Some blog posts generate little reaction; some generate a lot; and sometimes it is a single idea contained within a blog post that spurs the greatest response. I recently authored a diatribe entitled "Eight Things I'm Sick Of In Social Media."  The comments associated with the post are fascinating and informative, but one point created the strongest and most supportive reaction:  When I said I was sick of Auto DMs on Twitter.  (For those who don't know, Auto DMs are generic, pre-programmed responses that are automatically sent to each new follower on Twitter.)

One commenter, Maria Langer, said: "PLEASE OH PLEASE EVERYONE! Block and report the folks who use automated DMs or @replies. These people are spammers!"  If her reaction sounds exaggerated, then you haven't seen the results of the online survey we conducted. When asked about Auto DMs, 72% of people said they find Auto DMs unwelcome and 66% have less respect for the people who send them.  Maria's strong attitude matches that of most Twitter users.

So, if we (almost) all hate Auto DMs, how can we combat the flow of annoying and often spammy Auto Direct Messages cluttering our Twitter inboxes?  We could unfollow or block each sender, but that actually won't change their behavior. Since many of these folks either manually or automatically follow large numbers of people on Twitter, the fact some portion of new followers immediately disappears probably goes unnoticed.  A stronger action is required to encourage these people to stop.  

If we want to change behaviors, then we must take a more direct approach to educate, help and scare those who use Auto DMs.  Here's what I've been doing with some success: I respond to Auto DMs with a DM of my own:

Pls stop sending auto DMs. They're unwelcome, decrease followers & increase spam reports. Survey:

I was concerned this response might cause a negative reaction, but after three weeks using this technique I've yet to get an angry message in return. Most ignored my helpful advice; some protested that their DM was not automatic (which leads to a different conversation about the danger of sending DMs that appear to be generic and automatic); and I'm very happy to report I've had a couple successes.  Two people, @newmedium and @webyogi, thanked me for the information and cancelled their Auto DMs.  I hope I don't embarrass these folks by mentioning they are reformed Auto DMers, but I was very impressed with their openness to feedback and willingness to change (which is, after all, the core of social media success, isn't it?)  Please follow them — they've earned it!

So, if you want to help stop Auto DMs, I'd ask that you get proactive and assertive.  Copy that tweet and use it any time you're the recipient of an annoying Auto DM.  I've stored that tweet in a small TXT file saved on my desktop so it's available any time I need it (but you can save it any way you wish).

Think of it as a Twitter intervention: If a sufficient number of people care enough to cure the senders of Auto DMs of their bad habit, we can make a dent in those annoying generic messages; plus, responding with feedback and information can help those folks be more successful on Twitter.  Please give this a try and let me know what happens.  If you do this and have any horror stories or successes, please post them here. Or if you have other ideas on how to fight Auto DMs, I'm all ears!