Text messages are becoming an increasingly popular way to communicate in business. They are fast and efficient and can be sent and read via mobile when you are on the go. They are clear and concise and more direct than email – and they often get a quicker response too.
However, when you start communicating with your customers, clients and business colleagues via text, you are wandering into a potential etiquette minefield.
Business texting brings with it a number of potential pitfalls and it’s important to be aware of these mistakes so you can avoid them. There are certain challenges that come up when texting which don’t apply in other types of mediums. Also, if you are used to texting casually and don’t have a lot of experience with business texting – it can be difficult to adjust.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when it comes to business texting.
1. Ask If Texting Is Okay
Before you start communicating with someone you work with via text, ask them for their permission to communicate with them in this way.
Some people choose not to use texting for professional purposes, preferring to keep their business messages on email and use texting only for personal matters.
Also, not everyone wants you to be able to communicate with them day and night. They like to keep their work communication separate from their personal life, so they can concentrate on being present with friends and family on the evenings and weekends. They might prefer to communicate via email, because it’s easier to switch off.
You can ask the person you work with, “is it okay if I text you, or would you prefer to communicate via another method?” Also, if they change their mind later and would rather message in a different way, be open to listening to their concerns.
2. Use the Right Tone
Although texting can have a more casual and immediate feel than email, it’s still important to maintain a professional tone. You wouldn’t send a text to someone you work with in the same tone and style as you would send to a friend.
Avoid sending excessive emojis, memes and GIFs – as there has been a study that shows it makes people think you’re incompetent. Also, it probably doesn’t have to be said, but swearing or explicit content is a no-no as well. There might be the odd situation where you have a fun and casual workplace atmosphere and this may be appropriate. However, in most situations it’s a good idea to opt for a more neutral tone and add in humour later once you get to know your colleagues.
A good tone to strive for in your business messages is friendly and casual, but still professional. Above all, the most important thing is to be clear and make sure your message is put across in a straightforward and easy to understand way.
Also, make sure your tone is polite.Using “please” and “thank you” goes a long way and will make anyone you are communicating with feel more like helping you when they receive your texts.
3. Keep It Brief
Texting should be used to communicate short messages in a brief and concise way. If you have something very complicated to explain, it’s better to send an email or have a face to face meeting.
Long texts can be difficult to read, especially if the formatting of the text provider changes how they are displayed. Also, it’s hard to read over and check the text for clarity before sending it when you are typing it into your phone.
Also, make sure you limit the frequency of your messages and you aren’t sending over multiple texts with irrelevant information. Only send a communication if it is important and relevant for your business.
However, although you should be keeping your text messages brief – avoid the temptation to use abbreviations. They can be confusing and make your text messages look unprofessional. You can still keep things brief without using acronyms and abbreviations.
4. Save Frequent Message Templates
Here’s a great time-saving tip. When it comes to sending a message that you often have to send in a work environment, consider drafting up a template and then filling it in with the relevant information every time you have to use it.
For example, if you are a contractor and potential clients often ask you the same questions when enquiring about your services, you can have prepared responses written that succinctly answer those questions. All you have to do is copy and paste and change the names and specifics – and you’ll save yourself from having to type out the same answer again and again.
This can work for many situations. You can have a set template to message new team members when you are onboarding them, or to send a summary after a meeting. Every time you find yourself typing out the same message more than once, consider saving it as a template to use it next time.
The key is to make sure you don’t send the same message to the same person twice – or they might start to notice that it sounds a little familiar!
5. Watch Out for Autocorrect
Sometimes autocorrect can come in handy when sending texts. However, many times the changes that autocorrect makes are unwanted and incorrect. They can lead to mistakes that are embarrassing and unprofessional.
For every text you send to a business colleague or client, it’s important to read over the message before you send it. You’ll catch any unfortunate auto-correct mistakes before they make you look silly.
If you are getting fed up with your autocorrect consistently making the wrong corrections, you can always turn it off entirely or replace the words and phrases with the ones you want. You can also create shortcuts for words and phrases you type frequently. For example, if you type “omw” your phone will automatically spell out, “on my way.” Here’s a helpful article that explains how to do it.
