Is email dying? Are you killing email? Why are people avoiding email nowadays? Perhaps it’s because of how people are using email. Hopefully this guide to using email will help keep that method of communication open and not be as horrible as it is now.
There are a lot of people who simply do not use email any longer. In fact a whole generation of people coming up are now either completely without email or just have an account because they have to to register a smart phone or register for school. But, other than that, they just don’t use it.
I don’t blame them. Email, as it is today, has become a poor tool for communication but a lot of that is because of how people use it.
I belong to a number of boards and have found that, watching people use email, I can see the reticence of younger people to this form of communication.
Recently I was called on the phone for not responding to an urgent and timely change on a website I had built. When I asked how they notified me of the change, they responded with “by email.” I looked and couldn’t find the request until they indicated that it was contained in a reply.
So it was there alright in a reply to a chain about something totally unrelated that I hadn’t even really been a party to, other than having my name in many replies to the original email. Replies to all, using the same subject for multiple thoughts or projects and having dozens of people in the chain of communication are all sure ways to not get your message across.
And, yes, that pun was absolutely intended.
So, first of all, when writing an email I like to keep one subject per email. If you have two different matters that need attention, write two different emails. So if there are changes to a website, for example, and a new document that has the membership list of an organization, write two brand new emails, each with a subject that is relevant to the content or task to be accomplished.
It’s also bad form to have lots and lots of people addressed in the email. If you have a large list, consider using the BCC or Blind Carbon Copy field to enter all the addresses. This will also cut down on the replies from all these people with things like “I got the email” or “I agree with Tony.”
Of course there are cases where you do want to hear back from all the members and create a chain of communication that everyone can weigh in on but not always. But typically I use BCC becasue, well, I just don’t want replies to replies to replies.
Don’t assume that everyone is on the same platform as well. Including Word Documents or Excel Spreadsheets is another no no. Instead, consider a platform that everyone can open such as Google Docs and Sheets. It is quite possible to contain some malicious code in a Word document so I just don’t open them. Ever.
Furthermore there are an increasing number of people using their smart phones for business or using Chromebooks. Chromebooks can not have Microsoft Office on them. At all. The beauty of them is that you can't really install software on them so whatever the user is using has to be web-based (yes, I know there is now Office 365. Why do you think Microsoft went web-based? But why bother when Chromebooks include Google Docs anyway for free?).
If you have a form that needs to be filled out or you have a document that needs review, a PDF file is far, far superior to a Word document anyway. I can literally open, fill out, sign and return a PDF document on my phone or tablet. If I want to mess with Word documents, which I already indicated that I don’t do, I have to be on my desktop computer. Since I travel quite a bit my desktop stays in my office while the iPad comes with me.
Just because everybody at your place of work is forced to use Word doesn’t mean the whole world does. Remember they forced the slaves to row in some ships but that doesn’t make it a good way to motivate a ship.
Don’t use email at all
There are a lot of organizations nowadays that don’t use email at all. Instead they’re using tools like Slack instead and finding that it works much, much better than email.
I also know groups of people who have established private Facebook Groups or use Reddit to do all their communication. Email can be a powerful and wonderful tool but the way a lot of people use it has really made it far, far less effective.
You can set up a Facebook Group that is completely private and absolutely free and have only people who are part of a certain project or organization inside that group without anybody outside the group knowing that it exists.
Lastly - your voice
The final thing I want to point out is what email provider you’re using and your signature.
Using services like Yahoo or AOL just screams amateur. Sure, those are great if you’re on the dating scene and want to troll the retirement community, but other than that get rid of these services. Today.
Did you know I can likely hack your Yahoo account within about five minutes? And I’m not even that good at hacking any longer.
Gmail is more secure and offers so much more in terms of email. But if you own a business or want to look professional your email should be firstname.lastname@example.org. This is such a minimal way to market the fact that you’re permanently IN business and shows a commitment to your business.
Here's an article about having your business name in your email address.
You don’t use crayons and construction paper for business cards, you’ve made the investment. That should be true of your digital presence too. In 2020 you should have a permanent website for your business and email addresses that reflect that. Period.
And with that you can also use the signature line to advertise your business. Whether you’re on a mobile device, a tablet or a computer you can modify the signature on your email. This is a great way to promote things you’re interested in promoting, tell the story of your business, direct people to your website or whatever you choose. But “sent from my iPhone” is just another sign that you’re using crayon and construction paper to tell the story of your business.