How to Direct Message on Twitter

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Direct Messaging via the Web

Woman's hand holding memo
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Have you ever wanted to send someone a message on Twitter but you didn’t want it to be seen publicly? Maybe you’re letting a family member know when you’ll be on vacation or maybe sending a friend details about a party. Let’s face it, sometimes you don’t want to share everything publicly.

Twitter has a feature called direct messages or DMs that let you post a 280 character message to a particular person on Twitter privately. These messages won’t show up on your timeline. They will only be seen by the recipient and the sender in their direct message inbox.

Among the many updates, changes, announcements and feature releases, Twitter went through a quick phase where they allowed users to direct message anybody. This turned into quite a controversy. Some people loved it but most people hated it.

They started out by cracking down on spam messages being sent, because marketers were flooding direct messages with links to all kinds of spammy websites. Unfortunately, Twitters filtering software worked so well that people who were sending legitimate links were getting in trouble, too. For example, If you sent a message that read, “ Hi Mark, check out my friend’s website http://www.myfriendswebsite.com,” Twitter would consider this a spam link and wouldn’t send your information.

But then the outrage became too much and they went back to the way it was. If you follow someone and the reciprocate by following you back, then you’re allowed the privilege of sending them a direct message.

Below is a step by step guide on how to direct message on Twitter via the web. In a future guide, I’ll be showing you how to direct message via Twitter’s mobile app and through SMS.

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Finding Your Direct Message Inbox

Finding Your Direct Message Inbox

Where are your direct messages located on Twitter.com? Great question! Log into your account and look at the top navigation bar. In the screenshot above I’ve pointed out the location of your direct message inbox. It’s the little envelope icon sandwiched in between the search bar and the cog wheel icon. Clicking on the envelope icon will bring you to your direct messages. Your direct message inbox can only hold your last 100 messages in your inbox. Twitter stores the rest in their database. Twitter has mentioned that they are working on a way to show all your past direct messages.

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Getting To Know Your Direct Message Inbox

Getting To Know Your Direct Message Inbox

Now that you’re in the direct message inbox you’ll see any messages you have listed. I’ve intentionally blurred out my messages because of all the cool top secret stuff we have going on at About.com. Most likely you’ll have a few spam messages from people who started off as tuxedo lint cleaners and became millionaires by following a simple system they’d like to tell you more about. Remember what your mother told you: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

At the top of your direct message inbox, you’ll see two buttons. I’ve labeled them 1. and 2. Button one is to “mark all messages as read.” This is a handy button because you’ll often have an inbox filled with nonsense, and you don’t need to be notified that you need to read it. The second button is self-explanatory. It’s the “create a new message” button. Click on this button to compose a new message.

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Composing a Direct Message

Composing a Direct Message

Now you’re ready to compose your message. The first thing you should do is assign whom you’ll be sending the direct message to. In my example above, I’m sending a direct message to my friend Mark. 

Type in your message in the form field below. Just like Tweets, you only have 280 characters to write your message in. Once you’re done composing you can click the send message button.

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Adding Photos to Direct Messages

Adding Photos to Direct Messages

Recently Twitter has added the ability to attach photos to direct messages. Industry insiders say that it’s a move against the popular messaging app Snapchat. To send an image via direct message all you need to do is click on the small camera icon in the bottom left corner of the compose box. I’ve pointed to it in the screenshot above. You’ll then be prompted to select an image from your computer. Once you do that, you can send the message or type additional text to your recipient. Images appear as previews in the direct message box. You can see the image I sent Mark, and he can click on it and get the full size image. 

And there you have it, all the steps for how to send a direct message. Whatever you do, don't get into the spammy practice of automating Twitter tasks, like automatically DMing new people who follow you. Some people will unfollow anybody who does it. 

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