The time has come. We are all using apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others to communicate, and while that has been the case for many years in the non professional world, more and more professionals are using them to get work done. The question is, is there a right and wrong way to use these platforms? The answer, I believe is yes.
Having said that, I have to give a small disclaimer. Maybe this is obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. There is no WhatsApp rule book. The following guidelines are my opinion and the way I like to be contacted.
So here goes; some guidelines to get the most out of messaging apps for your business needs.
Ask yourself if we are there yet or if maybe e-mail is the right medium.
Alright, let’s jump right in. If we don’t know each other, and if I didn’t give you my phone number, perhaps that’s because I didn’t want you to send me a WhatsApp and I prefer we keep it more formal, at least for now. Maybe you should ask yourself why I didn’t ask you to contact me on WhatsApp but rather e-mail.
Again, maybe it’s just me, but getting a WhatsApp message or a message on Facebook Messenger from a total stranger who I am not connected to on social media always seems strange to me, at best, and intrusive and annoying, at worst.
Maybe we are not quite there yet. That doesn’t mean we won’t get there, but right now, we are strangers and as funny as it sounds, these messaging platforms are a bit more intimate and personal and they are more appropriate for existing friends or colleagues, not for strangers.
So how about we start with e-mail and move over to messaging if we see that we have a lot to talk about and prefer to do it faster?
I know, this might be me nitpicking, but I am going to stand my ground on this, and I’ll tell you why after.
If you are sending me a link, a picture, or any other type of media, first send the “why” and then send the “what”.
Let me explain. If you are sending me a link to an article you want me to read, great; but don’t send the link and then start writing the explanation of why you’re sending it. Why not? Well, think about the other side for a second. I get the link, I click on it, I read it, and I don’t know why.
Yes, I realize it’s just a matter of a few seconds, but isn’t that exactly why we’re using WhatsApp instead of e-mail; to save ourselves those few seconds?
So try this instead: “Hi Hillel, I thought you’d appreciate this article because I know you love drones. Enjoy.”
That way, I have the context of the article I’m about to read and I can now read it with the right understanding of why you sent it.
Like most things in business, always think of the other side and not just of your own needs.
Start with context. Always start with context.
If you’ve read any of my articles, you must know by now how much focus I put on context. Whether you’re making an intro, sitting in a meeting, or writing an article, always start with context.
The same is true for messaging. Don’t just jump right in. Start with something along the lines of “Hey Hillel, been a while. Last time we met, we talked about my startup that uses AI to streamline your health… I want to continue that discussion and update you on where we are. I was wondering if you could find the time to speak this week.”
Do not write something like “Hey, can we meet this week?” Why not? Because I might not even know who I’m speaking to. You might have your name there, but don’t assume, unless we are good friends, that I remember our last meeting or when who you are. Just start with context so we are all on the same page.
I know you can send files, but that doesn’t mean you should.
Again, disclaimer: This is just my opinion. I know these platforms support file sharing and you can use WhatsApp to send presentations and PowerPoint files, but that doesn’t mean you should.
Some things are just better over e-mail. This might very well change as people’s business practices evolve, but if you’re sending a formal presentation that you want the person to look at or pass on, casual messaging platforms might not be the most effective way to send them.
This is true for more reasons than one, but it really all comes down to the way people communicate. For example, I have yet to meet the investor who takes a deck over WhatsApp. Once you send the investor your deck, they often circulate it with their partners to evaluate whether the company is relevant for an investment. That type of conversation rarely happens over messenger.
In fact, many platforms have positioned themselves as “E-mail killers”, but e-mail is still alive and kicking. Unless otherwise specified, sharing important files might be better reserved for formal communication and not casual messaging apps
Use voice notes conservatively.
I kept the most controversial one for last. Voice notes; let’s discuss. Yes, sometimes voice notes can save you the time it would take you to write out that whole message. However, remember the point above, always think of the recipient of your message.
Imagine the following very common scenario. I am in the middle of writing this article and you want to ask me to introduce you to my friend David, who invests in startups. You send me a voice note asking me to introduce you to David with an elaborate five minute message explaining why.
Now, on my end, I get that message and I don’t know what it’s about. Maybe it’s something urgent or timely. After all, our kids go to the same kindergarten. Maybe something happened or my child doesn’t feel well.
So now, I have my task that I am in the middle of, this article, and I have this voice note from you. Some people might ignore the message and check it later. Others, myself included, might stop what they’re doing to listen and make sure it’s not urgent. Well, there goes my train of thought.
Voice notes, much like phone calls, can be highly effective and save you time, and they can also be highly intrusive and unnecessary.
I am not saying to never use voice notes, but I am saying to use them sparingly and save them for when they are really needed.
To explain this in another way, when you send a voice note or call someone about a business request, what you are in essence saying to that person is that your time is more important than theirs and they need to stop what they’re doing and answer the phone or listen to the message now. Don’t be that person.
The bottom line is, before you send a business acquaintance a message over WhatsApp, Messenger, or other texting platform, ask yourself if you are being intrusive or if this is the type of communication that is most appropriate for the kind of relationship you have.