The era of the social technologies encroaches on nearly every aspect of our lives, redefining business communication and relationships. Modern ways of contacting people, such as text messaging, poses new questions as for when and how to use these technologies. Getting familiar with a business texting etiquette will help you find a safe space within the texting culture.
Know whom to text
Since texting people is perceived as a more personal form of communication, not everyone who happens to know you professionally may be happy to see your name popping up in their pocket every now and then. Keeping that in mind, avoid texting people with whom you have not established a relationship that is more personal than an average business acquaintance. Also, while text messaging might sometimes suit work colleagues, it is not acceptable for an employee to text his or her employer unless asked. The general rule is that the person higher in the business hierarchy decides to text you and you should not message them without their doing so first or asking you explicitly to do this.
Pay attention to form and your self-image
While in face-to-face conversations your looks and tone of voice affect the way you are perceived by the person you’re taking to, in text messaging the only means for conveying your self-image is the form of your message. In order to present yourself as a professional, make sure you use correct language and punctuation. Keep your messages formal and polite. Although typing “Yours sincerely” at the end might be slightly over the top, do remember to include your full name at least in the first message you send to a given person. It goes without saying that using text slang, emoticons and acronyms is out of the question at least until your intuition tells you to level down the formal style a little.
Text the right content
Just like with emails or phone calls, you should text your business contacts for professional communication only. Brief notifications, confirmations or reports are some of the acceptable types of messages to send. An important rule to bear in mind is never to use texting for conveying bad news or important decisions as this kind of information requires showing sensitivity and respect. These attitudes are best expressed via the more personal ways to communicate such as a call or a face-to-face. Call your contact whenever you have to cancel a meeting, and talk to your boss or client in person if you want to resign from your job or end a business cooperation. Finally, courtesy texting such as congratulations, wishes or thanks, is less appropriate than phone calls or proper emails.
The world of business communication is rife with opportunities for committing a faux pas, so do your best to avoid it when you can actually prepare your next step. There is nothing more annoying and disrespectful than not replying others’ text messages or doing it too late. If someone decides to text you, it’s usually because they need a brief and urgent reply. So make sure you check your phone a few times per day and respond timely to all the messages. If you do not know the number texting you, ask your colleagues or simply check it on the company’s contact list before asking the sender about his or her identity directly. In that case, be polite but do not disclose any important information before you know whom you are talking to. To show respect for your business colleagues’ time and privacy, keep your messages brief, text them only when it is necessary and when there is absolutely no other way of contacting them on time. Do not interrupt them after their working hours or during their meetings. Treat this practice as a last resort, when emailing or calling them is impossible.
Concluding, business texting should be used sparingly and only for brief and important messages. Do not text bad news, pay attention to the form of your messages and show your addressee respect. Treat texting as a last resort and opt for phone calls, emails or direct communication whenever possible.
(About the Author: Sophie Jones works for SavvySME, a community marketplace, which helps Australian small and medium enterprises grow their business. She is interested in social media marketing and new technologies.)
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