In the natural world, parasites survive by living off of a host. They either plant their eggs or they themselves live on the host. They continue to suck blood and other nourishment and although the host becomes sick or weaker, this type of parasitism does not kill the host. What happens is one organism lives off of another while not contributing anything of value back. There is a worse form of parasitism, however, where a parasite would lay eggs on a larva of a host, for example, and the eggs would then continue to grow until it kills the host. At that time, the parasitic organisms would then mature into adult form and fly off and lay eggs on another host. This is a completely win-lose situation whereas the previous form of parasitism is a mild form of win-lose. This is a total form of win-lose. The parasite wins and the host loses its life.
Parasitic behavior in online marketing
Interestingly enough, this parasitic model does not just apply in the natural world. It applies in the world of online marketing as well. There are many marketing methods and practices that can become fatally parasitic, not only is it siphoning off precious traffic from websites that work hard to generate the authority, credibility and perceived value to get a large amount of website traffic everyday, but through its operation, it ends up destroying the value of that website or communication platform.
Examples of parasitic online marketing
The most common example of this behavior is e-mail. E-mail is a very beneficial activity and it is a sought-after benefit used by internet users. There are many free e-mail websites that have millions of users. Spammers would then infect such systems through brute force methods or data overflow methods to leech out some older mail system’s member list and then spam them. Others would use automated generation systems to just flood e-mail systems with fake e-mails. While most of these methods no longer work and modern e-mail systems are tighter, those older e-mail systems died or were forced to change because of this parasitic behavior. Similarly, Usenet newsgroups were constantly victimized by spammers and they were forced to change.
The Threat of Spam and Parasitic Marketing
The bottom line is that parasitic marketing behavior poses an evolutionary threat to messaging systems online. Whenever a parasitic marketer sees an opportunity and exploits that opportunity, the host is forced to change either by putting up security measures like CAPTCHA methods where users would have to enter in the words of graphic image for them to access their account or do something in the system. There is an evolutionary arms race where the spammers get better and the host has to get better, the host gets better and the spammer has to get better. It consumes much time and resources. This happens to the direct message system at Twitter.
Twitter’s Direct Message System
The original purpose of the direct message system is for one Twitter user to message another Twitter member to introduce themselves so they can either follow each other or the recipient can follow the sender. It is very straightforward. It works the same way as the direct message system at Facebook. As you probably already know, based on our previous guides, tweet messaging in Twitter is usually one way. If I am following you, you can send a message to me through your tweet and I will receive it in my feed, but outside of @ message or the direct message function, I cannot message you directly. The direct message allows for direct flow of communication between two accounts. It allows for coordination and allows for people on a “follow me and I will follow you” type of arrangement. In essence, it builds reciprocity.
Direct message as @ alternative
What is great about the direct message is it is an alternative to the @ message. The downside of the @ message is that your feed will include old @ messages that you were sending. If there are many people following you or if there are people following you that you care about, you may not want them to see the @ messages that you are sending because you may, for some reason, not want them to follow those accounts that have the @ message. Using the direct message function allows you to keep your direct communications secret from people that are following your feed. It keeps your feed clean and it keeps the integrity of your content presentation on your feed very clean and well organized. For these reasons, direct message is a great alternative. Similarly you preserve your privacy with a direct message because congruent to the previous point mentioned above, your communications remain private. Most importantly, you can let yourself go when doing private message. You have less limits because if you are going to be messaging people using the @ function, then you probably would need to be a little bit more polite, you would need to be a little bit more circumspect and then most likely need to contain yourself. With the direct message, you can be as blunt, direct and frank as you can. For the foregoing reasons, the direct message is a powerful communication tool at Twitter.
The Abuse of the Direct Message Feature
The most obvious way to spam the direct message feature is to set an auto direct message function. There are many third party platforms for Twitter where you can set this function. This is how it works: When somebody joins your feed, this system kicks in and sends an automated message ostensibly to thank them for following you. Many people abuse this function to send a link. Used responsibly, this makes much sense. However, spammers do not care. There is no context and some do not even care to thank and is just a link.
Using Auto-direct message for spam notifications
Why this does become a problem? It erodes your credibility. It erodes the credibility of your Twitter feed. A person who receives a direct message with obvious spam just because they followed you would probably unfollow you, and either bad mouth you to their friends or the word will spread that your account is a spam account. The worst case scenario is they may report you. The larger picture and the more troubling dimension of this practice is that it would kill the value of direct messages for other users of Twitter. They would just consider direct messages as all automatically spam and they would no longer read their direct message. This is a serious problem because the benefits that we discussed above will no longer be enjoyed by Twitter members because the direct message function has been tainted in their mind. As we have mentioned above, there are many beneficial uses to direct message function. It does help one’s usage with the Twitter. Used properly, this makes Twitter use a more meaningful, enjoyable and profitable exercise. By not using direct message, it takes away from its benefits.
