Helping People Become Better Email Users

At DMA Annual last year, I had a guy drop by the Email Experience Council's booth and start asking questions about us. I gave him the big picture and told him that if he really wanted to see what we were all about, he should go to our homepage and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter, which is full of the latest email marketing news, research and much more.

His response really struck me. He said, "Whoa, another email newsletter? I get too much email as it is." A minute later he was gone.

The EEC is very focused on helping email marketers get the most out of email, but instances like the one I just described made us wonder if we couldn't do something to help email users as well. While email is an amazingly efficient communication tool, some people are overwhelmed by it -- which makes them less likely to subscribe to email newsletters and promotions, and more likely to badmouth email in general.

So to help combat some people's frustrations with email, we've assembled a list of inbox etiquette and management tips to help people become better email users. The eec will be officially releasing and promoting these tips next week, but we wanted to share them here first and ask you if you know of other tips that we should include.

Here are the tips that we have so far:

1. Take Action When You Receive an Email.
- Whenever you open an email, resolve to take one of the following four actions:
I. Delete/Archive: If the email requires no action, then either delete it or archive it for later reference.
II. Reply: If you can quickly respond to the email, do it so you can delete or archive the email.
III. Forward: If there's a more appropriate person to respond to the email, forward it on to them.
IV. Set a Reminder/Add to Calendar: If the email requires action at a later date, set a reminder -- or if the action has to occur at a specific time on a certain day, add the event to your calendar.
- Use mobile email to handle deletions and quick replies and forwards when you're away from your computer.

2. Respect Other People's Inboxes.
- Don't CC people unnecessarily.
- Don't reply to all if the reply is only relevant to one or two of the people on the email.
- Make it easy for recipients to act on your emails by using subject lines that are descriptive and specific. Consider beginning your subject lines with words like "FYI:"; "Reminder:"; "Urgent:"; and "Action Needed:" to help recipients quickly understand if action is needed and if so, how quickly.

3. Organize Your Inbox.
- Set up rules so that emails that you get regularly from a particular sender (such as newsletters and alerts) are automatically routed to a particular folder and kept separate from your normal flow of emails. Reserve your inbox for incoming messages and messages that you will act on in the near term.
- Set up multiple folders to help sort and archive the emails you want to keep.

4. Actively Manage Your Email Newsletter Subscriptions.
- Ensure that your newsletters are delivered to you by adding the "from" address to your address book or safe sender list.
- Update your preferences to ensure that you're getting the most out of your email subscriptions. Many marketers offer preference or subscription centers that allow you to manage your subscriptions, select topic preferences and even control how frequently you receive emails from them.

5. Moderate Your Inbox Exposure.
- Set your email program to check for new messages once every half-hour (or whatever time interval works for you). Email can be interruptive, so give yourself time to focus on other tasks.
- Turn your email off sometimes to give yourself uninterrupted time to work on projects.
- Check your RSS feeds once a day or even once a week, depending on how crucial they are to your job.

6. Protect Yourself from Hackers and Spammers.
- Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date to avoid becoming part of a botnet. The vast majority of spam today is created by botnets, which are networks of computers that have been taken over by hackers for a period of time and used to send spam.
- Never reply to a spam message or click on the links in them, which could load viruses, malware and other harmful software onto your computer. Spam exists because a small percentage of people ignore the dangers and respond to spam messages. Don't do it -- EVER.

Again, if you have other email etiquette and management tips, please share them by commenting below, and we'll add them to the list. Thanks.



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