The Dos and Don'ts of Instagram Direct Messages

Welcome to episode 436. Today we’re talking about sliding into the DMs, but in like a non-dirty way. I love Instagram DMs a lot because I think they’re a really powerful way to shift from talking at people to talking with people. Here’s the deal guys. It’s one of the few places where I get quality messages, because more and more often, my Facebook inbox is filled with spam and cold pitches and gross messages, quite frankly. Not as often on my page, but definitely my personal profile.

My Instagram DMs are like 80% of the time really cool people I want to talk to. They’re you guys. I want to talk today about some of the dos and don’ts of using that tool because here’s the deal. In addition to loving my DM inbox on Instagram because I hear from great people, I’ve also had the ability to get into other DM inboxes and start conversations with people I really respect or people I really wanted to work with and cultivate relationships that converted into actual business or actual opportunities. That is like what this stuff is for, right? That’s why we do what we do. I am really committed to you guys doing more of that and less of opening these inboxes up and being like, “Eww. Just eww.” Okay? So we’re digging in.

In case you don’t know, this will be really honest. I’m really excited though because I’m featuring a couple of tips, ideas, that people shared over on Instagram when I posted this on my Stories because I wanted to highlight a couple of you guys. We have a couple of those. I will post more in Stories when we post this episode in February because it’s not February yet. Behind the scenes secrets. Okey dokey.

First, let’s talk about some don’ts. Let’s talk about what not to do with DMs.

For anybody, I might have listening … I don’t think that anyone I have listening to this show would do this, but do not cold hit on people. It’s gross. It’s just super, super gross. Here is the deal. Also, don’t just try and cold sell me because it’s just as gross. I see this a lot with MLM setups. I don’t know if this is something that these people are being taught, or if you’re involved in any MLM, message me and let me know if this is something they’re actually teaching, because I know that there are some MLMs that don’t do a very good job of empowering their teams with good information when it comes to marketing, specifically with social.

The group setup on Facebook that most are taught, again, is terrible. I think this is the latest iteration of that, which is, “Hey, I’m sure you want to lose weight, so here’s a shake”, or, “Hey, I have a great way for you to … ” What was the other one? It was like … I can’t remember what it was, but they were selling those nail stickery paint things. I was like, “I’m good. Yeah, on both fronts.” The other one I get a lot is essential oils. If you are involved with an MLM and you know people who are teaching this, please tell me so I can call them and be like, “Stop teaching this because it’s a terrible idea.”

Don’t do it. Don’t just slide into somebody’s DMs and be like, “Hey, wanna buy this?”, because they don’t. None of us do. I instead would like you to show the impact this is having for you. Show the impact these products are having for your team and for the people, your customer base, people who are buying these things. Social proof, like anything else, any other space, is powerful.

I’ve also had this happen with non-MLMs, though. I’ve also had … So you guys don’t think I’m picking on MLMs here, I’ve had a couple of coaches do this to me. Specifically, I posted something late last year around an event I was speaking at. I had someone being like, “Are you looking for a speaker coach? I’m running a six-week program on such and such and such.” I’m like, “No. No, I’m not. Thanks. I’m good.”

Full disclosure, I probably will work with a speaking coach at some point in the next year or so because there are some things that I want to do to up level how I show up on stage and streamline some of the bumpy spots that I find in getting on stages. Yeah, I probably will look. Guess who I’m definitely not working with now? Like 100%.

Find ways instead to show value to connect, engage. I don’t want to get into the dos yet, but here’s a simple shift for this particular thing. If you see somebody you want to work with, absolutely start a conversation with them, but start a conversation, not about your products. As an example, let’s say I’m a speaking coach and you see that I am, or I see that you are, speaking at an event. Now I know that you potentially might, at some point, want to work with a speaking coach, but I know for sure you’re speaking because you’ve talked about it. Why don’t we start a conversation around that? “I love speaking to small groups.” Let’s say I see the person is speaking at like an intimate sort of retreat workshop kind of vibe. “I love small groups. They allow me to have so much more Q and A time. Do you have a preference, big groups or small groups?”