Proliferation of Spam Direct Message
Unlike the spam notification discussed above, the spam direct message just uses the direct message function to just continuously spam accounts on Twitter. It is a bad idea. Not only does it destroy people’s confidence in the direct message function as described above, you erode the value of Twitter in the minds of its users in general. Also you risk of being banned. Spamming is just a bad idea whether you use the @ function, the direct message function or your tweets. The focus should be on quality. Twitter is a very powerful tool.
How to avoid this problem
People that are interested in your product or service are already following you and are obviously interested in what you have to say. Do not blow this opportunity by sending them garbage that is unrelated to your product or service. Send them content that adds value to their perception of what you have to offer. Remember that your most important possession on Twitter is your brand. Make it a brand that is equated with quality. Make it a brand that is synonymous with value. You can do this by making the recipient of your communications feel that they are getting value from conversing with you. Make it worthwhile. Think through all your posts, messages and notifications. Make sure that it adds value to the life of the recipient. If it does not, do not do it. Value is also subjective and therefore, try to get as close to an objective value as possible. What is an objective value? Special deals such as would they save money talking to you? Special information such that would they find out about information they did not already know by conversing with you? Emotional value such that would they feel good, encouraged, motivated or inspired by conversing with you?
The secret? Always provide value
The bottom line is that you must always provide value. The best way to do this is to think in terms of being a servant. It may be hard on the ego because we have been conditioned to think of the word in terms of what can you do for me. If you truly want to excel as a provider of value and sell more products or services, you have to think in terms of a servant. What can I do for you? How can I make things easier for you? How can I improve things for you? To do this well, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Would your actions be something that you would want to be done to you? The key thing that spammers miss is all they focus about is how they would benefit. Reading all those make money online books where you are promised to make several hundred thousand dollars a year lounging around in your bedroom in your pajamas with a few mouse clicks a few hours in a day is not helping things.
The principles of Building Value
Building value cannot be achieved through cutting corners. Building value is a discipline. Building value means being honest with yourself and living a life of integrity. This means policing everything that you do to make sure that it helps other people. Making money online and building value are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is the only sustainable way to make serious money online–to build value in the lives of others. Spamming direct messages on Twitter does not build value. Use it properly.
The direct message function is also being abused through the release of a flood of communication. Sure, you are sending updates, direct messages and @ messages that build value, which is great. However, if there is too much of it, if you are flooding the feeds of your recipients, it degrades value. Remember that one of the definitions of spam in addition to being unwanted, unsolicited messaging is repeated messaging. You can spam somebody by sending them too many messages. You can spam somebody by repeatedly sending the same message over and over. You can spam somebody by sending too many messages within a short period of time. Why does it become a problem? It degrades the value of your message. It is a fact that you are sending them quality, it is well researched, it conveys a direct value that is practical and has a direct impact in their lives, but the problem is you are sending too much of it.
Say it-Don’t Spray it
The bottom line is that timing is also very important to effective Twitter marketing. Do not send too many direct messages. When spammers abuse direct messaging system on Twitter, the recipients get a flood of communications. Even if people would want to filter through the spam, the flood of information and seeing that wall of messages turn people off. How do you fix this problem? Again, put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Would I want this done to me? What would I want? Pacing is important as well as packing in as much value into the direct message. Have the direct message contain one simple link and a compelling text and when they click it, they are brought to a page that is well segmented with your offers. The trick to effective communication is that their word of mouth will push you forward. You do not have to use a megaphone.
Rapid messaging means you are nagging
You do not have to continuously nag them. You do not have to talk forever. You just need to talk effectively and the value that you convey will be your best ambassador, not just to your target audience, but also to their friends and family. Remember, just like the old tired saying that quality is king on the internet, people will follow you, people will seek you out, people will esteem you if you provide quality. This does not happen overnight. This is not something that you can pick up off the shelf. This is something that you hone, you practice and you master through time. Every marketer is different. Your style is different from another person, and thank goodness for that. This is why you need to put in the time to master your Twitter direct message marketing skill in order for you to provide value.
The Bottom Line of Twitter Direct Messages
Direct message system is the latest powerful communication system that has fallen victim to parasitic marketing mentality. It is a good thing because it has pushed people out of the direct message system of Twitter and compelled them to look at their Twitter feeds instead. This is actually a healthy benefit because it is easier to just block people from Twitter feeds. In essence, it allows Twitter to continuously adapt through the behavior of its users so that parasitic behavior is punished. It is rough and it is not pleasant, but looking at it from the big picture, it may turn out to be quite a good thing. Direct message is easy to abuse and if there is still a high level of trust attached to it, it may take away from the value of the Twitter feed. Because of parasitism, people have been pushed to give more value to Twitter updates.