CMO JOE AND THE DM SPAM – Part 2: Joe Speaks


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If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, it might be a good ideaIn short, last Friday, I was DM’d a self-promotional book message from a CMO of a major corporation, which led to some twitter discussion on DM “Spam” and the way this high profile personality handled things.  I’ve assigned him the name “CMOJOE” because frankly, I don’t thrive on conflict or picking on people (and this is not the point anyway).

Interested in hearing his perspective, I politely tweeted CMOJOE a third time on Monday morning, mentioning a post I’d considered writing. This time, almost two hours later, I got a DM response. After a few DM’s and some phone tag, he asked me if we could talk in person.

It’s always interesting adding voice to an online persona.  CMOJOE was bold and direct. While initially, I found him a bit defensive, perhaps he expected me to be hostile or write a scathing personal attack.  In time, however, our tone became more upbeat, and instead of mutually interrupting each other with negative assumptions, we started banging around thoughts and input.

In a very direct fashion, CMOJOE made his position on the DM very clear to me.  His opinion, as summarized is this:

  • When we follow people, we give them permission to DM us.
  • Direct Messages work – it’s been proven time and again
  • A single DM is not the same as “spam” which he referred to as “repeated” (unpermissioned) messaging
  • His position has been adamantly against Auto DM, although he admits to conflicting opinions about its use — as well as the potential value and benefit improved DM messaging tools might have in the future
  • He did not use auto DM tools – He manually pasted 3 different messages into individual DMs, over a 3 day period (to a list of about 21k followers)
  • He has no recollection of being a member of the FB “I Hate Auto DM’s on Twitter” Fan Page 
  • The positive response far outweighed the negative: Hundreds of congratulations, thousands of books sold and only 17 people offended from his follower list.
  • He responded personally via DM to most detractors and spoke a few by phone.
  • It is very easy to take his responses out of context – especially responses to some very rude, personal assaults, and fragments of threaded 140 character messages
  • He supports and welcomes open dialog and debate
  • In the end, people who don’t like his answers are welcome to unfollow him 
  • In retrospect, we can all do things differently – That’s how we learn.  
  • If he could do it over again, he would   – but he would would adjust/improve his message.
  • In the end, his excitement trumped caution – He admits he was “really excited” about his book’s success and wanted “to tell everybody”

It was a good discussion. I didn’t agree with his angle on all points but I appreciated his candor. I found him to be a good match to my own energy level, frankness and intensity. While he defended his position in a largely unapologetic tone, he did express some regret for offending a few people with his message. He also asserted that the majority of those who are complaining, including those “polled” in subsequent blog posts were not on his Follower list.

We talked about South Dakota and continuing some brain hockey around dinner sometime, and that’s pretty much how it ended – on a friendly note.

I’m trying hard to be objective with this.  The  truth is, whether you or I agree or not with CMOJOE, there’s a lot of fodder for discussion in CMOJOE’s case.  Here are a few things that jumped out to me:

CMOJOE underscored that he did not use an auto-bot to tweet DMs to his follower list. I’m pretty sure people’s issues were related the content of the DM itself, rather than the means of delivery.  Tools can be an issue when they fail (e.g. sending duplicate messages to same account), but it is primarily the messages we that we’re judged on. Our messages are always interpreted within the contexts of our relationships. The value we place on our audience is inherently attached to our communication.  Even though CMOJOE didn’t use an auto DM, his message felt mechanized.  In the words of one tweeter “If it looks like spam, feels like spam – to me, it’s spam.”

Even if he had chosen to used an Auto DM tool, the outcome would have been the same with that message because it created a perception for some people of spam.  Even if, in the future, DM tools mature to enable segmentation and testing, so our messages are sent with more care –> they’ll still just be tools.  They’ll never accurately interpret the “context” of our relationships, they won’t write messages for us and they can’t replace common sense.

While technically, I understand where CMOJOE stands on the topic and rules of opt-in and spam, I believe he placed undue emphasis on this issue. I may have opted in for DMs when I followed him in return. However, as CMOJOE admits, the rules for social engagement are still evolving.  The old definitions of spam applied to email don’t map neatly to new channels – just like there’s no magic formula for the size of a blog post.  So, while the “rules” may permit to DM your follower list with solicitations, social ettiquite may suggest otherwise.  In the end, it’s all about who follows you, and how you handle it.