Here’s how that message is different. A, I’ve started a conversation. I’m not selling you anything. I’m just talking to you. B, I get information on you because there’s a couple of ways you can respond. “Oh, I love small groups. I’ve spoken at both, and you’re totally right. I love the Q and A time.” Or, “You know what? I’ve only ever really spoken to small groups. I really want to get on some big stages and talk to big groups, but I haven’t yet. That’s a goal for next year.” Now we still don’t go straight to a pitch, but we go, “It’s such a great goal. I enjoy my time on stage no matter what. Here’s what I like about small groups. Here’s what I like about big groups. I actually help a lot of my clients sort of find their sweet spot and which their preference is. It’s always fun to see the difference for people in what they prefer.”

Then keep the conversation going. Ask a question. Share something that’s going to elicit a response, whatever it is. Do you see how I started a conversation? I’m getting to know the person. I’m getting to know their pain points, but I’m not like selling them anything. This is going to dovetail itself organically into a conversation around how I might be able to help that person. Do you see that difference? This is why we don’t start with, “Hey, you’re speaking. Here’s how I can help you”, which is really saying, “Hey, you’re speaking. Pay me.” That’s not helpful. That’s the first don’t. No cold selling initial message.

Number two thing I don’t want you to do, don’t say anything when someone DMs you.

Tapping that little heart is a great way to blow someone off if it’s not paired with the next piece of the conversation. I don’t want to ever make someone feel like they’ve been blown off. What happens is if they take the time to send me a message … I end a lot of these episodes with a call to action to DM me on Instagram and tell me how did you like the show. What do you think would happen if you listened to this episode, and then you DMed me and you go, “Yes, oh my god! I hate when people cold DM me and they’re like, ‘Oh, buy my thing.’ It drives me totally crazy.” How would you feel if I just tapped the heart and was like, “Alright”? I didn’t say anything. I just tapped that I liked that you said it. Does that make you feel heard? Does that make you feel seen? Does that make you feel engaged with? No!

Instead, I’m going to come back at you with a comment like, “Oh my god! Thank you. I’m so glad I’m not alone. What is your favorite way to use the DMs on Instagram?” I kept the conversation moving. I actually participated. To often, I’m seeing people who are saying, just like I do on this show, “DM me on Instagram”, or in their Instagram Stories, they’re saying, “Hey, DM me and tell me what you think”, and then just tapping that heart, being like, “Yep.” Faking engagement, essentially. Phoning it in when comes to actually participating in an engaged human to human conversation. I don’t want you doing that. That’s a big, big no-no. Take the time to keep the conversation moving.

I will say conversations are not never-ending. At some point, there will be a natural end to a conversation. This is not a one and done. Every conversation’s not going to get turned into a sales message, and that’s going to be my next thing, my final thing for the don’ts, but the first thing they send you has to be responded to. It has to be participated in. It cannot be, “Cool”, and done. Engage, talk, move the conversation forward.

Now the third thing, like I sort of teased a second ago, not every conversation is going to shift into a sales conversation.

If you see somebody who you want to work with as a client, you want to bring them in, you want to close the deal, it’s going to take a couple of conversations probably to get to know the person, to connect with the person, to build some know, like, and trust. Remember, and I use this analogy a lot, but treat it like you would in person. You would not have one perfectly polite and lovely conversation and dovetail right into a pitch. You would talk to them a few times. Treat people like people, even online.

It may take a couple times, it may take several times, it may take lots and lots and lots of times before it makes total sense to pitch them. If at all possible, pitch them with a lot of ease. I pitch you a lot on this show without pitching you. We do have a solid pitch at the end of every episode because guess what guys? This is a marketing tool. But also, I say things. I reference things. That’s a great way to make someone aware of the fact that you get paid without being like, “Here’s … Now, pay me.” I want you to make sure you are showing up in a way that is respectful of the fact that they’re a human and not a cash machine, but also that you stand in your expertise. Absolutely, talk about the fact that you do have things, but don’t say, “Hey, do you want to join?”, until it makes sense until it works in the conversation and it’s not forced. Cool?

That’s the end of the don’ts. Basically, to summarize, don’t be a jerk face and you’ll be alright. Alright?

