July 28th, 2011
We all know the feeling—you sit down at your computer, only to realize an hour later that all you’ve done is read and answered email. Or you have a good run of productivity suddenly shattered by an annoying Outlook notification. Recently, quite a few people have been considering quitting email. The notion has been discussed among many in Silicon Valley, especially after Techcruch’s MG Siegler blogged about giving it up earlier this month.
But is giving up email the answer?
Personally I think it’s a communications tool that is too important to ever give up. However it’s important to remember it’s not the ONLY tool. What’s important is using the right communication channels to meet your goals. Twitter can be a good place to start a conversation, but there comes a point where it’s better to move things to email. Email is great for a lot of purposes, but where there’s a lot of back-and-forth, it’s often easier to pick up the phone. Facebook is good for social banter, but usually not appropriate for serious, in-depth conversations.
There are no hard rules for choosing the right communication channel, but it’s helpful to have some guidelines for reaching out to different audiences.
Media and Influencers
When it comes to reaching out to media and influencers, it’s important to pay attention to their communication preferences. While some might be avid Twitter users who enjoy engaging on the platform, others may use the service primarily for personal communication with friends. In the first scenario, it’s probably OK to engage with the person, as long as it’s in an organic way that doesn’t sound self-servicing. Twitter can be a great way to develop a relationship with someone as long as you are genuine. However, in the second scenario, it could come across as off-putting to interject into someone’s personal life. Twitter conversation can be a lot like real life—you can take an opportunity to start up a conversation when it’s appropriate, but just as you’d probably be annoyed by a stranger butting into your private conversation at Starbucks, there is a lot of potential to be a pest. If you’re not sure, a friendly email that’s to the point is probably your best bet.
When it comes to customer service, it’s important to respond to inquiries through the same channel they are received. If your company is going to have a Twitter account, it’s important to respond to customer service inquiries on Twitter. It sounds straight forward, but there are still many brands that immediately direct people to a 1-800 number instead of having the customer service support to answer quick questions on Twitter. That is a major customer service fail.
That’s not to say that you have to stick just to that channel no matter what. It can be beneficial to take the conversation to email or speak over the phone for more complex questions, but it makes sense to start the dialogue on that channel before moving to another. When a conversation is best taken elsewhere, try to keep things personal. Instead of directing people to a general hotline, set up a direct call or offer your personal email. Using different communication channels for customer service is all about making it as quick and easy as possible for people to get their questions answered.
General Customer Communication
Communicating with customers and potential customers can be a delicate balance. You want to show your appreciation and keep them informed about what your company is up to, but you don’t want o turn them off. You will have to evaluate your communication methods depending on who your target audience is. Are they early adopters of new social networks? Are they just getting the hang of email? Would they have fun with an elaborate social media campaign? Or would anything too complex be confusing and frustrating? Are they all about business and simply want a straightforward email?
Knowing your audience is a key part of choosing the right communication channel, so the more you know about them, the more effectively you can reach them.
What do you think? What’s your preferred communication style? Have you ever wanted to give up email? Let us know in the comments.