Since the beginning of the year an interesting online etiquette issue has arisen on Twitter: the use of automatic direct messages (private messages for those unfamiliar with the popular micro-blogging service).

Tweetdeck in action while using Twitter -- From 365 Days: 63/365 (February 1, 2009) by doctoriousBasically, a person on Twitter signs up for a third party service — SocialToo and Tweetlater are the top two that come to mind. These services automatically send a scripted message to people who follow them.

Once activated, these service send out messages created by the user ranging from the banal (“thanks for following me”) to badgering (“click my junk”).

The general consensus is that using automatic direct messages is bad form. Since social media is all about being, well, social, using an automated script to say the same thing to everyone  is disingenuous at best and downright rude at best — especially if all you are doing is promoting a product or service.

Twitter heavyweights Chris Brogan and Loic Lemeur have expressed concern about this issue. Even The Busy Brain discouraged the practice (and you better listen to your brain, no matter how busy it is!).

Long story short: don’t auto DM.

I’ve received several dozen automatic direct messages. For the most part I’ve found them to be bothersome, but also humorous. I deleted most of them and almost immediately unfollowed the person sending the message.

I wasn’t terribly bothered by the posts, but their use communicated to me that the person I elected to follow was not willing to make the personal investment in social media I feel must occur. In some cases, where there was a less “salesy” pitch it was clear the person was sending out the auto messages in a misguided effort to be polite.

If nothing else, the sheer “infomercial” nature of some of them made me wonder how truly effective any of them could possibly be.  My three favorite automatic direct messages (of those I saved) include:

“You totally ROCK. Since you’re following me I’ll be sure to check out your profile. What made you follow me?”

“Thanks Mathew for following. Here’s your gift. Get 1 Million Double-Opted In, Daily Verified Leads For F*R*E*E !!Come get it before they close this free offer ! [Link to website]

“Thanks for following me doctorious. Need a FREE Twitter Background/Theme? [link to website] We also do custom themes.”

Fortunately, a “hero” arose in the midst of this madness: the Twitter account “@optmeout.” However, the relief offered by this account only turnzs off automatic direct messages from people using “Tweetlater.” But something is better than nothing, right? Here is how the process works:

  1. Go to @optmeout on Twitter and Follow it.
  2. Receive a DM from @optmeout indicating it has followed you back.
  3. Send a DM back to @optmeout.
  4. Unfollow @optmeout.
  5. Rejoice!

After completing this process I realized there must be many “awesomely bad” auto DMs out there. Therefore, I invite you to post in the comments box below as many automatic direct messages you received or of which you have become aware. My goal is to amass a centralized list of automatic direct messages.

In closing, embracing the spirit if the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, I hereby say to you: Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled Auto DM’s yearning to breathe free!

If you consider that gravity is a natural force which causes two separate particles to accelerate towards each other then the inaugural “Gravity Summit,” which was held on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at the UCLA Faculty Center, was perfectly named.

Attracting a sold-out crowd of senior executives and decision makers from over 60 Fortune 500 companies and small businesses — more than 120 social media leaders and learners in all — the event gave attendees a forum through which they could share knowledge in person. It also gave attendees an opportunity to create new online connections following the event using the Gravity Summit network on Ning.

Gravity Summit seminars are designed to educate, inform and empower marketing professionals, small business owners, advertisers, and c-Level executives about social media.  Matthew Gilbert and Rodney Rumford at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009

This unique educational event was launched by Rodney Rumford (author, consultant and CEO of Gravitational Media) and Beverly Macy (the managing partner of Y & M Partners and a UCLA Extension instructor specializing in social media classes).

“The goal of Gravity Summit is to help bridge the gap between the new social media marketing tools and the business community, “ Rumford explained. “And we continue to educate and share information with our Gravity Summit alumni through an exclusive online social network community where they can continue sharing and building on the relationships that formed at the event with trusted peers and industry thought leaders.”

Beverly Macy and Matthew Gilbert at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009This was the first of several similar events to come that will take place on other college campuses nationwide. At each event individuals representing top brands are invited to speak based on industry expertise and their potential to provide unique insights into their social media marketing strategies.

