With so many people connecting online on a daily basis, it’s more than likely that your first communication with someone is through instant messaging rather than email, phone or face-to-face. That’s just how prevalent and accepted instant messaging is today as a form of communication.
And there’s no shortage of technology choices either. I use a handful of options including Skype, MSN, Gtalk, AIM and ICQ.
By its very nature, instant messaging is a very informal means of communication. With email, people have the opportunity to think about what they’re writing, save drafts for another time and respond at a slower pace. On the phone, people are typically very professional but also very comfortable since we’ve all used the phone for many years. Instant messaging changes a lot of the rules of communication because it’s:
- Informal feeling and casual
- Designed for very fast communication
- Unstructured and messy
- Increasing people’s availability and demands on their time
And now instant messaging is evolving into “broadcast instant messaging” through tools like Twitter which in some ways exacerbate the chaos created by instant messaging.
Given its nature, it might be easy to ignore the impression you leave through instant messaging. But that would be a big mistake.
Through every bit of communication – whether it’s a well-thought out email, phone conversation, meeting or instant message chat – you’re forming an impression and being given the opportunity to sell and promote yourself.
People forget that when it comes to instant message.
Recently I had two separate conversations via instant message that left me unimpressed. The people were flippant, slow to respond, and too casual in their style of writing. “Hey d00d” isn’t how I want to be addressed when we first connect online to talk about business.
It’s important to remember that the rules of communication still apply when connecting via instant message:
- Be respectful
- Show interest
- Don’t ignore people
- Don’t communicate like a 16-year old teenager talking to her girlfriends
- Treat conversations seriously and professionally
- Get a feel for how the other person wants to communicate and work towards that
Instant messaging is a great tool for communication. I use it constantly. But when you start reaching out to people – making those first contacts and having those first critical conversations – be smart about it. Remember: you’re making a first impression that will stick with people for a very long time, even if it’s just through a little chat box.