6. Respond Promptly
Texting is a more immediate communication than email, so most people will expect a more immediate response. If someone messages you with a question, it’s expected that you will reply as promptly as possible. After all, they texted you because it’s a quick way to send information directly and get the attention of the recipient.
Of course, no one is expecting you to respond within five minutes – especially if you are busy or if it’s the weekend. Generally, when it comes to business messages a
If you don’t have an answer, it’s helpful to acknowledge that you have received their message. You can say something like, “That’s a great question! I’m looking into it and I will let you know as soon as I can.”
7. Pay Attention to Timing
Consider that many people sleep with their smartphones next to their beds, so you don’t want to accidentally wake them up with a work-related text that could have waited until morning. Try to keep your business texting limited to within business hours, so that you can respect their peace and quiet during sleeping hours.
Of course, this can be difficult and not always possible when you are working remotely with team members who live in different time zones. However, it’s still worth keeping in mind – out of respect and consideration for the people you are communicating with.
If you know your recipient is likely to be asleep, consider sending them an email instead so that they can read it when they wake up.
8. Include Your Name
Keep in mind that unless the person you are texting has added you to their contact list, your text might appear in their phone with a phone number rather than a name. This can be confusing and they might be unsure about who is texting them.
Try to sign off with your name at the end of a text, especially if you are texting them for the first time. You’ll let them know who is sending the message and make it easy for them to update your info in their contacts.
Depending on the content of the message, you may also want to address the recipient by their name as well. This will let them know that the message is intended directly for them, rather than being a broadcast to multiple people or a spam message.
9. Always Check the Recipient
Sending a text to the wrong person can be easy to do. All it takes is a careless slip of the finger or an incorrect auto-suggest for someone with a similar name. However, repairing the damage of a text sent to the wrong person can be very difficult – especially if the information is sensitive or negative.
Always check to make sure that your message is going to the right person before you send it. Also, watch out when replying in group texts, as you may not be fully aware of everyone who is in the group.
10. Don’t Use Texts for Project Management
When it comes to communicating information about a complex set of projects that require input from multiple sources, text messaging is not the best medium.
When you are going back and forth on a project via text, it becomes a long chain of messages that you have to scroll back through when you need to check back on the details. It’s very easy for someone to miss important information if they haven’t been looking at the text stream.
A better tool for this sort of collaboration is to use project management software such as Trello or Asana. It allows you to create tasks and comment directly on them, so that your messages are organized in a relevant way. You can also tag relevant team members to make sure they see the task.
11. Write A Clear Call to Action
When sending text messages in a professional environment, it’s important to think about what you want the recipient to DO once they have read your text. Are you scheduling a meeting with them? Do you want them to send you over an important document via email? Do you need them to complete a task before a certain deadline?
If so, make sure that the call to action is very clear in the text message itself. Whether it’s a payment reminder, an appointment reminder or a request for something, the message should always be clear.
A good call to action is simple, polite and often starts with a verb. For example, “please book a time on my calendar for a meeting this week” or “please send your timesheet to Samantha by 4pm this Friday.”
12. Don’t Use Texts To Convey Sensitive Information
Be very careful about texting delicate and sensitive information, such as giving someone feedback on their performance, talking about something that went wrong or firing them. These are messages that should be conveyed face to face, so schedule a meeting instead.
Remember, if you send an insensitive message via text, the information can live on forever in a screenshot. It’s much more respectful to talk to your employee or colleague ace to face.
Also, when you speak to someone face to face about a delicate issue, you’ll have the opportunity to clear up any potential confusion and answer any questions they might have.
Text In A Thoughtful, Considerate Way
Business texting can be more challenging than casually texting with your friends, as there is much more on the line. It’s important to be aware of etiquette rules, so you can avoid offending or annoying your business contacts and looking unprofessional.
With these texting tips in mind, you can communicate via text in the best possible way. With each text message you send, you’ll be on your way to building your professional reputation and growing and improving your relationships with those who you work with.