Twitter is now giving you the option of receiving private messages from people you don’t “follow” on its popular social network.
The company has experimented with these types of unsolicited private messages in the past, but this morning, for the first time, the company officially announced that it had started offering the option to all of its more than 288 million users across the globe.
Previously, two Twitter accounts had to follow each other on the social network— agreeing receive each other’s public posts—before they could trade private “Direct Messages,” or DMs. Now, the company says, any user can turn on a setting that lets them receive Direct Messages from any other user, regardless of whether or not they follow each other. What’s more, the company has updated its rules so that you can reply to anyone who sends you a direct message, whether or not that person follows you.
The changes are apparently designed to expand the use of Twitter among not only everyday social networkers but companies, public personalities, and advertisers as well. Now that Twitter is a public company, it’s under increased pressure to compete with other social networks and increase revenues. More widespread use of Direct Messaging could be one way for Twitter to expand its money-making opportunities, or at least keep up with competitors like Facebook, which has made private messages a priority through tools like Messenger and WhatsApp.
On Twitter, organizations could use DMs to send advertisements, coupons, and business related appeals to anyone who turned on the new setting, and users would be free to respond. This might be appealing to public personalities as well as advertisers, since messages are more attention-grabbing than a promoted tweet, which can easily get lost in the stream. For users, on the other hand, such messages could get spammy fast.
Twitter hasn’t said one way or another whether they plan to allow DMs to be used as advertisements. But the company does see it as a way to interact with businesses as well as individuals. “We hope these changes help you connect more easily—and directly—on Twitter with the people, causes and businesses you care about most,” the company says in a blog post.