I genuinely like email.
I enjoy communicating with people over the web. Despite the formal nature of email communication, I am known to go a little over the top with my use of emoticons — just to make it personal and reinforce my intent in my words. ;)
However, there are three annoyances I dislike about people’s behavior on email and it makes me want to close my inbox and not ever open it again. Here are four annoyances and recommendations so you don’t irritate your next recipient. >:(
1. Burying the Value
Email is meant to be a brief platform for communication. It’s not a web page. It’s not a brochure. It’s not a Wikipedia article. It’s a conversation. I think it’s only appropriate to provide further details over email when prompted, not arbitrarily.
Don’t put the most valuable points of the email at the end. Instead, make your request clear, concise and direct up front, preferably within the first couple of lines. As one of my former editors once told me, “Don’t put the milk in the back of the ‘fridge.”
If 90% of the text in a message is not necessary, don’t include it. Wait until the recipient asks for it.
2. Following Up Too Much
As much as we’d like to have a clean inbox and respond momentarily. Maintaining a thin inbox is tough. In addition to the volume of ham (legitimate, bulk email), there is good number of email messages that require emotional labor to complete. For instance, preparing and sending a presentation, articulating one’s points on a topic, or performing additional investigative tasks. This results in longer than desired response times — upwards of a few days at least.
Instead of sending another message to add to the mess, simply wait it out. If it truly is urgent, express that. But not only urgent to you, but urgent to the recipient.
3. Social Network Assault
While I am unabashed about having my social channels open and accessible to others, I don’t like unsolicited “friend” or “connection” requests. And it is even more creepy when I get “followed” on multiple networks at once plus an email aspiring to do business or have a conversation. This isn’t social networking — it’s creepy.
On the other hand, It’s completely fine to read what I have published publicly and mention it in an email. That shows me that you’re putting in work to build rapport and are sensitive to my current workload. Tools like Rapportive and Nimble help sidestep the effort required to do this and when you mention it casually, it is a nice touch.
Don’t add me as friends or business connection until at least we’ve done business together. But even that’s pushing it. And please don’t take offense to this — I won’t be offended if you won’t add me as a friend. (Then again, I don’t solicit friending among business colleagues unless I work closely with them and I’d buy them a beer.)
4. Soliciting Multiple People at Once
Last, but certainly not least is the most bothersome. It’s when someone contacts multiple individuals through multiple mediums all hoping to strike it rich with a decision-maker.
While the adage, “shit rolls downhill” holds somewhat true for select topics, it’s not necessarily the case for what I do in my role. It’s okay to ask around to other employees whom is best equipped to support your needs. This is research and is something that is valuable when seeking partnerships with other companies.
However, when you send the same blanket pitch to seven different people, what happens is those seven people forward that message to me and I now have seven more replies to write acknowledging I received the original message. Then when I reply to you, I am now bothered by this aggressive act of “growth-hacking,” or another pejorative for impersonal marketing. So much so, it detracts from the actual message or conversation you intended to have.
So, please, work with one person at a time. Do your research on who will help you most efficiently achieve your goal. Sending multiple emails to “potential” stakeholders only blemishes the trust I (and others) have in you.
In your next email …
Remind yourself that there’s a human there. They are just as strapped for time as you are (or maybe more). They seek emails and conversations to help them accomplish their goals, not yours. Respect that not every email or conversation merits a response or an escalation to phone or other live meeting. Some things are best communicated over email for efficiency’s sake and other things are not.
If you want to reach me and don’t violate these four annoyances, point your messages to firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, move on.