Now let’s get to the dos because I think this is going to be the part that’s actually impactful for most of the people listening to this because I assume most people who are listening to this, like you, are good people and are awesome people and who want to be of value. That’s why I want to start with one really important one up top.

Do honor your boundaries.

Meaning just as I don’t want you to treat someone else as an ATM, don’t let them treat you like Google. Your DMs do not need to be a place where you’re doing free consulting or giving advice away or being the endless library of knowledge.

No, no. If someone sends you a DM and they want to know something, respond to it, absolutely, don’t blow it off, and say, “Yeah, I’ve got some great resources on that. Here’s a podcast episode, blog post, video, whatever, but the most impactful thing for most clients is we hop on a one on one call. You could book that here.” If they freak out that you’re trying to sell them a one hour call, that’s on them. That’s not your responsibility. Just as it’s not your responsibility to solve all their problems for free. Okey dokey? Honor your boundaries. I bet you didn’t think that was going to be the number one thing.

Here’s the deal. I want you to feel good about this tool. If you don’t start with that part, if you don’t start with honoring your boundaries, this will become a place that feels like a vacuum of suckage, and you won’t want to do any of the other things. That’s why we start with that one. Know your boundaries, and then honor them. Other people’s response to that is their deal, not yours, which is a whole larger mindset thing that somebody way smarter than me can teach you, but that’s what I’ve learned.

Number two thing I want you to do, create spaces for conversations to start.

You’ll see me on Instagram Stories a lot saying, “DM me and let me know what you’re doing.” It’s not always tied to, “DM me your questions about whatever.” For the last about a month or so, you’ve seen, “DM me your questions about Backstage Live.” By the way, you’re going to hear those for about another month because we’ve still got the LA event happening in March.

That’s DMs with a sales conversation, but you also see me say, “DM with what you’ve got going on today”, because I genuinely want to know. I want to talk to you. I like talking to you. It’s a fun part of my day, and so I make those touch points. I end a lot of these episodes, or I say it inside of these episodes, “DM me your thoughts on Instagram”, because that’s where I like to spend my social time, and I’d like to talk to you about this.

The podcast, for me, gets fun once it comes out. That’s not true. I enjoy recording the podcast too, but the podcast really hit their best for me after they come out, you listen, and I get to hear what you think. Not because I live and die by your praise and admiration, although I do like it a lot, so send it my way, but because then it’s your turn to talk. This is just the start of a conversation. I don’t want this to be the whole conversation. I want you to talk back. I want to let this be the jumping off point for a larger conversation, and so I tell you that. That’s another spot where you’re seeing me really point you in the direction of coming to talk to me.

It’s happening on Instagram, and it’s happening off Instagram. I also do it when I speak at events. I’ll say, “DM me your questions. Come see me on Instagram. I’d love to talk to you.” I make those calls to action regularly. I really recommend you find those points in the conversation where you can remind people you want to talk on Instagram. If you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone in person, you’re not going to be like, “DM on Instagram”, and then walk away. That’s lame, but you know what I’m saying. I want you to give people the call to action to do it. Open the door. Invite them. Okay? Number three do, don’t … See, it’s a do, so I don’t want to start with a don’t.

Do start conversations with other people.

Act as you want people to act. That whole Golden Rule situation, guys. I want you to show up the way you want people showing up in the world. That’s going to mean sending some DMs to people you respect, to people you want to work with, to people who you want to work with you, to your biz friends. Just be in your DMs. Engage in that way. It doesn’t always have to be huge, massive conversations.

As much as I say I don’t like just responding with a heart to somebody DMing me, I will absolutely use the little emoji things when somebody sends a really cute story. I especially, especially love when people share something new they’re trying with their look, sending the fire one. I don’t know why, but I do it a lot. If you’ve gotten one of those from me, there you go. Or when they’re doing something really cool, sending the fire one. I really like the fire one, or the heart eyes. I send those a lot too because sometimes that’s just what fits, but you’ll also see me say, “Congratulations. That’s really amazing. Happy birthday. That sounds like fun. Happy anniversary. Hey, what a big milestone. Oh my gosh! You live in a winter wonderland”, these kind of things, because I want to be talking with people, and I want people to talk with me. Guess what? I go spend time doing that.

