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Some people love them, some people hate them (rather like popups, right?). But the question isn’t whether or not you like them, the question is, do they work for generating any kind of traffic or attention? The answer is… let’s test!

You see, as much as I may have an opinion on any given marketing practice, I frequently need to remind myself that I am not my audience. I am not my customers. I am no one except myself, one anecdotal bit of evidence in a sea of data waiting to be explored. I routinely rail against the HIPPO problem – the highest individually paid person’s opinion – as being the cause of many marketing failures, so it’d be absurd for me to let my personal preferences dictate whether or not something is worth trying.

So let’s look at a few days’ worth of data from my analytics. The goal in this case was pure traffic alone, not conversion. I wanted to know if auto-DMs would have any kind of real effect on traffic to my website, since traffic is the easiest commitment to get out of someone – just show up. On June 6, I kept doing all of my normal Twitter practices (welcome message, #the5, etc.) plus turned on the auto-DM feature in TweetAdder (affiliate link) with a simple message and a custom, trackable hyperlink.

Before I show the data, I want to ask you this as a fellow marketer: do you have an opinion of auto-DMs? Is that opinion founded on data you collected or the HIPPO problem in your head? If the latter, there’s a good chance you’re not making the most of many different marketing tactics and strategies because you’re letting your judgement cloud opportunities.

Ready for the data?

Here’s the contents of the daily welcome message I send, usually first thing in the morning:

Good morning friends from (wherever I am). (something relevant daily). New friend? Welcome aboard: https://cspenn.com/w

This message shows up in my analytics as cspenn.com welcome message / linkshortener.

Here’s the auto-DM I was sending:

Thank you for following me. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a quick summary: https://cspenn.com/dm

cspenn.com welcome DM direct message / linkshortener

A key part of testing is making sure you have tracking turned on and made as granular as practical in order to get reliable data. Doing this experiment without correct link tracking would lead to bad conclusions or no conclusion at all. In this case I set up custom URLs on my site and tagged them with the Google Analytics URL builder.

In the period between June 6 and June 10, I picked up 86 new followers. (thank you and welcome aboard, folks)

All Traffic Sources - Google Analytics

In that time period, we can see that 45 of them responded to the welcome message (since very few followers who’ve been around for more than a day or two click through on it – they’ve seen it). 3 responded to the auto-DM.


  • The daily welcome message engaged 52% of new followers.
  • The auto-DM engaged 3.5% of new followers.

The winner is clearly the daily welcome message and not the auto-DM. Once I had a few days’ worth of data, I turned it off. With as large a Twitter audience as I have and as busy a frequency I have, I’m confident enough in my own data to say that it’s not working for my audience.

Does this mean you shouldn’t use auto-DMs? NO! No, it doesn’t, because your audience may be different from mine. The people interested in you may respond differently. If you don’t test it, you’ll never know. If you let your opinion in advance of data cloud your decisions, you’ll never know and you may be losing money, opportunities, or other things you value. Test it. Test everything, and only after you have reliable data that you sourced yourself should you pass judgement. This is true of every marketing method you have available to you. Write off methods without testing at your peril.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


15 responses to “Do Auto-DMs Work?”

  1. Apart from the very interesting test per se, the jewel in this is:

    ” If you let your opinion in advance of data cloud your decisions, you’ll never know and you may be losing money, opportunities, or other things you value.”

    That’s a very precious and powerful statement. I wish I never forgot that.

  2. Thanks Chris, great to see this data.
    Do you automate your daily welcome?


    1. Nope. Each message is contextual based on what’s happening and how I feel.

  3. Hi Chis,

    A very interesting read and great to see someone actually testing.

    Almost a week ago, I decided to run a poll called: Auto DMs – do they annoy you? http://bit.ly/lnGKIJ

    Whilst I am not testing click through rates like you, I did want to see a snapshot of people’s opinions. The results don’t surprise me to be honest.

    How would you vote? (I voted yes)



    1. They don’t annoy me per se because I usually just don’t pay attention to them.

  4. Great test.  I personally don’t see the value in having automatic DM’s.  It makes following less authentic in my opinion.  I want an audience that’s going to engage my content not just simply brush over it.

  5. My initial reaction was of course, “Hell no!!! What are you talking about?” The end users I know have already made this decision for me. Therefore, I don’t think I need to alienate them by running an additional test. The corollary here is, don’t run a test like this from a new account, as you’ll never regain your rep afterwards…. 

    1. True. However, I’m always trying something 🙂

  6. Al Pittampalli Avatar
    Al Pittampalli

    This is a cool test Chris. The greater lesson though is even more valuable: Don’t fall prey to assumptions, use data to support your decisions, not just intuition. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Interesting test, Chris!

    I had made a post about Auto-DMs just recently:


    The idea of the Auto-DM was….hammered!!  Fangs and claws came out. 🙂

    I more prefer something like a welcome message.  To me a link in an initial message is…pushy.

    Thank you for doing the research!!


  8. logoian Avatar



    reading your post I have a better understanding of what 

    Auto-DMs Work? really is.

    post has the information that is helpful and very informative. I would like you
    to keep up the good work.

    know how to make your post understandable for most of the people.


    Thumbs up and Thanks.

  9. Can you explain the daily welcome more? Is that something you send just new followers or all followers? Do you send it via Tweetadder? – Thanks.

  10. Hi Chris, 

    Interesting read, thanks for posting it. 

    Firstly, you mention that your daily welcome message engaged 52% of new followers. Might be a silly question, but how did you determine this stat? For example, how do you know they we’re definitely new followers? I guess in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter, engagement is engagement, but curious to know. 

    Secondly, I wonder if the success of the daily message over the auto-DM is in part due to the fact that your followers can see that the message is actually coming from you and not just a canned response. I would think (HIPPO coming out here) that the fact that they are following your personal Twitter account as opposed to a corporate account such as @whatcounts:disqus  that they would be more inclined to engage with something a little more personal. 



    1. That one’s relatively easy. In GA, do a custom traffic segment on the content page for the landing page. The overwhelming majority are new visitors to the site.

  11. It’s just a daily message I start out my morning Tweets with. Just did it on my account now, actually

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