Email Etiquette in the Time of Social Media

On August 22, 2010, wrote:

E-mail: it’s one of the earliest and most widely used forms of communication on the Internet, even in the age of Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps, and social media. It can also be one of the most scandalous – and potentially one of the most embarrassing – sources of personal information, or just plain bad manners. Indeed, a lot of people can do with a little primer on E-mail etiquette in today’s world – regardless of whether they’re corresponding for business purposes, sending important information to various recipients, or marketing through E-mail.

So for the sake of those who aren’t quite sure whether or not they have been misbehaving on E-mail, here are a few must-follow tips on E-mail etiquette:

Keep it short and sweet

E-mail marketers should be familiar with this rule. The longer your E-mail message is, the higher the chances are that your recipients are not going to read all the way through it. It’s a sad fact that the Internet today has seemed to cut people’s attention span short. Apart from that, of course, is that E-mail users are not there at the computer to read a novel. So be as brief and concise as you can when writing E-mails. If you have a lot to say – and need a lot of time to say it – a phone call or a face-to-face meeting may be the way to go.

Let go of the emotions

When composing an E-mail, make sure you’re sitting up, relaxed, and ready to be as objective as possible. Don’t say anything that you might not want to read or see in the morning paper. Don’t make comments or emotion-filled remarks that you don’t want to appear on paper. And don’t write in ALL CAPS: it really does make it seems as though you’re yelling at your recipients. Remember: what you send on E-mail, you cannot revoke. So let go of the emotions, and don’t forget to review the draft and scrutinize its tone before pressing the Send button.

Grammar and spell check

Sending a work-related E-mail? No boss or colleague wants to read a badly spelled message. Communicating with a client? It doesn’t look good on your business to have grammatical mistakes and typos all over your E-mail. Sending a newsletter or the latest blast in your E-mail campaign? Make sure you edit, review, and double check every single word and every single sentence: grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes make you look like a spammer – and you might lose your subscribers and potential customers in the process.

Use the BCC field properly

Be a professional E-mail user and don’t spread confidential information or personal sentiment to people who can do away without it. The BCC field is for sending messages or newsletters to a mailing list – not for divulging company secrets or some other hanky panky. Be careful too of giving everyone the E-mail address of everyone else by “accidentally” inserting all their addresses in the CC field where all other recipients can see them.

Include your contact information

E-mailing someone for the first time? Don’t forget to put a proper signature, including contact information like phone number, postal or office address, and links to your official site and blog. It’s perfectly fine to include your social networking profiles in there – like Facebook and Twitter – but make sure those accounts are actually active. Readers are usually turned off by dead links and inactive profiles.

Another important note: if you’re sending E-mails as part of your Internet marketing campaign, make sure that recipients will have access to information on how they can opt out or unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Use the urgent or high importance button only when it’s important

If all your E-mails and newsletters arrive in recipients’ inboxes bearing the high importance flag, they might get too used to it. So apply the setting only when your E-mail message is really urgent and requires a prompt reply. Otherwise your readers will think you’re overestimating the level of urgency in your E-mails or, worse, you’re desperate for their attention.

Fill out the Subject line properly

People want to know immediately what your E-mail is about. Help them out by filling out the subject line with the proper text. Not only does this make it easier for people to refer to or go through your messages; it also reassures them that you’re not a spammer selling potency pills or a bank representative in South Africa out to deceive unsuspecting recipients. You can even use this field to your advantage and write irresistible subject lines that will definitely boost your E-mail campaign.

Avoid attaching big-sized files

Have you ever received an E-mail that had an attachment of about 25 to 50 MB? Wasn’t it a pain to download? Even if you are correct in supposing that your recipients have unlimited inbox storage and fast Internet connections, it is still more convenient to simply share big-sized files through links, file sharing applications (like YouSendIt or Dropbox), cloud-based apps, or online collaboration tools. That way, they can download and view your attachment when they want to – and not while trying to download the E-mails in their inbox that came after yours.


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