book.
CMOJOE: LivePath Wow! @booktitle made TheDailyBeast-This Week's Hot Reads list, is #261 today on Amazon & #9 on "Mover &Shaker" List! http://bitlylinktobookthaticouldnotrecognize

Now, maybe it's just me, but his approach felt invasive to me.  I didn't know the guy. He'd never talked to me before. I didn't know he wrote a book.  It was a bit like the Twitter equivalent of accepting a first date and being groped on the spot. Irritated, I DM'd him back:
Livepath: Did someone hack your account, or are you actually DM Spamming me?
He didn't respond. I checked his Twitter stream and noted that I was not the only person who was irritated by the DM approach.  It doesn't seem he responded to everyone - but there was a lot of action in his tweet stream.  The responses he did send seemed a little brusque to me. Here were a few tweet "leftovers" I found:
CMOJOE: @personsname (It's) called communication - how else (to) reach you?

CMOJOE: @personsname You may call it that. I call it a DM. I sent it.

CMOJOE: @personsname on the issue... one thing i can tell u, DM's do work, big time. Some "rules" are not fully worked out, hence the comments.

In all fairness, i didn't have time to cross references his responses to the original responses. What I saw on the surface seemed, however, brusque and unapologetic. I was past really caring, and posted a single tweet on the topic without naming my offender:

Livepath:  CMO of major corporation is auto DM Spamming me about his new book. Had never engaged with me before now. UNFOLLOW!

This didn't elicit a response from CMOJOE.  However, I did hear from some other Twitter folks who put some virtual pieces together and responded to me via @ and DM.

One tweeter questioned the "ethics" of CMOJOE's action (I don't think this is an ethics issue, incidentally). Others sent me thoughts and links to articles. All were equally turned off by CMOJOE's approach.

One individual pointed me to the "I hate Auto DMs on Twitter" Facebook Fan page, pointing out that CMOJOE was, curiously, a member. While, as of this writing, he seems to have discontinued "liking" this page, he did leave a post on the Page's Wall, which clearly states

"I put the auto DM people on my definition of a twanker! Despise auto DM's!"

Another user pointed out to me a post CMOJOE authored on the blog for his (former) large corporation --railing against "twankers" whom he defines as:
"Twanker (noun) a person, organization, or company who uses bad form on or exhibits bad behavior on Twitter."
(His post included auto DM's as twankish behavior.)
Another tweeter pointed me to an early release article stating that CMOJOE had resigned his position with major corporation to pursue full-time promotion of his book, "which was becoming a full time job."

Still another tweeter sent me a link to an article in a major publication, announcing CMOJOE's intent to launch into a television career:
"The gregarious executive, 49, tells me he has been approached 'by a lot of people to do TV' and he is now hashing out the details of a show, which could be on the air by fall, if not sooner."

Another sent another major media article to me about his resignation, which reads:

"(Huge Corporation CEO) knew he planned to leave the company this year. He decided recently to accelerate his departure. He plans to leave the company May 28.... (CMOJOE) says he will keep promoting himself and his projects through social media channels."

The press helped me fit some pieces together:  His book was doing well and he's moving on quicker than expected. All the more reason to aggressively push the book. Throw in a television deal... Okay - got it.
Later on, I saw that CMOJOE had become a last minute speaker at a conference that evening, and had spent 40 minutes on the topic with a passionate audience. I didn't have time to do anything other than retroactively scan some of the tweets from that session, and I don't like to formulate opinions when I'm not present for discussion. So, to avoid relying on hearsay, potential misquotes or information presented with a lack of context, I waited for some indication of personal concern from CMOJOE.

Maybe the message was sent in poor judgment... or maybe CMOJOE is a "twanker," to use his own term. The jury was still out for me.What do you think?

I admit, that when I have wanted some input, I've pinged a few friends via DM for attention... but it's always been a selective few... and I do it in a manner I hope doesn't feel like spam...typically these are people who are trusted sounding boards, and folks I do the same for on occasion. 

What would you do if, never hearing from before, you were sent CMO Joe's tweet?  Is it right or wrong to DM self-promotional messages to your follower list?  Where do you draw the line?  Do you use "Auto Bots?"  Thoughts?  

(Note:  I decided not to identify CMOJOE for a number of reasons ... The only one I choose to share is this:  I try to treat others the way I'd like to be treated in similar circumstances.  Please use care in your comments. It's not necessary to single anyone out to have constructive dialog) 


After a hard day of work, I saddled up to the table last night, delighted.  My husband had prepared a nice dinner for our family. Our dining room has a window facing to the street. As we looked out into the grey, calm evening, we could see children playing and people walking their dogs.  I suddenly noticed a very tall, perky, smiling, canvassing, door-to-door marketer in a green jacket. 

