I am assuming that by now you know how to use basic email. That you have a good server (such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, or an email attached to the domain of your website). You know how to compose, send, reply, forward, file, archive, etc. What you may not know is that there is an etiquette that you should keep in mind as you communicate for professional purposes – and it’s a good idea to keep them in mind for personal email as well. Some of what I tell you will apply to how you conduct yourself on Social Media as well.
Did you also know that some people spend up to two hours a day checking and responding to emails? Sometimes they just delete them because they are overwhelmed. Setting up the right systems and using the right protocols will ensure that you don’t become one of those people.
These guidelines should keep you organized and you will get results….
Set Up Different Accounts for Different Purposes – I have a personal and a business account. This is so that I don’t get confused and that I can take a day off and still interact with friends and family. It really makes a difference.
Set Up a Time of Day to Respond to Email and Social Media – the number one question I get from people just starting with email and especially Social Media is that they will be overwhelmed with the amount of time they will have to spend on it. Choosing a time of day that you check and respond to email and social media will keep you from being overwhelmed and you won’t spend as much time doing it.
Clear Your Inbox Daily – If you don’t you could easily become overwhelmed fast. Make sure that you take an action with every email that comes into your box as soon as possible. I set up files for emails I need to save or want to look at later. Most servers will have an option to create a file. You can usually find the ones that you don’t need to read without opening them. Click them and click on delete. Then find the ones that will need quick attention and read those. Lastly, go over the ones that you need to spend more time with. Your ultimate goal should always be an empty Inbox.
Check Your SPAM Folder – there is a folder somewhere in your email account that automatically stores all SPAM. All email servers now have SPAM Filters. Some are stronger than others and some allow you to determine how strong that filter is or to turn it off. Never-the-less always check the SPAM folder – at least once a day. You don’t want to miss an important email that was wrongly determined to be SPAM by your server.
NEVER/EVER Reply to SPAM – SPAM is usually sent through bulk email services or some kind of automated service. That means that they can track who opened the email, what they clicked on, where they’re from (in general terms) and more. Opening one SPAM means that you may suddenly see a lot more. SPAM may also have a virus attached that may automatically activate when you open it.
Compose a Signature – most email services will have a way for you to create an automatic signature. You should include your name, your website, blog and social networking pages. Some will actually have a way for you to insert the logo of the social networking platform and have it link to your page and some will allow you to insert images into your signature. Please do not include a street address or a phone number in your signature. You don’t want that to actually wind up in the email of someone you don’t know that well.
Use an Engaging Subject – You always want the recipient of your emails to not only take action with your email but to open it and be excited about receiving it. Make sure that your email compels them to do just that. Use something engaging, funny and/or to the point.
Respond As Soon As Possible – As I said in today’s world wide web – especially with smart phones – email senders will expect a quick response – usually within 24 hours. Don’t let an email go for more than 24 hours without taking some kind of action.
Keep Your Emails Short and To The Point – Again, in today’s world (the world wide web that is) attention spans are very short. Make sure that your email is direct. i.e. Dear Mr. Smith, I am writing to you because….” Especially if it’s a business person, curator, gallery director, grants manager, etc. If you do have to write a longish email try to keep your paragraphs short, to 3-5 sentences maximum. I know I don’t have to tell you that those sentences should not be run-on sentences. Use punctuation to break it up. If you’re not sure what to do, see my prior posts on grammar and punctuation.
Be Judicious About Punctuation – don’t use too many exclamation points or question marks. Doesn’t it look amateur and unprofessional???!!!
Use Spell Check – Always, always use spell check and then check it again yourself, especially if it’s an important email or stressful situation. Sometimes reading it out loud or to a friend helps to put it in perspective as well. Remember that computer spell checkers are not human beings.
Set Up Templates – If you find yourself answering the same question again and again you can use a template for an answer or a part of an answer. I usually compose the email in Microsoft Word (or another word processing program) and then I copy and paste it into an email. I customize it – adding the person’s name or changing some other detail.
Check Any Links That You Include Before Sending Them – imagine receiving an email with a link and when it’s clicked on takes you to a strange website or the link it just dead – it doesn’t open up anything. Wouldn’t that be frustrating? (Actually, I usually Google or Search for it on the internet. It’s an extra step that I have to take, however, and it can be annoying).
Write Something in the Text Area When You Send Attachments – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten emails with attachments (even from commercial galleries) and nothing in the text area. I usually assume that it’s SPAM or their email has been hacked. It’s probably a press release but I can’t take that risk and I certainly can’t take the extra time to download and open a .doc (Microsoft Word) or a .pdf (Adobe Acrobat Reader). It’s cold and highly unappealing.
Make Sure That Your Attachments Load Quickly – When you do send attachments – let’s say it’s a curator asking for images or a resume or an artist statement – make sure they load quickly. If they are large files there should be a way for you to compress them. By the way, in most cases images should be 72dpi for sending on the internet. (See the first posts on this blog about Digital Imaging).
Make Sure Photos You Embed Into the Text Area of Your Email Load Quickly – there is nothing more annoying than sitting at your desk, with 5,000 other things to do, while the email takes forever to open up and load. Make sure that you are not sending a Camera Raw or 300dpi photo that is 21″ x 18″. It will surely take a while to overload and may even freeze the recipients computer completely.
Use Auto-responders – take a good look when you first set up your email account because some may have an auto-responder already set up. You want to disable it. Should you go on vacation or need to be away from your desk for a number of days, you will want to use this feature. You can say something like: “Thank you for contacting me. I am out of the studio and will be back on …you pick the date.”
In the next post I will cover the things that you shouldn’t do so please stay tuned!