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How to Effectively Handle Direct Messages You Receive Through Social Media Sites

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

One of my favorite quotes, since I became “Mom” is this:

The days are long but the years are short.

It never ceases to amaze me how the time in a day can crawl by, while a year seems to zoom right past in a heartbeat.

That's why time management is so very important to me.

One of the biggest time drains in an online business can be other people's demands on your time.

It used to be that you could control all of your contact through three places: 1. Email, 2. Phone, and 3. Snail Mail.

We talked about How to Handle the Constant Flow of Emails in a previous Expert Briefs.

Now, between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Forums – and more, there are way too many ways for people to contact us… whether we like it or not.

This question is for those of you who travel a lot and/or have someone else managing
your customer emails for you…

How do you handle Direct Messages (DMs)
from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Forums, etc?

Before we get into this, I in no way, shape or form would ever mean to imply that you should ignore your customers or your fans.

This post is about:

How to manage your time to the best of your abilities, while providing the most value and connection to your “tribe” or as I like to say “your peeps”- without allowing other people to control your time – and without letting the occasional stinkers get at you, derail you, or ruin your day.

On that note… here's what my friends had to say about this topic.

KristenKristen Eckstein of Self Publish on Demand says:

I both travel a lot and have customer support.

Sometimes my OBM (Online Business Manager) will answer DMs while I'm gone, but most of the time I tend to those myself. Anyone on Facebook or Twitter who's sending me a message probably knows I'm out of town, so when I get back one of the first things I do is respond to them. If it's been a few days and it doesn't seem like they realized I was gone, I apologize for not getting back to them sooner and continue on to answer their questions.

I prefer the personal touch with DMs. My Facebook friends know I trust them – that's why they're my friends. I can block them if they become abusive. Since I've built this level of trust with them, and I'm known for responding to posts personally, I haven't seen any problems with being a few days “late” on a reply. Also, my Facebook profile includes an email address that gets routed through my OBM.

Many times if I haven't replied to a DM within a couple of days (such as when I was without an internet connection for 8 days on the IM Success Cruise), the person sending the DM sends it to me in an email as well. My OBM gets the email, responds that I'm out of town, and answers their questions if she can. This frees me up to not worry about people trying to get in contact with me while I'm gone so I can have a good time – and it's a win for those trying to contact me as they do get a response and know when they can expect a personal reply from me.

Jeanette S. Cates, PhD of Organize Your Online Business says:

You've caught me! I ignore DMs on all social media. That's why I was surprised to get a “text” from Nicole – who was messaging me from Facebook!

My support desk link is prominently displayed on all of my websites and it is a much more dependable method for getting hold of me than DMs or email.

aliceAlice Seba of Step-by-Step PLR with Screenshots says:

It's probably problematic for people who follow thousands or tens of thousands of people in social media. One way I deal with it is to honestly avoid those types of messages as much as I can.

  • I personally don't participate in forums a lot because, at this point in my business, I believe they suck more value from my time than they give back.
  • For Twitter, I don't follow everyone back and thus, I don't get a plethora of Direct Messages.
  • Facebook hasn't been a very big focus for us, so our current Page following is small…but if private messages got a bit too voluminous, I'd have no qualms about shutting them off.
  • As far as my personal Facebook account goes, I keep my personal and business stuff completely separate, so it's never been an issue.

I know that makes me sound unsocial and maybe a bit callous, but I have always been very mindful of time. I strongly believe in getting to know our readers and customers, but that doesn't mean my life has to be turned into one big disruption every time I log in online. We have a support system available and it's easily found from any of my websites. I believe in training our customers to use that support system and not to teach them how to use social media as a support forum because we just don't have the resources to do that. I am not a huge corporation (just a little one) and I don't have a social media team that can turn social media into a support system. So far, our wonderful customers have respected that.

Still, I do get occasional messages and how I handle them depends on my schedule and the urgency of the matter. Most times, I will copy and paste the message and give it to my virtual assistant to take care of. I might reply to the customer and say I'm using my iPhone and I don't have access to the records they need (true) and let them know my wonderful and efficient assistant will get back to them as soon as possible.

I think it's all about boundaries. If you want to be available 24/7 and through every channel, you will be. Personally, I don't want to be.

ConnieConnie Ragen Green of Huge Profits Tiny List says:

I have a wonderful assistant who answers each DM (direct message) from my social media profiles personally. She identifies herself by name, and then goes on to either answer the question or send it over to me. She stays up very late at night, so when I am fast asleep I can still be connected with people who need to reach me. This has proven to be a very good use of outsourcing, as I can't possibly answer those inquiries myself and still do what I need to do each day in my business.

The questions from my readers who hit ‘reply' to one of my emails come directly to me, unless I am out of town for more than a day or two. If someone has a question about an offer I am recommending, I prefer to answer those myself as quickly as possible. I believe you have to experiment with this model to see what works best for you, and know that having help in this area is an excellent way to grow your business more quickly.

Shannon Cherry of Quick Tweaks for More Profit says:

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

Well, I asked the question, because I was hoping for some magic tool or answer. Rats. 🙂

I have a great customer support system in place that is  checked and answered daily, plus I have a second Virtual Manager who pops in once a day just to make sure my support person didn't get hit by a beer truck or something. So that side of things is handled just fine.