Digging in to my lasagna, I said, "Man! Why do they always come around at dinner time?!"  My husband replied "Are you seriously asking that question?"   He was right. I know better.

Feeling uneasy, we began eating.  We watched as the "Perkiteer" reached our next-door, spanish speaking neighbor.  Her visit was predictably short.  She bounded down the driveway and turned for our house with a determined gleam in her eye.

As she passed by our dining room window, she looked directly into the window at us - clearly gathered around our meal. 

"You don't think she'll actually come to our door now, do you?"  still knowing better.  "Naaaw!" said my husband, sarcastically.   "I'm not answering it!!" I said, knowing I would, anyway.  We heard her feet on the stoop, and the knocking began. Our lab began barking hysterically, and the interruption was complete. I threw down my napkin and said "I'll handle it."

I opened the door to her smiling face.  "Hi! I'm KAYLA with TRU GREEN Lawncare and I..."  I interrupted politely, "I'm sorry, Kayla. As you can see, we are in the middle of our dinner."  Kayla frowned, hopeful "I'm sorry, I just wanted to..."  I interrupted again  "I'm sorry Kayla. We're in the middle of dinner. This is not a good time for us.  Have a good night."  Kayla rebounded, fervent in her approach "But, can I just give you a flyer?"  she said, desperately.  I sighed, "Sure, give me a flyer." She handed me a very large door hanger signed with her name and said to call her if we needed anything. I didn't thank her. I just said, "Goodbye Kayla." She went on, undeterred, to knock insistantly at more doors, at dinner time on a Thursday evening.

Staring briefly at the oversized door hanger in my hands, I ripped it into four pieces.  I sat down at the table, bristling. This wasn't really about Kalya. She was sort of cute and endearing.  It wasn't that it hasn't happened before.  My anger stemmed over the fact that this was simply stupid marketing.  It is simply astonishing how many companies do equivocably, the same thing: Irritate people, interrupt family or personal time, spoil dinner and then ask for our money!

"This is not even good marketing" I remarked to my husband, It's ME keting!"  Together, we worked up a definition of the MEketer: 
  • MEketers love interruptive, pushy tactics
  • MEketers are ego-driven, believing people should want to listen, just because they are a brand
  • MEketers are more concerned with delivering messages than building relationships
  • MEketers fail to demonstrate care or regard for people because they view them as a means to an end
  • MEketers often believe success is driven by working "more"  - not working "smarter"
  • MEketers favor tenacity over common sense
  • MEketers love the cookie cutters - They are formulaic marketers - doing everything the same way, every time.
Kayla chose to rudely interrupt us, and TruGreen lost a potential customer. If she'd gently left a door hanger with a personalized note, and returned at a later time, we would have talked with her.  Imagine this greetingL

Hi!  I didn't want to interrupt your nice family dinner!  I'll come back at another time!  Best, Kayla 
Unfortunately, Kayla had been schooled well in MEketeering.  Sadly, as more doors are slammed in her face, I can see her young optimism and perkiness eroding quickly.  Looking ahead, poor Kayla just may become casualty of lazy, old school training, resigning her green jacket for a fast food uniform.

As I've repeatedly mentioned in my blog posts, the old tactics don't work in the new economy. Marketing has fundamentally shifted:

The companies that really understand this shift will change their tactics to demonstrate genuine care and regard for people, devise out of the box methods for reaching people and building affinity, leverage new channels and tools to bolster service, and close deals by demonstrating respect, value and trustworthiness.

Companies of all shapes and sizes - especially those with a local presence:  Use your noggins!  Be people-centric. Celebrate your customers as they celebrate your products and service.  Get yourself on local, review driven sites like Angie's List and encourage customers to review your service or products!  Use Facebook to create a solid local network, bound by relationship.  Do something to improve a neighborhood, shout about it online and through traditional media.  Be authentically good!  And, if you go door-to-door, do it with respect and politeness, and in a sensible referral driven manner.  Demonstrate care for people, tell a compelling story and don't push too hard.  It's good business, and it's about time.  You can't afford NOT to make the shift in this tough economy!





TwitterLinkedInYouTubePosterousFacebook G+


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.


The Customer Experience Edge


Age of Conversation 3 - Get yours now in hardcover, paperback and for the Kindle.


Web Redesign: Workflow that Works