Email etiquette and networking

imageEmail has been around long enough as a mode of communication for us to learn its proper usage. Having an email account implies that you want to be a part of society, that you plan on being civilized with others. That means a basic understanding of email etiquette is a necessity if you're hoping to get replies or good things coming your way.

Know your audience

If you're writing an email, it's most likely because you aim to be understood. In order to be understood, you must accept the fact that written words are subject to the interpretation of the reader. Humans tend to communicate with more than just their words. There's body language, tone, speed of delivery, and many other factors that affect the way the message gets ingested.

Email naturally lends itself to rudeness, disrespect, misunderstanding, and hostility. - @FastCompany

If you don't take into account that words can be misinterpreted, you run the risk of being misunderstood and wasting time using this mode of communication ineffectively. This is why it's important to be clear with your correspondence.

Many factors like personality, age, and the nature of your relationship with the recipient will determine the type of tone you can take on in an email. If you're unsure, always air on the side of more formal than not until you're comfortable with how the recipient will take it. - Mike Hourahine

Realize that your double entendres and clever, witty, sarcastic humor will not come across in writing, so you need to splash smileys around it to be clear. - Guillermo Machado

imageSubtleties of communication are often missed in emails or very ambiguous. That's why many people opt for using emoticons to convey tone. Word choice and syntax are arguably the most important factors in achieving clarity of message to be understood. This might make emails sound more formal and less conversational. This is because written and audio communication require different sensibilities. Things like sarcasm and certain humor need more than just words to be delivered successfully.

Saying thank you a lot adds a really good tone to an email, and because tone can often be misconstrued in emails, it's better to be on the safe side and be thankful. -Garrett Austen

imageIn many Western cultures, the role of the sender is often a polite and gracious one, someone requesting a bit of time or effort from the receiver. Since time is our most precious commodity, the ability to craft a concise email that is still clear is vital. This requires a lot of practice.

Email is crucial to current work life and takes up a lot of time, especially if emails are long and drawn out. Being concise can often come as a result of being clear, or being clear can sometimes lead to verbosity. Make sure you don't use 12 words when 4 will do.

In East Asia, the role of the sender is the "inconveniencer," the one dragging someone away from their valuable work and precious time to do something for them. While conciseness is still an expectation, be sure not to omit necessary civilities expected due to cultural norms.

Consider the cultural background of the person you are interviewing. This will have a big influence on the way you structure and word your email. - Jane Cheu

Elements of a good blog often contribute to a more readable email, especially with the act of breaking up big blocks of text into little paragraphs.

You need to format your email to make it easier to read and not embed a key point or request right in the middle of a big paragraph of text and expect them to get it. Go easy on the formatting, though, because too much formatting is more annoying than none. - Mike Hourahine

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Respond consistently and appropriately

If you're writing emails well - hoping to be understood and being considerate of the recipient - you can expect to get responses.

One is more likely to communicate with you if they can always expect a response. Good email correspondence is a two-way street. - Mike Hourahine

Model the kind of communication you prefer. If you like receiving responses to your requests, provide them for those who write to you. Your habits in email will be learned by those you correspond with, so make sure you are always acting in a way that meets your own standards.

Email should not be used as a weapon. You are hoping to respond to someone's need, communicate your thoughts, or increase the likelihood of action. Writing a cutting email will not do you any favors.

If you receive an email that provokes an emotional response or is controversial in nature, write your reply and wait 30 minutes before sending, in case you need to edit your response from a distanced perspective. - Russell Cailey

The carbon copy (the cc: field) or the blind carbon copy (bcc:) features on emails can be used effectively or can be impolitely/cuttingly. Don't allow yourself down the rabbit hole of tense email threads and nasty uses of bcc. Face-to-Face or voice communication should be used to resolve any emotional or controversial issues.

Never write anything in an email that you wouldn't want shared with ANYONE. - wisdom once shared by @rachelroams

If you keep your email content "public friendly," you will be better able to achieve your goals than if you consider email a strictly private way of communicating. Anything can be shared, forwarded, printed, or put in the wrong hands. That's why you should compose every email message as if it will be on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.

Use emails to access your goals

One of the most important points I hope you understand about email is that it could connect you to people you admire and can learn from. A friend of mine once shared with me her tip for networking via email, and I've tried it many times since, all with great success.

Contact people for informational interviews. Use company websites, individuals' personal websites, LinkedIn, etc, and contact people whose work impresses you. Offer to treat those individuals to lunch or coffee, or ask if you could come by their office sometime or chat on the phone. Feel fortunate if you get a 30 minute informational meeting, and show up with well-informed questions. The people you meet will be impressed with your preparedness, and you'll be taking full advantage of your time with them.

*Note: an informational interview is for learning. You're not asking for a job--you're asking for someone to share his/her wisdom. It's possible that informational meeting will become a job opportunity down the line if you keep in contact with the individual you've met. But, remember-- that's not why you're there to chat with them.

Once you've connected, make sure to show gratitude to those who help you. After all, they're distilling years of knowledge for your benefit. Email thank you notes after talking, then send handwritten thank-you notes on stationary afterward if you can track down physical addresses.