Using DMs to self-promote requires a lot of thought and care — because it can really turn folks off.  This is really important to consider in the age of transparency, because offending the wrong people can be incredibly damaging – and news travels fast!  It’s not about the size of the audience… it’s about influence, voice and tenacity.  Fortunately for CMOJOE, there doesn’t seem to be any significant collateral damage – other than managing responses, which had to be a time sucking effort – and the good seemed to outweigh the bad. 

CMOJOE admitted he was excited and busy. Frankly – if my book rose to the top at Amazon, I would be stoked, too.  In truth, whether we face a deadline, we’re time starved or just rushing — every single one of us, on Twitter, Facebook or other channels…. in a moment of haste, excitement or even momentary poor judgment, can inadvertently say or do the wrong things.  We can’t always delete tweets, posts, profiles and/or affiliations we’ve made – because it’s probably been seen — it’s out there in some version, somewhere.  You might get lucky and dodge a bullet or find that others are watching more closely than you thought.  In any case, we deal with the consequences of haste. We must ready ourselves for the scrutiny of the crowd, with the knowledge that people can often be unfair, overly personal in their critique. 

  • Is this the right thing to do?
  • How would I feel getting this message?
  • As the recipient, what would I do with this message?
  • Does this compromise another individual, violate trust or open doors for misunderstanding?

If CMOJOE hadn’t gotten back to me, and offered to call me personally and taken the time to follow up when he failed to reach me the first time, I’d simply have a lower opinion of him. Responding to constituent concerns in a reasonable time frame is key to managing delicate situations and diffusing any crisis.Whether we agree with the opinions or actions others take — every detractor presents an opportunity to openly show ourselves to be the gracious, open, thoughtful and responsive people we are.  Every response is an opportunity to further underscore –  and help people understand  — our position.

To some, CMOJOE may seem like an ego-centric self-involved promoter (I received some tweets that speak to that).  Let’s be fair, though:  He is also a busy executive who was in the middle of a resignation, a press junket an an onslaught of communication (email, social and otherwise).  To his credit, he took time to respond individually and subjected himself to open debate with a crowd that at times got personal.  His responses were sometimes equally direct.  However, whether people agree or disagree with what he did or how he responded — and whether or not people think his choice of using a DM to promote his book makes him a hypocrite – CMOJOE did himself a great service by putting himself out there and responding proactively. 

Bottom Line:  Taking time to listen and respond proactively underscores your respect for people and relationship.  Assuming this position helps diffuse conflict, breeds respect and provides a sense of resolution for detractors.  Ultimately, people want to feel they’ve been “heard” – and once they do, they’re more likely to listen. 

I’ve heard it argued that alienating people is wrong — that it won’t produce positive outcomes.  Not only is this a gross generalization, the assertion flies in the face of the truth that there are many, highly offensive and tremendously successful people out there.  Consider polar opposites Glenn Beck and Ariana Huffington. They have both offended their share of people. Consider Steve Jobs!  CMOJOE isn’t even a polar personality, by comparison.  The truth is, when we engage with people in any medium, we run the risk of alienating people. Ultimately, we’re all managing risk in that regard – and while we minimize that risk, we need to maximize the reward — both for our followers and our “brands.”

Looking at CMOJOE’s case strategically, his direct goal was to drive people to buy his book.  His related objectives may have included using Twitter to inform X people of the book’s success, motiviate X followers to spread the message, and build X amount of buzz in the Twittersphere to support the pending announcement of departure from “Big company”.  Whether that’s 100% accurate or not is not the point — it’s an illustrative example to show that, judging from his own calculations, CMOJOE had his eyes on the prize.  This is something many of us in social channels are curiously shy about!

In summary, CMOJOE don’t see everything the same way,  but like him, I’m open to debate and try to be fair minded.  Thank you for honoring me by reading this second part of the series.  If you have a moment tell me:  What do you think?  What other lessons or insights can be extracted from this situation?  Lemme have it!

(Note:  Again, please use care in your comments.  I try to treat others as I’d like to be treated and have decided not to name, or link to the “real” CMOJOE.  If you know him, just call him Joe.  Thanks!)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Leigh Durst
Leigh (Duncan) Durst is the principal of Live Path. She is a 19 year veteran in business, operations and customer strategy, ecommerce, digital and social media. As an active consultant, writer, speaker and teacher, she is an advocate for creating remarkable customer experiences that harness digital media and improving business outcomes.


  1. All I can say is… well done on both sides. I am proud to personally know CMOJOE (have a huge amout of respect for him) and now have significant respect for Leigh Durst. Bravo!


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