If you are anything like me, then you text more than you ever actually talk on the phone. Honestly, when someone actually calls me I assume it is really bad news or a telemarketer!
Clearly, I am not alone. A recent study found that millennials consider using their smart phone to be more important than brushing their teeth or wearing deodorant. So there is no question that texting has also become part of our professional lives.
Sometimes it is just quicker and more efficient to send a short 1 sentence text than to write pick up the phone for what will end up being a 10 minute call. Eddi Ricci Jr. pointed out on Personal Branding Blog that “texts cut back on awkward hellos, small talk or good byes. When we reach out to someone via text or email, the person is reading the message on their own terms and it’s not disruptive to their day (this mentality is stuck in the senders head more than the receiver’s mind and is a cause of call reluctancy).”
Plus, texting can feel like a nicer way to say thank you than an e-follow up after meeting with someone. Lo Bosworth, founder of party-in-a-box startup Revelry House, recently told Levo League that she texts new contacts to follow up instead of emailing. “It feels more personal!” she added.
If you work with mostly people your age in a somewhat informal work environment, texting etiquette is pretty easy. But if you are texting with a manager (who may be a bit older), or if your work environment is more formal than a startup, there are certain things you need to remember.
Even though it may be a text, it is still a work conversation. Keep these tips in mind to stay on point with your professional texting etiquette:
1. Don’t communicate big, important decisions through text
The launch of a new product is going to be pushed up to next month. The company headquarters is going to officially move to San Francisco from New York. These big, important decisions will usually require context and details, something that is not communicated well through text messaging. Stay away from defaulting to your phone for these type of communications.
2. Don’t send bad news via text
On that note, also don’t send bad news through texts. Although you may be thinking that you are helping by giving someone advanced notice, it can come across as insensitive and rudely casual. If you have bad news to communicate, such as a colleague being let go or a project being cancelled, try sending an FYI text that invites a short phone call instead. For example, “when you have a moment, I’d like to give you a heads up about something” if it’s time sensitive.
3. Cool it on the abbreviations
Yes, we can’t imagine a world where we have to spell out a whole six-letter word. However, almost 100% of abbreves (get it?) are far too casual for texting professionally. Plus, not everyone knows all of them. (Are they teaching them in school now?) I had to look up lmgtfy in a recent Skillcrush post! Don’t risk coming across as being too much in a rush or too unprofessional to spell out a whole word.
4. Watch your tone
Like any written work communication, watch your tone. It’s hard to communicate emphasis and emotion with words alone (and trust us, emoticons and emoji are not going to help in your work texts!). Reread a text before you send it, or even ask a colleague or friend to do a quick check if it’s going to a boss or client. Do you sound angry or like you are kidding? Are you being clear? Writing in complete sentences always helps, even though you may feel a little bit more formal. Better safe than sorry!
5. Look at texting as a complement
Don’t look at texting as your main communication tool, even though it may be the easiest and most comfortable for you. Ricci wrote, “As of now, I look at text messaging as a complement, not a substitute for the phone. It can really be best used as a “warm up” introduction inviting a phone call.” For example, send someone a text after you have sent a big follow up document to let them know that the email is in their inbox!
Ricci also advocates tracking your effectiveness using text messaging, the same way you track effectiveness of email newsletters or social media outreach. “I also believe if you are going to start using text messaging in business development then you need to start tracking the efficiency of it. How many texts do you send per day? How many responses do you get? How many calls did you warm up or meetings did you book using that text language? Then compare it to your dialing efficiency, emailing efficiency or other ways of reaching out to potential clients.”
So, when is texting appropriate? If your messages is urgent or short and sweet, you’ve usually got the green light to text away. Let’s just hope no “damn you auto correct” episodes get in the way of your pristine texting etiquette!