Learn how to DM on Twitter like the pros15 min read

I once heard someone say that direct messages are the dark web of Twitter, and I couldn’t agree more. Possibilities always multiply when intimacy is introduced, and direct messages provide a chance to develop this kind of deeper rapport with people. 

Twitter is a convenient place to meet people from different walks of life. Some might be your peers, some potential consumers or people you admire, and direct messages give you the opportunity to reach them. 

Everyone is willing to interact with people online, as long as it is done the right way.

The Twitter timeline is a place where people are constantly clamouring for attention. Although your personal timeline can give people an idea of your interests, the comment section on Twitter may not be the best place to foster good communication. The DMs, where you have more privacy and more space to write, are the better place for it! 

Indeed, it’s almost impossible to have truly interesting, personal exchanges in the middle of a crowd. Direct messages let you step aside and go beyond surface-level conversations. 

Technicalities of Twitter DMs

Although learning how to converse in the DMs is more of social skill, it’s useful to learn how to navigate the app itself.  

How many DMs can I send in a Day?

To try and stop bots and spam messages, Twitter puts a limit on the number of DMs you can send in a single day. The limit is currently set at 1,000 messages per day but most normal accounts will never get close to this limit. 

However, sending the same messages to different accounts repeatedly, especially if it contains a link, can be flagged as spam and lead to your account being temporarily blocked.

Can anyone send direct messages?

Twitter lets users decide whether or not they want to receive direct messages. Click on the gears symbol in the messages tab to bring up the DM settings. Here, you can decide if you want to allow everyone to message you, or only people who follow you. 

You can also choose to filter out what Twitter decides are low-quality messages, and decide whether or not you want to send read receipts. 

Creating group discussions

Twitter allows you to add twenty people into a private group discussion. You can only start a group conversation with someone who follows you.

Group discussions can very useful to introduce people to each other away from prying eyes. It also allows you to have a discussion about a particular Tweet with a few other people privately. Groups can also be a way of collecting and sharing information quickly across a small network of like-minded people. Event organisers can also benefit from this feature to easily communicate with a group of attendees without broadcasting to the world.

There is always the risk that the group discussion feature can be used to spam people – I have been included in groups where the only objective was to promote something – but these groups will be filtered out if that feature is turned on, as previously discussed. 

How to send a DM?

On Twitter, the DM button is a little envelope icon on the profile page just to the left of the follow and notification buttons. However as mentioned above, some accounts will have this feature turned off and that button will not be present. Another way you can create and send a DM is by clicking on the messages section and then the compose new message button. It will bring up a screen to allow you to search for accounts. You can select who you want to message and go from there.

How to send a DM on desktop

  1. Click on “Messages” in the control panel;

messaging on Desktop

2. Click on “New message” or the envelope icon at the top of the Messages column;

3. Search for the user you want to message and send your message.

You can also continue the conversation from your timeline to your DMs by clicking the share icon and selecting “send via Direct Message.” That can be a great and personal way to share the value you found in a post or your own thoughts and interpretation of what you read.

messaging from tweet

Check it out: How to use TweetDeck to manage your Twitter

How to Direct Message on your smartphone

You can easily send direct messages from your phone by following the steps below:

  1. Select a user you want to message.
  2. Click on the message icon in the user’s profile (you’ll only be able to message a user if they have a public account).


DM from profile

You can also send a direct message from the timeline by clicking on the share icon and selecting “send via Direct message.”  You’ll then have the option to search for a user to send the tweet you want to share.

Direct Message from tweet 1
Direct Message from tweet 2

Lastly, you can also send DMs from the message tab. Click on “write a message” or the Messages icon at the bottom of the tab.

Once you click on either button, you’ll have the option to search for whichever user you want to send your message to.

Direct Message tab

How To Approach Sending DMs

Knowing how to send a direct message is one thing— knowing what to send is a different matter altogether. Like every other form of communication, DMs have their own code of conduct.

Not all attempts to reach out via DM will be successful. None of us is entitled to any sort of response when DM’ing! But approaching it with the right strategies will give you a better chance. 

Dipping your toe: the universal rule

You’ll have a much greater chance of getting positive responses to your messages by taking the time to make yourself noticed. Engaging with content from the user you’re hoping to DM helps your chances of getting noticed. You can’t hope to come out of the blue and get right to talking with people who’ve never heard of you!

