No social media feature is more abused than the direct message — and marketers are the biggest culprits.

Despite holding the power to privately message digitally active brands and social media influencers, the vast majority of marketers ignore those opportunities, choosing instead to spam every new follower with a worthless, automated spiel.

It’s time marketers took the art of direct message marketing seriously.

What Is Direct Message Marketing?

Direct message marketing, also known as DM marketing, is the practice of generating leads, forming professional relationships and developing business in general with individuals and brands via social network direct messaging features.

When executed correctly, a Twitter or Instagram DM can be the spark that ignites an influencer marketing campaign, or it could be the first step towards acquiring a new client.

To reclaim this golden marketing opportunity — and avoid coming across as a social media spam machine — here are six rules to govern your direct message marketing campaigns.

6 Rules of Direct Message Marketing Campaigns

1. Kill Automated DMs

Like most Twitter and Instagram users, my direct message inbox is nothing more than a spam folder full of automated messages. I don’t read them on principle, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Sending those annoyingly generic messages does almost nothing to convert social media followers. On the contrary, they only serve to annoy your latest followers and damage your brand’s image.

2. Identify Your Target

Random doesn't work for any marketing campaign, let alone direct messaging campaigns. They should be well researched, targeted and carried out with care.  

That doesn’t mean you can’t scale the process. It just means being more selective about who you target — and here's why.

3. Begin by Courting Publicly

Again, most DM inboxes are riddled with spam. So how do you get your targeted recipient to value and open your message?

Simple: show up on their radar in public before you approach them in private.

By engaging with your target’s latest social media post — whether by retweeting or leaving an insightful comment — you gain value in their eyes. Of course, the bigger their following, the more you’ll need to engage, but each time you do, you’re building a rapport with them before you ever send a DM.

Once you show up on their radar, they’ll be more likely to read and respond to any direct message you send behind closed doors.

Learning Opportunities

4. Make it Personal

Marketers are deploying personalization more widely than ever before — and that’s because it works. But a good marketer knows that personalization means more than just using the recipient’s first name.

Personalization can be as easy as a relevant comment about how much you appreciate your target’s recent work.

In other words, make it everything that an automated direct message is not.

5. Give, Don’t Ask

Beyond personalization, your direct message needs to give the recipient true value, something more than a follow-for-follow deal. Offer them a deal that favors the recipient more than it favors you — at least for now.

For an influencer, you might offer to give them a shout out if you have a sizable following. If not, you might want to give them a free sample of your product, or a free trial of your service.

If you are thinking of approaching a brand about your social media marketing service, consider giving them some feedback and tips on how they could improve their social media presence gratis.

6. Aim to Establish Relationships

Once you have conveyed some value, it’s time to nurture the lead. Every scenario will play out differently, but now that you have your target’s attention, the next step would involve an exchange that benefits both parties.

And while direct messages are indeed a great way to gain leads, they aren’t the ideal environment to nurture them. Shift the conversation over to email or Skype at this point.

Reclaim the DM

With ethical tactics, personalized messages and value-based offers, marketers can finally reclaim the power of direct message marketing.

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