Despite Controversy, Twitter’s New Direct Message Feature is Good for Businesses

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Twitter-DMTwitter has launched a new feature related to direct messages on the platform that has been the subject of a lot of (largely unnecessary) controversy. Twitter users now have the option to allow their account to receive direct messages from anyone on Twitter and not just from people they follow. The feature is opt-in and Twitter has created safeguards to prevent abuse. This article will explain how the new feature works and why marketers should turn direct messages on for their brands.

Twitter has had direct messages for a while, but it was setup so that only followers of an account could be sent private messages. This made it extremely hard to send a private message to someone because you would have to ask them to follow you first before you could send them a message. This created a lot of barriers to conversations that people would like to use social media to have. To think of how unusual this arrangement is, think of how it would be on Facebook if in order to send someone a message, you had to write a post on their wall asking them to send you a friend request first.

Twitter has made it possible for users to enable their accounts to receive messages from people who they aren’t currently following. There are three major changes being made:

  1. Twitter adding a setting that allows users to receive Direct Messages from anyone, even if they don’t follow them.

  2. They also updated the messaging rules so users can reply to anyone who sends them a Direct Message, regardless of whether or not that person is following them. In other words, a person who sends a direct message can receive a reply regardless of the settings on their account.

  3. There’s a new Direct Message button on profile pages on Android and iPhone of accounts that have the feature turned on. So it’s easy to know who you can send a message with this new system.

Though the move puts Twitter in line with other social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, the change still stirred up a lot of controversy. Some complained that it would open the door for harassment. Harassment on Twitter is serious issue, but the company has made a lot of effort to combat the issue and implemented this policy in the best way possible for anyone concerned about the issue.

As was stated in the opening, the controversy over this feature is some what overblown, as tends to happen with any change on any social media platform. This is unfortunate since Twitter seems to have gone out of their way to make this as non-controversial as possible. The change to the direct messaging feature is opt-in. This means that people who don’t want their Twitter experience to change don’t have to do anything and everything will stay the same. It’s the people that want to use the feature that have to make the effort to turn it on in their settings.

For business owners that want to use Twitter to communicate with consumers, it’s a good idea to turn on this new feature of direct messaging. There are a lot of conversations related to business that people may not want to put on a public Twitter feed. The change to the Direct Messaging allows businesses to receive a message from customers without having to become fans of the customer’s personal Twitter account first.

“Previously, if you wanted to send a Direct Message to the ice cream shop down the street about how much you love their salted caramel flavor, you’d have to ask them to follow you first,” wrote Nhu Vuong in the blog post announcing the change. “With today’s changes, the ice cream shop can opt to receive Direct Messages from anyone; so you can privately send your appreciation for the salted caramel without any barriers.”

If the brand finds that allowing direct messages from consumers is problematic, they can always turn the feature back off.

Though it relates less to business (since no business should be posting threatening or harassing tweets), Twitter has also announced new features to combat harassment. These include locking out accounts engaged in abusive behavior until they’ve removed certain content or verified their telephone number (because removing anonymity makes people less likely to engage in abusive behavior). But for all the flack Twitter is catching for the opt-in direct messaging feature, it’s important to mention the things they’ve done to address the real problem that people are concerned with.

Twitter’s recent move on direct messages is just the latest in recent changes to the platform to make it more useful for brand owners. Read how Adidas recently took advantage of Twitter’s new Group Message feature.


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