Communication in this modern world can be complicated – whether it’s for business or intended to be more personal. With the integration of photos, videos, links, emojis, and much more into our regular communication, suddenly things have become much more nuanced. Social media presents us options when it comes to communication. We can choose between a number of different platforms and even different communication methods for each platform. Without a set code of conduct, we are left to do a fair amount of guesswork, so how do we choose the most appropriate way to communicate based on a given situation?
Although this is not meant to be a strict set of rules, following these guidelines should help you make sense of the often overwhelming world of social media. The guidelines below are not intended for anyone platform unless specified, and they are listed in no particular order. The goal of these tips is to give you the tools to make your own decisions on the most appropriate means of communication for a specific situation.
Understand the Differences Between Platforms
How can you decide between platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and others? They all serve a different purpose, and the user base generally understands that purpose. Twitter is a helpful way to promote ideas and works best for short and effective communication. Facebook is more useful for different types of media, including photos and videos, and accommodates for more text. LinkedIn is a highly professional platform, so all communication on LinkedIn should be written formally, similar to a professional email.
Know How to Communicate Professionally
If your social media presence is supposed to support a professional image, reflect that in your communication style. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person and communicate in a similar style to in person. Avoid using chat language, including popular acronyms and abbreviations, as this can be perceived as extremely informal. You can curate your online presence to depict how you would like to be represented, so be mindful of your professional image. Even while using relatively informal mediums, such as Whatsapp, text talk should be avoided.
Take the Time to Respond
If someone has taken the time to reach out to you or business, take the time to acknowledge them. If someone approached you in real life and asked you a question, how would you respond? Your social media presence should be an extension of your personal self, so be sure to treat virtual concerns in the same way that you would in real life. Don’t walk away without answering and be sure to thank them for reaching out.
Use WhatsApp Professionally
Although it’s regarded as an informal medium, WhatsApp should be approached with the same cautiousness as other apps and sites. It is not appropriate to WhatsApp someone at any time of the day or night unless a significant time zone difference exists. Using WhatsApp to contact a professional connection, especially for the first time, is also not recommended. In this case, it’s usually preferable to stick to an SMS, or if possible, email. If you want to communicate with a specific member of a WhatsApp group who you have no personal connection to, it could be perceived as intrusive.
Refrain from Calling Without Prior Communication
In general, it’s best to message someone before calling them directly. This allows them to make time for your call or tell you a time or date that works better for them. Unless someone leaves you their number and asks you to call them any time, it’s recommended to reach out to them beforehand to ask for their time preference. If your message goes unrequited, you can call them at a suitable time. Make sure that unless asked, you only contact them inside of regular business hours for their time zone.
Don’t Use Personal Phone Numbers to Initiate Contact
Personal information can often be found online, including addresses and phone numbers. Unless someone has directly referred you to someone, avoid using their personal phone number to initiate contact. As an initial form of communication, phone calls or text messages to a personal phone number can be perceived as intrusive. It’s likely more appropriate to use email in these instances. You can try to start a conversation with anyone but choosing the right means of communication can increase the odds that they take the time to respond to you.
Use Proper Written English
The vast majority of in-person communication is non-verbal. For online communication, we aren’t able to read the social cues or body language of our peers. Using proper punctuation and vocabulary helps to ensure that your message doesn’t get misconstrued. If you lack caution, you may send messages that get lost in translation, and you won’t even know it.