Speakers at the UCLA event included:

  • Rodney Rumford, CEO, Gravitational Media
  • Beverly Macy, Managing Partner, Y & M Partners
  • David Reis, CEO, DEI Worldwide and Founding Member of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association)
  • Justin Goldsborough, Social Media Manager, Sprint
  • Ann Glenn, Senior Web Producer, Sony Pictures Imageworks Interactive
  • Tony Adam, SEO Manager, Yahoo
  • Ricardo Bueno, Blog Director, Real Estate Tomato
  • Renée Barrett, Principal of Awareness, Action, Accountability
  • Karl Kasca, CEO, Kasca & Associates

Of those listed above,  PowerPoint presentations are available online from the following individuals (via SlideShare):

Beverly Macy, Managing Partner, Y & M Partners

Rodney Rumford, CEO, Gravitational Media

David Reis, CEO, DEI Worldwide and Founding Member of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association)

Justin Goldsborough, Social Media Manager, Sprint

Ann Glenn, Senior Web Producer, Sony Pictures Imageworks Interactive

Tony Adam, SEO Manager, Yahoo

365 Days: 87/365 (February 25, 2009) [Matthew Gilbert and Justin Goldsborough at UCLA Gravity Summit]The event presented a tremendous opportunity for attendees to learn with and from each other.

I actually tweeted a good portion of the event live as it happened while sitting alongside Justin Goldsboroughfrom Sprint who was doing the same (as were several other attendees — all using the official Twitter hashtag: #gravsum).

This generated complimentary online discourse while the presenters simultaneously shared their information in person. Warren Sukernek of Radian6 engaged me at one point and I also connected with Carol A. Stevenson, a public relations professional and fellow Santa Clarita, CA resident who introduced herself to me from across the room!

By all accounts, the inaugural Gravity Summit was considered a great success — especially by co-founder Beverly Macy.

“We were able to build a brand in 60 days,” she noted. “We started planning the Gravity Summit event in late December 2008 and after the event we were quoted in the Wall Street Journal online. That’s the power of social media and specifically Twitter.  We ‘tweeted’ our way to the Wall Street Journal.”

Ricardo Bueno and Matthew Gilbert at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009The next Gravity Summit will be held on May 5, 2009 at Stanford University and another is in the works for Harvard University in the fall.

Notably, the Stanford event was originally planned for June but it was moved ahead one month due to significant demand.

“At the conclusion of the UCLA event, we realized the overwhelming need for social media marketing thought leadership in the business community, so we moved the date up by one month,” Macy added.

Importantly, registration for the Stanford event is extremely limited: less that 100 registrations will be accepted. However, a new option for this session is live online participation!

For more information and to register for Gravity Summit Stanford go to http://gravitysummitstanford.eventbrite.com. And, for additional information about Gravity Summit in general, please read the following articles:

In closing, I feel quite fortunate to have attended this event. Although I had to leave early at 3 p.m. to teach a class at DeVry University in Bakersfield (a three hour adventure), the learning from this experience continues online and in the personal relationships that I created.

I also want to personally thank both Rodney and Beverly for making special accomodations so I could participate despite some significant personal limitations. I am definitely looking forward to future Gravity Summit events!

Last week, I received an e-mail from Kelly Sonora on behalf of Online Degree World with the following message:

We just posted an article, “Top 100 Edu Tweeters” (http://www.onlinedegreeworld.com/blog/2009/top-100-edu-tweeters/). I thought I’d bring it to your attention in case you think your readers would find it interesting.  I am happy to let you know that your site has been included in this list.

Prior to receiving this e-mail, I had never heard of this list or received an inquiry from anyone producing it. So, without question, my being on it came as a total surprise.  I replied to the e-mail I received, asking Ms. Sonora how she found my Twitter account and chose to include it on the list, but I have not yet heard back.

UC Santa Barbara: 1109 North HallNevertheless, despite the mysterious nature of this recognition, I am honored to receive the distinction.

According to my colleague Bill Sodeman, PhD — with whom I became friendly on Twitter —  his inclusion on the list is a noteworthy event at Hawaii Pacific University where he is an associate professor.

The list itself, which was written/compiled by Courtney Phillips, counts me as one of 29 educators. I am number 84 overall in what appears to be a randomly organized list. In other words, I am not ranked 84 out of 100, but rather I am listed in the 84th position on a list of the 100 top people or organizations using Twitter who are involved in education.

When you review the list you will note that I am in good company. Other educators on the list include the following notable folks:

Universities and educational institutions include:

Publishers, Libraries & Librarians include:

Resources and support for educators and academia include:

All things considered, this was a pleasant surprise and an honor I am proud to have earned. Thank you, Online Degree World, for recognizing my efforts to share knowledge about education on Twitter!