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:

This message shows up in my analytics as 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: 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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