Engaging could be liking or retweeting posts. However, going the extra mile by responding to their content with insightful comments and quote-retweeting their content will make you stand out amongst their other supporters. 

Pushing the needle forward on their posts and having a sincere discussion around their opinions will differentiate you from the crowd. Twitter can quickly devolve into nothing more than rage commentary and useless drivel, so showing you’re able to hold a proper conversation and add useful input will make people look up and take notice of you!

In a way, sending DMs is very similar to what it was like making friends on the first day of school.

First, you coalesce into groups of similar-thinking people and personalities. Slowly everyone finds out who they gel with the most— little packs start to form— then, out of the blue, everyone has play dates for the weekend. It’s not that complicated!

The same goes for Twitter: you find your crowd and start these meaningful conversations in private. This approach applies to both individuals and businesses.

The Dos and Donts of Twitter DMs

Don’t  Why Not? Do  Why?
Open with One Word – “Hi” No one would answer to just “hi!” This is trying to start a conversation while forcing the other person to do all the work of picking the topic, finding common ground, and giving you the assurance they want to talk.  Have A Purpose –

“I really liked your take on X. I’ve been thinking about another way to approach it,[…], how do you think it relates?” 

Specificity will get you a long way. Know why you are reaching out to this person. What do you want this message to accomplish? What type of relationship are you hoping to form from this? Are you looking for a mentor, simple advice, a friend, a collaborator, or just to share a compliment? No one likes having their time wasted. If you don’t know what you want from this conversation, how is the other party supposed to have any idea if this interaction is worth their valuable time and effort? It doesn’t have to be some grand outline but go into every potential conversation with an idea of what you want to happen.
Spam No one likes spam. Don’t send out mass messages to people without their consent. Don’t repeatedly message someone in the hopes of getting them to answer you. Many accounts get hundreds of messages a day. Don’t feel entitled to having your message read and answered just because you took the time to write it. A single follow-up message is ok. Anything more than that is excessive.  Your Research Before attempting to start a one-on-one conversation with someone you should do your homework on them. Read their tweets, look at their profile, click on their links if they have any, and check out their pinned thread. Get a sense of who they are. Make note of what strikes you and what you have in common. After following them for a while, you would have taken note of their interests. Reply when they ask for something useful or send them something that you think they would like. 
Try To Sell Something Twitter is a social media platform aka it’s made to make friends. You are to use DMs to build relationships and connect with interesting people. If you want to sell things, that remains possible, but you have to be strategic. Direct messages are not the way to go, especially using your first message. Keep things casual. Add Value Adding value begins long before you get to send your first DM. You want to show you can move the conversation forward and that you have something to offer. Begin the conversion by offering something you know they would like. Display your free-thinking, show your skill and show them there’s value to be had in interacting with you. 
Be Too Formal Sending a direct message is not the same as sending an email. Don’t be rude, but display a little personality when interacting. Interact With Accounts  One of the best ways to make your message stand out is to make yourself known to the person before you ever message them. You can do this by making sure to interact with their content. They are more likely to respond when they see a familiar profile. Another method is to interact with their mutuals since they are also more likely to respond to people they have mutuals with. Sahil Bloom outlines why here

Using the DMs as an individual

Learning how to approach individuals in the DMs on a similar level can help to get to your goal faster. But for that, you need to relate to these people on a human level. Here are five tips to help you: 

Start with compliments: The best way to open a DM is with a specific and relevant compliment relating to the person or account’s work. This means you need to be familiar enough with what they post and what they do to offer up genuine praise. It helps them weed you out the people that have surface intentions. Provide positive feedback on their work—whether a great blog post, podcast episode, or design work—without asking for anything in return. 

Make it as specific as possible. Quote the tweet or send a screenshot. However, do not do this for the sake of doing it. Most people know when you’re coming with fake intentions. They love to be appreciated and to have reached someone with their work. A compliment is a great way to break the ice. If they respond, you have the option of extending the conversation, either now or in the future.

