What’s the right way to contact clients, colleagues and friends, and for them to contact you? Is offering a multitude of options really the best way forward and will certain tools begin to become acceptable for certain types of communication?
This post is a little like crystal ball gazing because this change is continuing to wind its way along. But for now, here are my predictions:
Email is not dead, long live email
For certain scenarios, traditional email is still entirely suitable. This includes most client B2B contact, a lot of inter-corporate communications, and some B2C contact, particularly opt-in newsletters and special offers (though many of these are migrating to Facebook). If you need to make a lengthy and involved communication, where structure is important, then email is still your very best option.
Although Facebook messaging isn’t true email as it lacks some of the features of email, it is very well suited to social, informal contact. Now friends don’t have to worry whether they have your up- to-date email address, because they know you’re active on Facebook. If someone wants to reach you on the weekend, Facebook is probably a better option, because you may check Facebook more often than email (depending on how much of an addict you are). Regardless, Facebook will send the recipient an email with the contents (depending on setup options). Facebook is also quite unique in that it collates SMS, IM and emails within a message string. Facebook says this is ideal for a typical family scenario – where a grandparent is a strict email user, a teen prefers SMS via their mobile and a parent prefers to use Facebook – Facebook messaging allows converged contact with all of these whatever the medium used. What’s evolving is that the means of communication is now less important than the conversation itself. Of course, this is particularly relevant for social, informal messaging, but not so for business communication.
Skype is super for instant messaging
Instant messaging is a beautiful thing, in my opinion. I rarely use it to contact clients but for colleagues and friends it can be time saving, easy and effective. By its very nature it’s instant, so long as the other person is online (which you can normally see), but it’s also short. It’s difficult to see how anyone could object to it. After all, if you don’t want to be IM’d, you can set your profile to view ‘Away’ or ‘Do not disturb’ and then you won’t be bothered. I hope and expect that it will soon become more acceptable for business use. Facebook does of course have IM (or chat) as part of its offering, but I prefer to keep Facebook for personal/social use only. And I feel that the Skype interface is superior to Facebook chat and to Google chat. The also-rans are:
LinkedIn useful for business networking
You probably don’t have the email addresses of many of your linked in contacts, so this gives you a way of messaging them without getting too close by asking for their email address.
Twitter has limited value
You can send contacts/followers a public tweet, which is only really useful if they’re currently online. You can also send them a Direct Message and even if they’re not online they will receive an email to say they’ve received a DM. With the 140 character limit however, Twitter is only really useful for contacts for whom you don’t have another means of contact.
So, in short, the killer communications’ apps are:
- Email for B2B, B2C and some corporate
- Skype or similar for rapid response and short messaging.
- Facebook for most social emailing/messaging
Perhaps shortcuts on our smartphones and computers should now use generic terms: Quick Message (QM) or Friendly Message (FM) or Business Message (BM), and link through to the apps that you favour for each. There’s so much I haven’t talked about here including functionality, privacy issues, technology issues, video contact, the growth of mobile internet and how it will affect all of these. Overall, would you agree? What does your crystal ball tell you?