Instagram Direct Message (DM)

    Table of contents
  1. 1. Definition
  2. 2. General information
  3. 3. Advantages and disadvantages
  4. 4. How DM can support influencer marketing
  5. 5. Instagram DM best practices


The Direct Message (DM) is a feature in which a user can send a photo privately to an individual or a group (1-15) without their entire followers being able to see it. When a follower receives a DM, it goes straight into their inbox instead of a pending queue like messages sent from non-followers. The follower has the ability to either accept the direct message, ignore it, or reject it. 


General information

This feature was unveiled by Instagram back in 2013. Prior to this DM feature, users on the social media platform had only one way to control who could see their posts and that was to approve or disapprove followers, yet this still did not keep certain followers from seeing each and every post. This feature has now made that possible. Some users have complained that new DM features, like status, is an invasion of privacy and so the Direct Message system can be switched off via the settings menu. 


Advantages and disadvantages

Instagram hosts the largest number of social media influencers of all the social media platforms today, which is why many online marketers use Instagram for their main influencer marketing campaigns

The Direct Message feature is both a boon and a crutch for influencer marketing and influencer management. The following list outlines the benefits DM has for this particular marketing approach within Instagram’s platform: 

  • It has a large reach - over 375 million users are currently using Instagram DM. With some of the top influencers having 10-90 million followers, it will definitely help in segmenting promotional materials and spreading the message throughout the day, which of course allows more people to see the promotion. In short, DM can be used as a great influencer management tool by segmenting promotional material throughout the life of a campaign. 
  • Direct Messaging helps to personalize the promotion. If an influencer sends a follower a recommendation to their private inbox, it helps the receiver to feel that the message was created just for them. Studies have shown that personalized advertisements tend to produce higher revenues, more loyal customers, and fewer returns & refunds. 
  • Getting the right product or service to the right people is sure to increase conversions. The Direct Message system helps influencers target specific followers who they feel are best suited for the particular product or service they are promoting. Not only is this good for the advertiser who gets their money used wisely on a hyper-targeted audience, but it keeps the influencers fan base happy as well producing less “unfollows” due to constant and irrelevant promotions. 
  • The DM feature completely bypasses Instagram’s algorithm, which ranks posts by points and decides which on to put at the top of a follower’s homepage. With direct messaging, however, advertisers and the influencers they employ do not have to worry too much about how their promotion is viewed by the algorithm as it goes directly into the chosen followers inbox and so has a better chance to be seen by them. 
  • While direct messaging can bypass the platforms post algorithm as discussed above, it can also give the influencer some browning points as the algorithm is able to read how many messages are being directed back to an influencer’s inbox and so reward their account with high engagement points. 

While the above list shows some hefty benefits and uses of DM as it pertains to influencer marketing, there are some drawbacks it has as well. The below list outlines some of its disadvantages. 

  • Even though users on this platform are usually more accepting of being sold than other social media users, like those on Facebook, the platform is still a place to relax, unwind, and hang-out. To much promotional material in a user’s inbox will most certainly begin to irritate them and soon enough they will start becoming numb to DM ads and either delete them or the person who is sending them. 
  • Direct Message can be a great influencer management tool in many ways, yet it can also turn into a cumbersome task each time an influencer has to go through their list and segment who to show a specific product or service to. 
  • There are 3 main DM privacy issues many of the platform’s users have complained about. These include location tracking, online status, and personal data collection (email, phone number, address). They may not like that an influencer is potentially invading their privacy through direct messaging. 


How DM can support influencer marketing

A major point that influencer marketers should be aware of when it comes to direct messaging is the fact that it has up until this point been under-used as a marketing tool as well as a channel growth tactic. This is a good sign for influencers and those who advertise through them as the tool has not saturated inboxes with promotions as of yet. 

Some other reasons why influencer marketers should use DM’s to promote to followers are as follows: 

  • Sharing stories are one of the best ways to build relationships on social media and the DM tool is one of the fastest ways in which one can share those stories. 
  • Details make all the difference when it comes to customer loyalty and direct messaging allows influencers to pay close attention to those details and offer better customer service. Followers can send questions about a product or service that has been promoted right to the influencer’s inbox and influencers can easily thank a follower for buying a particular product or service through DM. These are great ways of providing followers with greater customer service. 
  • Influencers are able to test their messages with relative ease using DM. There is no limit on the number of ways in which to test different promotional messages. Testing different creatives and content is essential for almost all paid advertising campaigns and so is no different when using influencers to advertise. Once a particular message has been identified as a winner, all that is needed is to scale up to increase net profits. 
  • By using DM an influencer can target their most loyal and engaging followers and so avoid sending promotional materials to unproven buyers. This is a great option for advertisers and is akin to buying an ad from someone’s personal email “buyers” list. The conversion rates are much higher when using this method. 


Instagram DM best practices

Direct messaging does not automatically guarantee a successful campaign, even when using influencer promotions. There are certain etiquettes that must be followed to assure a that DM works for and not against a particular social media marketing campaign. 

While using the following guidelines does not assure that your promotion will turn a profit, it is sure that without them the probabilities of doing so decrease drastically. 

  • To get the best engagement, try to avoid using large group direct messaging. The benefits of DM lie mostly in its ability to target small groups and individuals so as to keep the message authentic. Tailoring a DMn to a large audience diminishes a message’s authenticity and makes it look like spam promotion. 
  • After an influencer DM’s their followers with a particular offer, they should turn their notifications on so they can reply promptly to any queries that come in. It is best to answer all questions when the question is fresh in the questioner’s mind. This will help boost conversions. 
  • Relevance is key when using DM as a promotional channel. If the wrong people are messaged it will not matter how good the offer, creative, or copy is - no one will be interested. This process starts with knowing the influencer and what type of people follow them. 
  • Never bombard followers with one promotion after another. It is important to first begin a conversation and then try and tie in the product or service being offered as it relates to the conversation. Nobody likes to be sold, yet people do like finding solutions to their problems via suggestions of someone they trust. 
  • If at all possible, never respond to a DM with an autoresponder. The whole purpose of direct messaging is personalization and authenticity. Auto-Responses destroy personalization and authenticity and so defeats the entire purpose of using a DM.