Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of my clients contacting me through Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites. I got a direct message from one of my clients, saying that she has a new project she wants to start on. I received a LinkedIn message from a prospective client interested in working with me. It isn’t just clients, either. I sent a direct message to a designer I’m working with in order to get a quote for a project myself.
But are there any problems that can arise from conducting business conversations through social media?
There are practical concerns that go along with communicating through a variety of different tools. If you need to refer back to those discussions, whether you’re pulling out a quote that you got on a project or you need to double-check on a deadline, having multiple places to look for that information can make things a little harder. Some telecommuters follow company policies on how to communicate with the rest of the company, but many of us have messages spread out over half a dozen different sites.
It can be useful to communicate with your clients and co-workers through social media tools: after all, if you want to point them to a particular link or introduce them to another member of your network, most sites have built-in tools to do exactly that. The timing and format can also play a key role — after all, the ability to IM with a co-worker can make it much easier to complete your work while still staying out of the office. But with these tools, there aren’t always the reliable records that a freelancer, an employee or another web worker may need to easily access. Just because a client tells you to go ahead on a project over Twitter doesn’t mean that you don’t need a little more documentation to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
There are ways to consolidate your social media communications: most sites send you a notification via email whenever you receive a new message through the network. Some include the text of the message, making it at least a little easier to search for information. Those options typically do not forward the messages you send to your email account, however, so you’ll still be left searching across multiple sites for any messages you sent.
Another alternative is to use some sort of customer relationship management solution to bring all of your messages from different clients and co-workers together in one place. A tool like Gist could be helpful. In order to be efficient in your communications, it’s worth bringing all your messages together in one place if you can, especially if that place allows you to search easily.
It may also be worth making a personal policy about what tools you’ll use: if you send most of your messages via email, your clients and co-workers are more likely to send their responses through the same system. While it’s tempting to use newer, more fashionable communication tools, it’s also worth making sure that you can easily access and search your own communications.
Do you communicate with clients and co-workers through social media? How do you make sure that you can find messages when you need them?