And, stay in touch. You never know whose partnership could prove invaluable in the future! - @rachelroams

Don't be intimidated by others' seeming stature. Don't project your own insecurities about not getting a response. If you think someone is too busy or too amazing to get back to you, you're right...you won't write the email and therefore will hear nothing from them. If you respect their work, their values, and their time, you will craft a thoughtful email that they feel drawn to respond to (if they are good people). Be authentic with your requests to learn from another, and you will create an authentic connection. I think this is networking at its best.

I have posted one of my personal attempts below, which you may find concise (for what I'm asking) or massive and working against myself. As you will soon see, it worked to my benefit in this case. When I contacted him, I knew of Chris Guillebeau as a "six-figure blogger" and a well-respected one at that. I still follow his advice today and have actually taught many of you things I learned from him.

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Chris,

My name is Lindsay Clark, and I've been interested in writing you for many months.
 
You may be familiar with my blog (since you've comment before). And especially after reading your Overnight Success ebook (which I reviewed here), I decided it was due time to thank the bloggers who inspire me.
 
I know you value your time, so I'll tell you from the start this is a heartfelt e-mail expressing my gratitude, my desire to learn from you...and it takes about 3 minutes to read.
 
Thank you.
I want to say thank you for what you do. I appreciate the multi-faceted approach your blog has on all your interests while still remaining a cohesive entity. It's uniquely yours, and most of us who attempt the same do it poorly. Your writing style is great, and the design of your blog is stellar. I've written about you a lot on my site, because your blog posts contain real substance, much of which resonates with me. I applaud your mission of non-conformity. As we all know, even non-conformists seem to conform to a group of their own, but I think your angle of earning a living and liking what you do is thoroughly original from what the vast majority is doing. And thank you for calling it an art form. I also appreciate the lack of pretentiousness in your goal to travel to every country...too many who try this come off ostentatious.
 
What I do.
I run my own blog that is slowly becoming something like yours: about pursuing the unconventional path as a recent graduate, that path usually involving travel is some way or location independence out of a desire to live life in a thrilling manner. I do it because after I finish a blog post, I feel as though I've eaten a fully satisfying meal. I've been an expressionist from the beginning, and my current favorite is through multi-media and written word. I create constantly because I consider it my art form, translating the difficult thoughts spurred on by travel and attempting to inspire others to be inspired by the world.
 
My motivation is to simply express and push others to do what they love, not just what they think they should do, which means I'm severely lacking in the business department.
 
What I attempt to learn from you.
I've been trying to learn from you, your online property, your business sense, but unfortunately, it's hard to translate someone else's successful tactics to my own channel.
 
#1: I'm amazed at how you've been able to market yourself and gain such a vast following. I'm envious and working on the same goal. Did you have a tipping point, a series of tiny successes that added up, a useful tactic that made your numbers snowball? How did you get your following?
 
#2: You've brought a sense of order and complete thought to everything you do, and you seem to have an ultimate plan under it all. Do you follow a thought-out schedule, write how you feel at the time, or what is your method to creating order amidst the inherent chaos of travel?
 
#3: I make my living as a producer and cinematographer of an educational travel series for kids (ProjectExplorer.org), but I will continue to develop my blog constantly because I'm proud of it and because I've become a resource for many people my age and/or with my same interests. I will redesign my blog in September, and with this redesign I will attempt to bring some order to the chaos of my topics. I want to offer valuable resources to my readers in the form of ebooks, membership sites, something that will allow me to tell them what I know while also honoring my own time and effort with a little bit of income. I would happily do everything I do without getting paid, but it is true that I need to sustain myself somehow with some money. You have been very successful at creating products people find valuable enough to purchase while also appearing fair and there in the interest of your "small army." Why do you offer the ebooks and products you do, and when do you decide it's worth monetizing? What is your interest in the readers, and how does that drive you to create the next and the next product?
 
And finally.
With a quick glance to my site (Nomadderwhere.com), are you able to see a solid potential for some product that could bring in an income that would first and foremost bring necessary and desired value to viewers? I've created free guides to certain areas of the world, but that's not really my bag. I'm not a consumer blogger, I'm a motivational and expressive one. I don't have a business sense and could use some eyes that had experience and savvy on their side. I know this is sort of asking a lot from you, so if you even had a good post or site you know of that could give me a little direction, I'd be grateful.
 
Thank you for reading, and even if your time and interests don't allow you to help me with the above, I'd be very interested in simply opening up the opportunity for dialogue. I'd feel incredibly honored to have direct contact with such an admirable fellow blogger. And I'd love to be able to offer you anything to make this a mutually beneficial "collaboration."
 
Lastly, if you're ever in the Indianapolis area, I'd love to hook you up with a killer meal.
 
Take care, and thanks again!

Lindsay Clark
 
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...to which he responded:
 
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Dear Lindsay,

What a fantastic message! You made my day. Thank you. 

So here's the thing - I don't want to lose you, and I get a lot of messages. Most of them aren't nearly as good as yours, of course, but nevertheless I do get overloaded sometimes (despite appearances to the contrary). Can we do a quick call to discuss your three questions? I'm at 2**.4**.6***.

All best, wishing you well,

cg