Instant Messenger Etiquette in the Corporate World

Having been in the corporate world, I’ve noticed that some don’t understand how their approach to interactions can lead to a poor perception of their business acumen. It’s frustrating to interact w/those who lack etiquette in the online world – particularly when knowledge is one search engine away. Instant Messaging is very convenient, however there’s an art to it, especially if you’re seeking out someone you don’t know. It’s pretty simple but I’m going to share a few tips that’ll help you look like you’re “with it”:

  • Introduction: if you don’t know the person, don’t ping them and just say “hi” – you’ve just told them in that one word that you don’t know how to use IM. Instead, look at their availability since this’ll help w/your intro. If a person’s status is set to available, go ahead and initiate the conversation but make sure to introduce yourself and briefly state what you need. A good example of this: “Hi Sarah, Bianca here. I manage the social customer service team and I have a quick question about xyz. Please let me know if you have a moment to discuss.”. Now let’s say Sarah’s status is set to busy or in a meeting, still use that format but acknowledge the status: “Hi Sarah, I know you’re in a meeting however I’d like to ask a quick question. If you’d prefer, I can email.” Your approach will set the tone, I’m always confused when people I don’t know ping me and just say “hi”. What the heck am I supposed to do with that? As someone who’s managing day to day team operations and in back to back meetings, trust me when I tell you it’s not what you’re asking, it’s how you’re asking.
  • Response Time: if the person you’re IMing doesn’t respond right away, don’t get irritated and send “hello???”, that’s rude. Give it a few and they’ll respond.
  • Grammar Counts: send complete sentences instead of typing as you think. Just because the form of communication is instant does not mean writing rules don’t apply.
  • Business Needs: do not send formal business requests via IM. This has happened to me numerous times and as someone who is super busy, I’ll often forget a request made via IM or phone. However, if you send an email, I have tools to help set reminders to complete a request.

One last tip, if you’re seeking information from a team manager about a business service or job posting – don’t IM without having done some basic research. The second you do that, you’re immediately marked as a person who lacks understanding of business etiquette and that’s never a good thing. Being cognizant of your approach to business communications is always a smart move.


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