So here are the new rules of the road for how communication works in the always-on world of business.
1. Short, ALWAYS. Long emails don’t get read. Long posts don’t get shared. Long complex thoughts don’t get parsed.
2. Timing matters. For some people, Sunday is the perfect time to receive and answer email. For others, it’s a rude imposition on private time. Think about who’s on the other end before you hit send.
3. Pick the right platform.
Email: A short email might work, or might get lost in the avalanche of messages. Don’t assume a non-response means “no” or “not interested.”
Silence isn’t fraught with meaning. Don’t fill in the blank space with what you think someone is saying — just ping again. No points off for being persistent.
LinkedIn: A LinkedIn message can connect, but always include your email address in case someone would rather communicate within their inbox.
Facebook Messenger: Use for business communication with care.
Twitter DM: Again, it’s powerful, but can elicit annoyance if too commercial a request.
Text: The fastest-growing direct platform. Just two years ago, it was a major turn-off, but today lots of folks are texting business contacts. So try it. For many people, it’s the primary means of communication. But again, always make it short and to the point.
Snapchat, Instagram, Slack, Skype, all have their own rules and users. When in doubt, don’t use them with contacts with whom you don’t have existing deep social or business relationships.
Oh, one more: FaceTime. I’m going to say no here. It’s used more and more in social and friend settings, but for business, never (at least so far).
4. Conference platforms:
FreeConferenceCall.com, Zoom.us, BlueJeans, Uberconference.com, join.me, Google Hangouts. All have their place. FreeConferenceCall is easy and free. Zoom has solid video. All others work, though your experience may vary.
The change with conference calls is getting all parties on the line. If it’s just you and one other person, why not skip the conference line and just agree to call them? It’s one less chance for a missed connection.
5.The calendar invite:
Increasingly, calls are scheduled and then calendared. This system works. Just make sure to get time zones right. Don’t assume the other party is in the time zone that their number suggests. Often people will not be where you think they are, so always calendar with “12:00pm / EST” to avoid the inevitable, missed connection if there’s a time zone mismatch.
Now that you’ve caught up, you know you’re not alone. Everyone is on a variety of platforms, and they use them in their own ways.
The next thing is a phenomenon know as the floating schedule. So when your 1 p.m. call with a client gets moved to 1:30, 2, or next week — that’s just part of the game. When someone’s boss pulls them into a meeting, your call is going to get pushed.
It used to be folks were bent out of shape about this, but today being connected and flexible is one of the rules of the road. Flexibility is the new superpower of the business world.