Learn the “how,” “when,” and “why” of direct messages
Social media is for broadcasting your thoughts, images, and videos to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of followers. But what if you have something to say to just one person? Direct messages, known as DMs, are the solution, and they’re available on all the most popular platforms.
When to Use DMs
DMs are like text messages you send through a social media platform, though with some differences. The primary one is that you might not always know the person you’re DMing well. DMs can be used to jump-start conversations, make plans, or begin business deals. Here are some scenarios in which you might want to use a DM:
How DMs Work
Rather than showing up on a user’s timeline, DMs show up in a separate section. They appear in a format similar to text messages, in which you can see the back-and-forth exchange between yourself and the other person. When you receive a DM, you’ll see a notification icon letting you know it’s there. Each platform has its own rules for who you can DM with. For example, on Twitter, you may only send a DM to someone who is following you. Some platforms allow you to send DMs to more than one person at a time. When using DMs, remember that, though they are private between you and another person or people, they can still be copied and shared and may not be entirely secure. Use DMs with discretion and consider another method to communicate if your information is confidential.
History of DMs
DMs are a form of instant messaging, which started in the late 1990s with platforms like ICQ, AIM, and MSN. In the 2000s, this functionality shifted to mobile phones, making it possible to share messages and photos. Skype and Google Talk came along around this time. In 2006, MySpace launched the first instant messaging function within a social media platform. In 2008, Facebook Messenger, then known as Facebook Chat, was released. In 2013, both Twitter and Instagram rolled out their DM features. In 2014, Facebook Messenger became a separate platform, followed by similar applications such as Whatsapp, WeChat, and Snapchat.
DM Dos and Don’ts
DMs are a private space, so be courteous when approaching anyone you don’t know well.
In other words, be nice and treat fellow social media users with respect.