How To Contact Someone Professionally (Hint: Not FB Messenger)

Warning: today’s ranty-meter is “moderate-high.” Today’s post is ultimately a tip, but it’s going by way of a how-not-to first.

I understand that there’s a lot of people who make decisions primarily on convenience, and that is their choice. But their preference for convenience may come with some sacrifice for security, efficiency, and just plain utility.

Facebook Messenger is known to collect call and text data outside Messenger, admits giving outside companies permission to read, write, and delete private messages, isn’t reliably searchable, and has unreliable delivery (if we don’t have an active relationship on Facebook, you already know I won’t see your message). This makes it a questionable but ubiquitous tool for casual chatting, but an obviously unsuitable tool for serious business work where one might need to reference information, do anything sensitive, or even get the message in the first place.

In addition, it’s a horribly inefficient way to communicate when groups treat it as a chatroom. I joined an online book marketing event whose organizer refused to send email; all links, promotional material, etc. would be shared in the group Facebook chat. The chat immediately became a bored-SAHM stream, full of times for shared pickup of children between IRL friends, a new guy following on IG, how many days w/o shampooing, holiday treats, which singers are cutest, etc. and what should have been one, maybe two easy emails to distribute links and graphics was buried in literally thousands of cute FB stickers and chatty irrelevance. I had paid for a marketing event, not to hear about coordinating pickup times for other people’s kids, I couldn’t find what I needed among the junk messages, and eventually I sacrificed my money and gave up. Still 1,773 unread messages remaining (yes, really). Very efficient, super professional, thank goodness we made it more convenient by staying away from email.

disappointment facepalm

Do I use Messenger? Yes, for casual chat (though it’s not my preference), because I have friends who use it. But is it a great way to contact me (or most people) for business? It’s not.

When you choose to use Messenger, that’s your calculated risk and choice. But if I didn’t respond when your message predictably didn’t arrive in my inbox or was concealed in irrelevant group filler, that was your choice, not mine, so don’t complain that I am unreliable.

I offered four digits’ worth of services free to a non-profit to help with a time-sensitive need. Eight months later I found their message in my Facebook “other” box. Why on earth didn’t they use the email address on the business card I handed them?

I was feeling just slightly snubbed that when I volunteered for a project and the organizer publicly said they would contact me but never did. Okay, so they want an open public face but don’t actually want me, that happens. But nope, months later it turns out they just sent to the “other” box and then concluded I wasn’t interested. Great, now you think I’m a jerk, because you didn’t email me.

Why do some people insist on using FB Messenger? I seriously don’t get it. I’ve complained before about this weird reliance on a known-unreliable platform, with always the same two responses:

“But how can anyone know how else to contact you?”

People. My name is my URL. My email is my name. And in many cases I’ve handed over a business card with my email. Even if they’ve lost my card, should I feel confident doing business with someone who opted for “send to FB’s unreliable ‘other’ inbox and just wish really hard” because they couldn’t find the #1 search result?

And if I offer free help or free product and your response is frustration at me for failing to respond to a message you knew I might not even receive, I’m going to conclude I dodged a bullet.

“But FB Messenger is a perfectly legitimate way to do business.”

Are Fortune 500 companies closing many deals on Facebook? If you got a message from your bank via Messenger, would you consider it perfectly legitimate?

Yes! Another Nigerian prince in need! I'll be mingling with royalty in no time!

Same with publishers. Every editor/publisher I’ve sold to has used email. Even if initial contacts were on social media (tweet: “Hey, I’ve got a space for a historical Japanese fantasy and someone recommended you”), the conversation moves immediately to email.

No one has ever sent me a contract via FB Messenger.

The “business” messages I find in FB Messenger are mostly MLM sales pitches, requests for free stuff, spam, or very occasionally someone fairly novice trying to be legit but looking by association like the messages above and below.

And last, but still a factor to consider: There’s a documented connection between anxiety and instant messaging. We don’t expect an instant response to email, and there may even be a sense of relief when we send an email and know we have a reprieve for a time from that task thread. But we feel pressure to respond to an instant message and anxious when we don’t get that response, and that stress accumulates. That unanswered instant message induces anxiety in ways an email won’t. So unless you legitimately need an answer in 15 minutes or less, why send it in a way that will gift your recipient with the same stress you’ll feel yourself?

Short version: Dress your messages for the job you want. Email is not just a Gen X scam to get attention, it’s a real business phenomenon. :) Cold-contacting people by leaving messages in their “other” box and hoping they get bored enough to go rooting for surplus spam is not your most efficient choice. Nor does it set a brilliant first impression when your proposal appears next to something dubious. And there’s no benefit to creating more anxiety unnecessarily. Send the email!

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One Comment

  1. I only have Facebook because my daughters post family pictures on it. Otherwise I avoid it. The only book I put my face into is in a library somewhere (personal, public, or Kindle).

    I do check Instagram and Twitter regularly, but all “business” is done through e-mail.

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