Thursday, May 20, 2010

Your Communication is About to Get Easier - and More Difficult at the Same Time

Like most of the world, I have email. Like many of you, I have more than one email address. Email has been the "killer app" of the Internet long before we called it the Internet. Bulletin boards exchanged email. News Groups are based on email. Businesses, universities, and government offices had email back in the 60's and 70's.

Eventually all these things got connected. I made money, back in the day, knowing how to connect one email system to another.

Over the years we've added chat and instant messaging. AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Skype. Everywhere you turn there's instant messaging.

Pagers became SMS messages on cell phones.

Non Email Email

And the latest communication method is the "messaging" on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Twitter has DM (direct message) that allows two way communication between people. Facebook and LinkedIn have their own little message systems.

Of course all of this can be fed to your phone. Email, SMS, nine kinds of instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.

So now we have three problems, one old and two new.

The old problem is email overload, except now it's Messaging Overload. I recently found myself with a few quiet minutes, so I pulled out the trusty Blackberry and proceeded to have a conversation on Facebook, a DM conversation on Twitter, and two email conversations. In the meantime, I was updating Twitter with a few posts and added a status to Facebook.

Even for me this was a bit much. Thank goodness I don't do instant messaging. That eliminates a few hundred distractions.

The First New Problem is that people use whatever communication method they have at their fingertips to send messages. This is true for businesses, for friends, and for co-workers.

This is a problem because it means you now need to keep track of incoming communications on many different channels. You also need to figure out how to funnel that communication to one or more places where you can give it appropriate attention.

Here are two examples.

First, I have seen more than one "public" communication where someone posted a note along the lines of "John: Please make sure I've got the conference room for Thursday afternoon." This was followed by a response along the lines of "Dude, we both have email - and we work for the same company. Why are you doing this on Facebook?"

Second, I have found many people communicating with me personally and my company through these various channels. People ask questions via Twitter (either public or DM), Facebook messaging, and LinkedIn messaging. Normally these are small questions that require a longer, more complicated answer. Certainly too long for Twitter. And I don't like holding important conversations on these systems. So I end up funneling people to email.

The Second New Problem is that total strangers can post opinions about your company. This is extremely common on Twitter and Facebook. Of course their comments may not always be positive. But it doesn't matter what the nature of the comment is: It needs a response from you.

You need to give positive acknowledgement to compliments. You need to answer inquiries and sales opportunities. You need to address complaints and shuffle them into more private communications.

- - - - -

So your communication got easier because there are so many ways for communication to come into your business. At the same time, it became a lot more difficult because you need to monitor a number of new "channels" that may be important to your business.

As much as email overload can be a problem in your business today, Messaging Overload is a real danger. And it's going to be a growing problem if you don't have ways to deal with it.

Got a plan?


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  1. My short-term plan is Google alerts. I try to have all my SMS, voice mail, email, cat mail, nor mail, whatever, get dumped to my Gmail account, but some stuff escapes into the wild. I'm hoping those Google alerts are finding it.

    Using Google Voice, I'm moving toward having all my calls go to a single phone number. Now, if I could just get my five phones to cooperate so folks would get the same voice mail system every time . .

  2. Karl - I was recently chatting with a large vendor who asked me what method they should best use to communicate with the SMB Community.

    My answer was "All of them".

    Some people use Twitter, some Facebook, others Plaxo, LinkedIn, RSS feeds, e-mail, SMS... and more.

    For those with something to say, saying it via one channel probably won't work anymore.


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