Digital Communication Etiquette: When to Email and When to Message

In the old days, we had letters and telephone. Then fax machines and email opened up new ways for business communication. With the integration of social media into our lives, the options for communication are now endless — post on someone’s Facebook wall, send a private Google+ update, direct message via Twitter, send a message on Facebook, and so on.

Based on my experience working online, I find that many people do not have a good grasp on how to convey their business communication.  And although there may be disagreements about the finer points, I think most professionals would agree to this guiding principle.

Use Social to Connect Not Conduct.

Social media is perfect for making contacts. Use it to find people in your niche, people to cooperate with, and potential clients. Reach out to them with tweets and direct messages. Friendly talk is appropriate for social media. But when the talk needs to get down to business, shift to email.

Don’t conduct business via social media direct messages. A very brief introduction of yourself and your idea is okay. But quickly transfer the conversation to your inbox.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Social Media for Business

  • Social media is not as secure as email. We all know the concerns about Facebook and privacy. Do you really want to conduct business there?
  • Social media archives are normally hard to search. If you use Gmail, you know the power of its searching functions. But when something gets buried in a DM box, it’s impossible to locate again. Important messages can get quickly buried under personal chatter.
  • Twitter is too limiting. 140 characters is just not enough room. If you can’t compose a coherent message within those restrictions, forgo the Twitter DM, and go straight to email.
  • It’s simply not professional. Social media is a wonderful tool, but it does not take the place of email.

How to Know When Your Message Should Be Sent Via Email

Here are some guidelines that I think should help you determine whether to use a social media DM or an email. If you answer yes to even one of these, move it to email.

  • Is your message more than 100 words?
  • Does your message include a question that will take more than 100 words to answer?
  • Does your message include a request for an action that will take more than 3 minutes to accomplish?
  • Does your message ask for personal information or include a discussion of money?
  • Does your message include a deadline for action?

Okay to Use Direct Messaging

Direct messages do have their place, and these are times when it fits perfectly.

  • chatting with friends about personal matters of little significance
  • when your message is actually about Facebook, Twitter, etc
  • when your message is a quick yes or no question which you don’t need the answer to right away
  • when your message is a quick reminder of something you’ve already talked about in person or via email

I’d love to know your thoughts. Are you bothered when people send you a series of five Twitter DMs to conduct business instead of sending an email? Do you find that Facebook messages get buried and forgotten in contrast to email?

Jimmie Quick

Jimmie is a veteran homeschool mom and empty nester who works from home doing digital marketing in the homeschool niche.

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