Four Rules When Sending an Initial Instant Message or Text

Introduce Yourself, Set the Context, and Keep it Brief with the First Text or IM

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Instant messaging may seem to be standard ​​communications for you, but it can still be intimidating for some people. You can become used to messaging friends and colleagues and not realize how a message can seem to come out of left field for a new contact, or may never be accessed. This is especially a concern in a business context. Keep these messaging ​etiquette rules in mind.

Ask Permission to Send a Text Message

Does the person you wish to text want to be contacted in that fashion?

Don't assume that everyone carries their mobile phone at all times to receive text messages, or is online to get instant messages through their network, Facebook, or other instant messaging programs. Ask them in person or by email how they prefer to be contacted. You may discover they have a limited texting plan or that IM use is discouraged at their workstation.

Introduce Yourself When Sending an Initial Instant Message

Especially in a business context, introduce yourself in your first instant message and make it brief. While your name, nickname, or phone number may show, depending on the method used, your recipient is seeing it out of context. Start the message with an intro and context, such as:

"I'm Joan Smith from XYZ Consultants, do you have time to discuss the questions you asked me on the phone last week?"

"It's Brad Jones from Accounting, I have a question about your reimbursement request, do you have time to answer it now or should I call you?"

By doing this, you avoid having your message appear to be a random and possibly misdirected question from a person they may remember only vaguely or not at all.

While many instant messaging programs have an archive that allows people to find out who you are and what you have been talking about in the past, it is usually a good idea to introduce yourself, even more briefly in subsequent conversations, too (especially if you have changed your nickname or phone number).

Keep the First Message of a String Brief

Start with the introduction and context only until the person responds. Otherwise, you may have composed and sent a detailed message that they never see. This is a good practice for all message strings.

Follow Up Politely If You Get No Response

If you send a text message or IM and get no response, it can mean many different things. The person could be ignoring you, but they may not be monitoring the phone or computer to see your message. After an appropriate amount of time, follow up with an additional message but also attempt to contact the person via email, telephone, or stopping by their desk as is appropriate.

This goes back to how they prefer to be contacted. While messaging may be the only way you want to communicate, it isn't the first choice for all people. If you want to have productive ​​work relationships, you need to understand that people will have different preferences.