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Don't Call Us--We'll Facebook You

Email, text messaging, social media and phone are all competing for attention. So what's the best way to communicate directly with a client?
Inc. Magazine | 23.01.2012
Perhaps this has happened to you: You meet someone at an event who encourages you to follow up. So you send an email, make a call or text them, and invite her to connect on LinkedIn. You also friend her on Facebook, add her on Google+, and follow her on Twitter. But even after all that, you're still not sure how to talk to her—and how to get a real response.

Sound familiar? This is the quandary of communicating in a fragmented media age.

How to Reach Your 'Audience'

Let me first start by saying that the notion of describing reach in terms of a collective group (say, your "audience") is, to me, becoming more and more preposterous. Audiences may share similar characteristics--but you'd be foolish to assume you can continue to reach people as a collective—primarily because members of an audience will vary widely in their message preferences.

Sure, you may be able to communicate on a broad scale with television, radio, huge sporting events—but when it comes to one-to-one communications, people don't necessarily hasten to tell you the best way to reach them. And it's getting trickier every day to figure this out.

'It Depends'

Ask people how they prefer to be communicated with and you typically wind up with a "it depends" answer.

Need a quick response? "Send me a text, call or Skype me," might be their answer.

Need a brief response? "Try me on Twitter."

Looking to loop in multiple people and document the discussion? "Email me."

Making an introduction? "Connect us through LinkedIn or Facebook."

Want to conduct a business transaction? Their preference is probably, "Let's meet face to face."

Of course, the above assumes that you asked in the first place. And let's be honest: How many of you regularly ask your contacts how they want you to communicate with them? And how would you keep track of all of that information, anyway?

Instead, in a desperate bid to reach "target audiences" by any means, more and more companies find themselves communicating by all means. This leads to over-messaging, over-repeating ... and ultimately over-contributing to all the noise and clutter we're all trying to break through. It's a never-ending vicious cycle.

Is this practical? Is it effective? Where is this all leading?

Checking Out

This isn't just a business issue, by the way. Even on a personal level, I find certain aspects of social media have actually made people less social.

If I choose not to be active on Facebook, for instance, some people will just choose to fall out of touch altogether. I've been forwarded emails from people saying that they will no longer be communicating by email. And I pretty much assume that the only form of regular communication I'm going to have with anyone under the age of 18 is by text messaging or Facebook.

In other words, the attitude has become: "If you're not communicating with me where, when and how I want to be communicated to, I'm just not going to communicate with you at all."

The bigger question is, are you listening—and are you changing the way you do your marketing?
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About the author: Inc. Magazine