Extending conversations:  If the conversation in the Twitter comments is flowing organically, it may be more likely that the person you’re talking to will be more receptive to talking in another format. This will be a chance to move that conversation organically to direct messages. This can deepen the conversation because messages are private and intimate. 

One thing to avoid is asking to move to DMs right away. If the conversation is interesting and flowing in Twitter comments, there’s no need to rush things. Moving to DMs can happen organically as the conversation develops. You want things to move as organically and genuinely as possible. 

Cold outreach: With the calibre of people available to you online, messaging people you respect and asking for their help or guidance is always an option. A surprising number of people will help you if you just ask! Write messages that are brief, concise, and to the point. Approach these people in a way that demonstrates appreciation and familiarity with their work to make clear the reason why you’re reaching out to them specifically. 

Outreach on Twitter can be more effective than email, since it is a more casual platform where most people are more open. As always, don’t expect a response. It’s OK to follow up twice, but after that, move on. It’s so little effort to send that message and it can go such a long way!

Provide Value: Creators, business folks, busy people in general, and especially the hustlers on Twitter are constantly weighing their time against whatever they are doing. It gets cut if something takes too much time with too little benefit, and a DM can easily fall into this category. This is why you want to incorporate some value into your message. Try to offer something to the person you want to talk to. 

It could be a free banner if you are into graphics, a suggestion on website layout if you design websites, an idea for a thread you would really like to hear their take on, a tool you think might help them, or even just the idea that their posts with pictures might do better with alt tags. Just try to offer something that would make them better at whatever they do, or at least might make it easier for them to do what they do.

Build relationships: The last and perhaps most important key to DM’ing is to remember that you are doing it to build relationships. 

Relationships are a step up from conversing on the timeline. Building relationships and taking a genuine interest in people is how the magic happens. At the end of the day, we’re all people and we go on with our lives away from Twitter. Taking an interest in people away from the app will help you cultivate meaningful relationships with them.

Being able to DM gives you the opportunity to get to know someone beyond an avatar or a couple of words on the timeline. Continuing conversations in private inboxes or in groups away from the timeline is how you really get to know people.

Sending DMs on Twitter might seem at first like something of no consequence, but it can go a long way to bringing you a lot closer to people you never could have possibly interacted with elsewhere.

Using the DMs as a Business

Sending direct messages to your users or potential users is a vital tool in a brand’s or business’s social media strategy. An ideal DM strategy has to be sensitive to your audience’s needs and desires. You can do this by addressing three major factors. 

Customer Care

Customers now rely on social media to ask questions and get answers from businesses. It’s faster than emails! Brands therefore have no choice but to be active and responsive on social media. Brand enquiries might start in the comment section but moving customer conversations to your Twitter DMs is the smart move. Additionally, the nature of many customer issues is confidential so it’s better to handle this sensitive information in direct messages.  

Don’t let your customer DMs linger: social media response time matters! The average customer has growing expectations when it comes to follow-ups and expects to be responded to quickly. It’s important for businesses to stay on top of their inboxes and notifications in order to avoid missing time-sensitive messages from their customers.

Engaging with your community members

It’s useful for brands to have a welcoming personality that they use to engage their community online. People want to be a part of something, and you can make your brand appealing by crafting an inviting online presence.

Your community should feel like a second home, and you as the host should be present. This way, when your customers have questions or want to interact, they know there’s a real person on the other side – not just a logo.

Be engaging, but not promotional!

When you’re engaging with your community, it’s important to remember that you’re doing just that – engaging, not promoting. Respond to their comments, try to solve their problems and share things that only they would understand. 

Marketing your products and services

You can use Twitter direct messages to market your products and services – if you go about it the right way. 

If your latest product is coming to market, you want to get the most out of your big moment. Use DMs to reach out to consumers that would like what you’re building. For example, if you’re building a note-taking app, you would have to reach out to frequent participants in the productivity section of Twitter. Of course, to do this you have to embed yourself in the right ecosystem. 

Once you have identified your key consumers, begin the conversation about involving them with the launch. You can communicate far more in a DM compared to a Tweet. In exchange for their time, you’re offering them something relevant to their interests, which they’ll be keen to get a hold of.

In conclusion

That user you’ve been meaning to get to know better or engage with meaningfully? The best way to do so is to add value and reach out. Send that direct message and see how it goes!

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