Phone, E-mail, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, or Smoke Signals

THE PAST FEW DAYS I’VE BEEN CONTEMPLATING the way I communicate with other people. It used to be simple. I picked up my rotary telephone, dailed 7 to 10 digits and used my vast vocabulary to communicate. Now it is more and more difficult, and confusing. It isn’t just those of us who work in social media marketing or technology fields. In February of this year a movie came out where Drew Barrymore hits spot on what must be a universal frustration:

watchvideo1

There is very little etiquette yet surrounding some of the new communication tools—things like DM’ing vital information on Twitter. I own a Blackberry and have yet to find a Twitter client that works for me. The result is that my Twitter participation is largely tied to my computer.

I tweet frequently from my BB, but often don’t see DM’s or responses to my tweets until I’m back at my computer. Truthfully, I haven’t spent much time looking. Between e-mail and text messages, I’m not that excited about adding my Twitter feed to my mobile. But that begs the question, if you are sending me a DM on Twitter about something really important, and I miss it, have I let you down and breached protocol or etiquette?

One reason this is top of mind is something that happened last week. I was responsible for getting speakers for an industry event. One of the speakers was running terribly late, in fact we weren’t sure she was going to show up at all. I tweeted her “we are looking for you”. Then I couldn’t get a good internet connection at the event. She DM’d  me back, but I didn’t have access to it because of the way I have chosen to establish that method of communication. Since I’m very engaged on Twitter, does that replace the formality of an e-mail I would have gotten on my phone to tell me you are late?

Things move so fast. It would be nice if someone slowed down and set some rules for everyone!

However, I suppose the same thing will happen that did years ago with e-mail. Remember when cc’ing a whole slew of people on an e-mail became very bad form? At first no one knew it was an issue, then over time people stood up and said, “wouldn’t it be nice for privacy issues to blind copy people instead?” That became some of the first waves of e-mail etiquette learning that happened as an evolution. Everyone knows someone who used TO TYPE THEIR E-MAIL MESSAGES IN ALL CAPS. Most likely they don’t do that anymore. Just like eventually, people will politely point out that if you are having a conversation with someone on Twitter that is between two people, after a couple of tweets you might want to consider moving it to DMing. Just a tip. Just a consideration.

Although I co-founded a social media marketing agency, I feel that I’m connected enough and don’t have to maximize every tool. In fact, I’m taking the advice we often give our customers- that not only do they need to find the tools that work for them and a strategy for using those tools, but that they also must determine what works best for them, what they can and will do to avoid burning out. Slow and steady wins the race. So I’ve chosen not to be connected to Twitter every second of the day. Gasp! I’m sure I’m disappointing someone, but in reality, it works and at the end of the day that is the most important thing.

But it does beg a lot of questions about the best way to reach me and how quickly I will respond. Does e-mail still feel like the most official form of communicating important information to you? What are everyone’s responsibilities for checking each and every portal? Are the tides changing, and it is just as official to communicate details, albeit short ones, via Twitter?  What about sending vital information via SMS text?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts about this fascinating evolution.

There is very little etiquette yet surrounding some of the new communication tools—things like DM’ing vital information on Twitter. I own a Blackberry and have yet to find a Twitter client that works for me. The result is that my Twitter participation is largely tied to my computer. I tweet frequently from my BB, but often don’t see DM’s or responses to my tweets until I’m back at my computer. Truthfully, I haven’t spent much time looking. Between e-mail and text messages, I’m not that excited about adding my Twitter feed to my mobile. But that begs the question, if you are sending me a DM on Twitter about something really important, and I miss it, have I let you down and breached protocol or etiquette?
One reason this is top of mind is something that happened last week. I was responsible for getting speakers for an industry event. One of the speakers was running terribly late, in fact we weren’t sure she was going to show up at all. I tweeted her “we are looking for you”. Then I couldn’t get a good internet connection at the event. She DM’d  me back, but I didn’t have access to it because of the way I have chosen to establish that method of communication. Since I’m very engaged on Twitter, does that replace the formality of an e-mail I would have gotten on my phone to tell me you are late?
Things are moving fast. It would be nice if someone slowed down enough to set some rules for everyone. However, I suppose the same thing will happen that did years ago with e-mail. Remember when cc’ing a whole slew of people on an e-mail became very bad form? At first no one knew it was an issue, then over time people stood up and said, “wouldn’t it be nice for privacy issues to blind copy people instead?” That became some of the first waves of e-mail etiquette learning that happened as an evolution. Everyone knows someone who used TO TYPE THEIR E-MAIL MESSAGES IN ALL CAPS. Most likely they don’t do that anymore. Just like eventually, people will politely point out that if you are having a conversation with someone on Twitter that is between two people, after a couple of tweets you might want to consider moving it to DMing. Just a tip. Just a consideration.
Although I co-founded a social media marketing agency, I feel that I’m connected enough and don’t have to maximize every tool. In fact, I’m taking the advice we often give our customers- that not only do they need to find the tools that work for them and a strategy for using those tools, but that they also must determine what works best for them, what they can and will do to avoid burning out. Slow and steady wins the race. So I’ve chosen not to be connected to Twitter every second of the day. Gasp! I’m sure I’m disappointing someone, but in reality, it works and at the end of the day that is the most important thing.
But it does beg a lot of questions about the best way to reach me and how quickly I will respond. Does e-mail still feel like the most official form of communicating important information to you? What are everyone’s responsibilities for checking each and every portal? Are the tides changing, and it is just as official to communicate details, albeit short ones, via Twitter?  What about sending vital information via SMS text? I’m interested to hear your thoughts about this fascinating evolution.

4 Responses

12.16.09

I still use email for my most important communications. As great as Twitter, Facebook, and all of the other social networks are, they still don’t save the info like my gmail can. The ability to archive and search old emails has helped save me many times.

I have most of my networks integrated with my email, so I get notified if someone is trying to contact me via my social networks. My email is my hub of info. So if someone is direct messaging me on Twitter, I’ll get the email almost as fast.

12.16.09

Chad, you make a great point- technology allows us to integrate the tools together so we can use e-mail as a portal. Every individual still has to decide how much to integrate. I don’t know that I’ll ever put my tweet stream on my phone, but know many who do.

12.16.09

The scary thing about Social Media is that once you stick your toe in the water of one platform or another, the audience that you interact with often becomes expectant that you will always communicate through that medium.

So, to answer your question, yes, checking multiple portals is pretty necessary. E-mail is becoming antiquated, but it’s still the most prevalent form of communication, however annoying it may be.

Social media can be fun and productive… but it can also be overwhelming and a complete time suck.

I’m with Chad re email. It’s my foundation. But I think Big Bags makes an important point about expectation. Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed with all my “connection portals” as I call them. Which is why I’ve started deleting most of them, choosing instead to focus on just the handful that I can meaningfully engage with.

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