Digital Messaging for Businesses

by - August 02, 2018

In today's world of technology, no one calls for anything anymore. We're all still using our phones to communicate, but we're not actually talking to do so. Instead we're communicating through some form of text messaging or social media messaging and email. Most businesses have kept up with the times, enabling messaging on various social media, posting easy-to-find email links, or including email widgets on their websites. But just because a business has one or more of those things set up doesn't mean they're actually more reachable.

I've learned this first-hand over the past few years, but especially in the last month. A big part of my new job involves communicating with businesses in my community for various reasons, including advertising or just providing information about an event we'd like to include in our community calendar. A good 75% of the emails and Facebook messages I've sent have not been responded to, and at least half of the Facebook messages have been sitting unread for weeks.

Nothing is more frustrating than sending an email or message on social media and never getting a response. It doesn't matter if it's an individual or a business, the frustration is the same. But when it's a business, well, it's downright unprofessional.

While I was working in television news, I developed a simple system to keep me on top of email and social media messages, and I wanted to share my do's and don't's of managing digital messaging for businesses. These simple tips can be applied to any business, big or small.

At the bare minimum, you should be checking it once daily. For non-news people, I recommend three times a day: 9:00-10:00 a.m., 2:00-3:00 p.m., and right before you leave. If you work in news, you should be checking your email at least once an hour. And don't forget your spam folder. You should be checking that, too, at least once a day to make sure nothing important ended up there.

If you get a non-spam email that contains a question or request, respond in a timely manner, even if your answer is that you aren't interested. My rule of thumb has always been three days. If I don't receive a response within three days, I assume you didn't read my email and either write you off or send another one depending on the situation. (So if your intention was to ignore me in the hopes that I would go away, think again.)

If you request information from someone, be courteous and let them know when you receive their response. The person who sent the info you requested shouldn't have to send you multiple emails (and sometimes call) to confirm you got it.

Social Media
Regardless of the type of account you have, if people can message you through it, you should be checking the messages on a daily basis. If you're not going to have someone monitor the account, disable messaging if you can or have something posted telling your followers/customers that the account isn't checked regularly and provide an alternate way to connect with you.

If you are checking your messages, you do realize that the person who messaged you can tell when it's been read, right? Unless it's a spam message, if you read it - respond, even if it's just to say thanks but no thanks.

Do not set an automatic response on Facebook messages unless you have a person dedicated to monitoring the account. It's beyond frustrating, both as a customer and professional, to see "very responsive to messages" on a business page only to get an automated response promising a follow up that never comes.

I know there's a simple solution to all of this. The person who's trying to contact these offending businesses can call instead. Trust me when I tell you that doesn't always work. I've called just as many people as I've emailed. Of those, I've only talked to a handful, left voicemails that have gone unreturned for weeks, and been transferred to a voice mailbox that was full.

Bottom line - if you have a method for people to contact you other than showing up in person, maintain it professionally. Everyone is busy, especially business people, but you should never be too busy to cultivate the lines of communication you set up.

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