Facebook is really the big problem for me, simply because I use it so much and I love it, but the messaging system is just not efficient for me. Plus, if I travel for a few days, I don't want a customer issue sitting in my Direct Messages, simply because I'm off enjoying life.

When it comes to my Facebook Page messages, I never think of going to read them, so I would hate for someone to really need help and not get it.

Here's what I discovered.

Facebook Page Messages. You Can Turn them Off.

If you've got “Contact” information all over your sales pages and in your emails and on your blog, etc. – and if you're not regularly checking your Facebook page messages (like I wasn't) – then go ahead and turn off the Direct Messages if you need to.

Here's how…

Go to whichever of your Facebook pages that you want to turn off the messaging.

Then go to settings and choose “Manage Permissions”.

On that page, you'll see this line.

Unclick the checkbox and save. Voila.

What about Twitter?

As far as Twitter messages go, they got so spammy that I don't really think that anyone communicates important messages on there anymore.

I don't check mine. Do you?

And, YouTube?

I set my account so that all comments and video responses are moderated unless it's a friend.

So, every few weeks, over a glass of wine, I go through those and approve the ones that aren't totally insane. (Hence the wine….)

Forum DMs.

Forums have been harder for me, simply because I want to be available to help people – BUT I also need to cherish my time (not just protect it, but cherish it).

So, I have had to come up with a pat answer when people DM me for personal help and that is to direct them back to the forum and then alert me of the post. If I can help, I will do so in the forum post, but that I can't personally help in Direct Messages. That's what my coaching clients pay me for. 🙂


I outsource this.

Facebook Profile DMs.

Here I'm still stuck. I am friends with everyone from my Grandmother to my customers and JV partners on my Facebook Personal page. Basically, if I know you, we can be friends. So, it's hard to outsource.

I normally tell people right away to please contact me at my email address (or send them directly to my help desk if necessary).

However, I am definitely open to suggestions here. 🙂

Thanks much everyone for reading!

Nicole Dean

Recommended Resource:

Blog CPR:
Because Blogging Should Not Be a Chore.

Check it out here: Blog CPR


I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Teresa Miller

    This is a great post, Nicole. I always enjoy your Expert Briefs because I find it interesting how people handle similar situations so differently.

    This topic is of particular interest to me, because it goes along with my own research on the best ways to handle social media and subscriber/customer contact.

    Hmmm. Like you, I’m wishing for a magic tool. 🙂


  • Clyde

    I ALWAYS get 2 things when I read one of your posts.
    1) A smile somewhere in the message, usually 2 or 3
    2) Good solid content that either teaches me something I did not know or rattles my cage to get back to something I have done but have quit for some reaso. Usually some of both on that count as well.

    Facebook – I have 2 accounts one for my church, ministry family and one for business. Although I have no problem sharing my faith in God in my business I just didn’t feel like combining the 2 on FB was a good idea. BTW, I spend WAY TO Much time with my church family on FB but…..

    Twitter – I do have an account but do not access it more than once or twice each month, if that often.

    YouTube – I know I am going to catch it for this. I do not even have an account, I don’t think. I know, I know, video sells and I need one but, you have to remember, I am an old guy and somethings just come around slower than others.

    Guess if I were as popular as you and your guest I would have to make some changes.

    Well, you didn’t ask me for a guset post but, it looks like you got one.

    Have a blessed day and a wonderful holiday,

    • Nicole

      Thanks so much, Clyde.

      I definitely agree on the religion/church thing. Sharing your personal views on your business page can be good. But sharing your business on your church page – not the best plan, probably. 🙂

      You won’t catch hell from me about YouTube. If you’re consistently getting exposure and traffic in other ways that work, don’t dilute it by forcing yourself to do video. I always say to stick with the format that is easiest for you to produce on a regular basis, whether that’s text, audio, video, graphics, software, mindmaps, etc.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  • James Artre

    I concur with Alice Seba.

    I am an opinionated and staunch advocate of my beliefs, values and opinions; which, obviously, puts me at odds sometimes with others who can not or will not validate their own with facts; truths.

    Thus, I, too, keep my personal and business social sites completely separate.

    However, some of found their way into each other “lives” so to speak, thus I’ve had to block or unsubscribe from receiving DM or email updates altogether.

    To be perfectly honest, social media has become so diluted/polluted with copy-cats and “me too’s” that I view it less as a verifiable means for any real productive business building each day.

    This is what happened to Safelists many years ago, and is what could become of social media as well. That’s a blog post forthcoming as we speak 😉

    As for social media playing a role in your business building efforts, the bottom line is the bottom line:

    “Is my ROI worth the time I put into it?”

    If not, then go invest it in something that is…

    God bless,


  • Bruce Ammons

    I have been reading several of your Expert Briefs today. What a great idea! They are so helpful! And yes, I subscribed to your RSS Feed today. I meant what I said on facebook…I am really going to read everything you write! The value you offer is awesome. Thanks for being a blessing!

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