By: Isha Edwards
It was only 14 years ago when the Internet was but a mildly celebrated form of communication for techies, academics, and government officials. According to Internet World Stats, as of December 31, 2011 nearly 2.3 billion people of the world’s 7.1 billion residents now use the Internet. Not surprisingly, social media and advancements in technology–particularly all things that begin with an ‘i’–drive Internet usage upwards. With billions of people online around the world, the number of messages that are sent are exponential. As a result, not only is it hard to get attention, but it is also easy to make communications mistakes.
The following are four mistakes that you would do well to avoid.
1. Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
Have you ever texted the same message to your entire phone contact list? If all of your contacts own a Blackberry® or an iPhone® (these users tend to have unlimited messaging/media plans), mass texting without permission may not matter, but what about those who only use the cell phone to make and receive calls or have a limited messaging/media plan? Do they appreciate paying for random, ad-based or impersonal mass texts? Not likely.
2. Permission versus Forgiveness
Collecting email addresses from forwarded messages or social media contacts to grow your database is not an acceptable practice. If your objective is to qualify your database instead of quantifying it, unsolicited communication will only annoy recipients rather than placate them. Different from most circumstances, asking for forgiveness after the fact will not help your cause. Always ask for permission.
3. Don’t Be The One Who Gets…
What kind of message are you sending? Do you send multiple messages several times per day? Do you send messages when recipients are most likely to read them? Are messages relevant and do they meet an expressed need? Your purpose for communicating will determine which medium to use and what social graces to employ. Remember, communicating via social media or communicating electronically is not the same as a direct mail campaign or a strategically placed ad. If you miss the mark online, you can instantly be banned from reaching those in your target audience. Formulating relevant, timely messages will increase your response rate and minimize the likelihood of being un-friended, un-liked, unsubscribed to, and blocked.
4. Not Knowing Your Audience
These days, marketers and the media seem to be on a collision course to invade every inch of space available to mankind. The most coveted advertising spot is no longer Time Square, but any mobile device that plugs the media and marketers directly into consumers. With various ways to remain in constant contact (pun intended) with the masses, getting the word out is far less important than knowing your audience. Knowing your audience will naturally help you determine communications methods and mediums to use. Just like “snail mail”, a message is guaranteed to be opened by those who are expecting it or those who would receive it as a welcomed surprise.
The easiest way to minimize communication faux pas online is to employ the same tact you would in-person. First, introduce yourself or ask for an introduction from a mutual friend. Second, establish commonalities then ask for permission to engage in further conversation. Third, ask, “What type of information would you like to receive? How often would you like to receive it? In what format would you like to receive information?” If a recipient responds favorably, send or post a thank you note. If you do not hear from a recipient, do not “spam” them. Instead, find out their communication preferences and adjust your message(s) accordingly or simply govern yourself as if they declined the contact. Fourth, if you cannot say something nice, do not post, tweet, share, or, in essence, say it at all. The same is true for inaccurate messages. Fact checking is mandatory.
Are you using online communications to increase awareness for your business or to refine your personal network? Do you have an established target audience and tailored messages for the same? Not sure when to send your message?
Defining the purpose for online communication–particularly social media–will help you determine which medium to use as well as communication frequency. If you are working on increasing awareness for your business, product, or an event, Twitter and LinkedIn are best resources (Tumbler and Myspace for those in the entertainment industry). For maintaining a working relationship with new or existing customers, bulk email messaging services like Mail Chimp, Exact Target, and Constant Contact are ideal tools to use. Want to keep in touch or build on family, friends, and other relationships? Pinterest and Facebook are ideal platforms for personal engagement.
What are some communications safety tips to consider? Separate business from personal. Use the highest privacy settings allowed. Vet those who want to friend, follow, share, or subscribe to your communications. Perhaps more importantly, concentrate on being a good friend or a valuable resource to the right people rather than an acquaintance to all. After all, people do business and remain friends with people who they like and they trust. With this in mind, consider purging your “friends” or at least organizing your contacts by relationship type: colleagues, family, friends, clients, associates, etc. Whenever possible, provide recipients a way to opt out and to change their communications preferences.
If you are using social media or other online communications tools to job hunt, promote your entrepreneurial ventures, or for professional gain, make sure that your character in the workplace or as a professional is consistent with whom you are behind closed doors. It is a fact that employers, for example, are using a variety of online tools (Google, Pipl.com, onlineidcalculator.com, and Spokeo.com) to vet prospective employees. For a snapshot of your credibility, prospective clients can easily “google” you, your affiliates, or past and current clients.
Not sure what your online reputation is like? There is nothing more liberating, easy to manage, and accurate than being “you” all the time. In addition to maintaining a high level of integrity, just “being you” minimizes the likelihood of slander that sticks. Other tools that help with reputation management are klout.com, Reppler.com, socialoomph.com, topsy.com, and www.google.com/alerts.
In summary, consistently demonstrating social courtesies online, the same way you would in-person, will help you avoid social media and other communications faux pas.