The thing I want to wrap up with is exactly speaking to that time piece. Do set on your schedule time for this task, not just because I want to make sure it doesn’t get skipped, but because I don’t want you to spend your whole day doing this. I want you to do this within a structure that feels good and supports your larger goals. That means putting time and time limits on your calendar to engage in this way. I have focused time on my calendar to jump in and hop on my DMs because I know I’m going to have them because I’ve built that into my business. I’ve built that into my marketing.

I want to make sure that the people who are messaging me get responded to, but I also want to make sure that I’m going in starting these conversations. I’ll go into Stories with the intention of starting x amount of conversations. I’m going to go into Stories in the next 15 minutes, and I’m going to start five conversations. I don’t expect them to DM me back right away. They might, they might not, but I’m going to go start five conversations. I’m going to send people a note. It’s that simple.

Put it on your calendar, both a start time and an end time. This does not need to be your whole life. We’re not living in Instagram Stories anymore, but I do have, because this is a primary channel, and I’ve got some aggressive growth goals and conversion goals for Instagram for 2019, specifically this first quarter of 2019, so I do have two or three 10 minute chunks of time on my calendar.

I also go into my Instagram Stories, or my DMs, when I’m in my kind of like chill evening story time. Now that tends to be when I focus on sending my friends messages because going back to honoring my boundaries, if you’re a potential client or a client and you DM me at night, I’m much more cautious about responding because I don’t want to set boundaries, or expectations rather, that I’m reachable all the time via Instagram Stories. In most cases, I won’t respond to businessy DMs after like 5:00 or 6:00, and sometimes earlier, depending on how early in the relationship we’re … Like what our relationship is. That’s not to say I never respond to clients in the evening via DMs because sometimes it’s not at all business related. Sometimes they’ve sent me something that’s purely fun because I’m also friends with a lot of my clients because they’re awesome.

Figure out that line for you. That’s going to go back to that boundary piece, but I definitely have, during my day, times where I get up from my computer and I walk around my office or I walk around outside, and I’m DMing people. What’s cool is I can move while I do it, I can get away from my desk for a few minutes, even if I still am looking at a screen, and I can connect. Okay? Anything else? I think that’s it.

Okay. Before we wrap up, I want to shout out a couple of people who sent really, really great tips, some really great tips. One came from the Tara Newman on Instagram, who you’ve heard on this podcast before. She says, “I love sending a DM when I follow someone because of a mutual connection.” I really loved this because I think too often we follow somebody because we see somebody we know follows them, or we follow someone because we were having lunch with somebody and they mentioned this person and you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to check them out.” You go check out her account and you’re like, “Oh! She’s fantastic”, and you follow her. Send a DM. That’s great, Tara. I love that.

Then @jessicachicalayataylor, @jessica.chicalaya.taylor, “I’m super authentic and get to know people, and eventually, there is a moment.” I like this because it speaking exactly to what we were talking to when we were talking about our don’ts. Look for your moment. When you show up authentically and you treat people like people, you will find your moment. Those are just a couple of shoutouts. I will be featuring more of these on Instagram this week when the episode comes out because I want you guys to keep these coming. I will post another one of these questions and will feature some more. If you want to DM me yours, I’ll take a screenshot and I will share those.

Guys, for realsies, use this to create conversations because like I say a lot, conversations are what lead to conversions. That is what we’re shooting for. Okay? Because here’s the really cool part, is it will lead to lots of conversions, not just one quick one. Okey dokey? Alright.

Thank you for joining me today. Send me a DM over on Instagram and say, “Hi.” I’d love to hear from you. We do have Backstage Live coming up in March here in LA. We’d love to have you. We had our first Backstage Live last week, so I’m sure you saw on Instagram the shots from the day. If you haven’t, I’m sure there’s a highlight where you can see those things. As of today when you hear this, I will have just gotten back from New York, so you’re probably just seeing a lot of Instagram Stories of me napping because I’m tired. I’m not there yet even because it’s still January, but when you hear this right now, I’m probably napping. I will talk to you very, very soon. Super stocked for Backstage Live in LA. I cannot wait to see you Backstage. I’ll talk to you soon.


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