Text messaging, by nature, is a tricky way to communicate. Devoid of social cues like tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language, it relies entirely on words, syntax, and punctuation, all of which can easily be misinterpreted. On top of that, text messages should be brief and most often read on a mobile phone. Use these best practices to make sure your texts to clients and colleagues are clear and understood.
1. Get permission to text back.
Even if clients text you first, don’t automatically assume that means they’re okay with receiving regular texts from you, especially if those texts are marketing-related. Establish first how comfortable a client is with communicating by text. Some clients may wish to reach out to you by text but prefer that you call them back to reply. Also, if you have in place a marketing campaign via text, give your clients a fool-proof way to opt-in (and out) before texting them.
2. Identify yourself right away.
If your phone number is unfamiliar or your text is unexpected, your clients may ignore it or delete it unless you identify yourself right away. On an iPhone, the first two lines of a text message are visible as a preview when a text is received but not opened, so use those lines to your advantage. “Hi Claire, this is Greta Greene from Fathom Realty” is an excellent way to begin an unexpected text message. Alternatively, tell your clients in person or on the phone that you may be texting them so they’ll know to be on the lookout for your message.
3. Reply promptly, but be patient yourself.
Respond to all text messages as promptly as possible. However, if your client takes a day or two to respond, be patient with them unless a response is urgently needed. A gentle reminder or a follow-up by phone a day or two later is appropriate.
4. Text at the right times.
Avoid texting clients late at night or on the weekends unless time is of the essence regarding an imminent deal or they are expecting to hear from you. It’s disrespectful of their time. However, if they contact you first, it’s perfectly OK to respond promptly on the weekend.
5. Just the facts.
Send the briefest text possible while still including all the pertinent information in complete sentences. If your text looks like it’ll be more than the length of a paragraph, send an email instead and then send a text to say, “I just emailed you some information that will help answer the question you asked. If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
6. Beware of autocorrect and accidental jargon.
Autocorrect is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, it can prevent you from texting complete gibberish, while on the other hand, it can create some unusual phrases. Don’t text blindly; glance at the words on your screen periodically to make sure they’re correct and also spelled correctly.
Also, try to avoid social media shorthand like “lol,” “brb,” and “jk” when texting clients or colleagues. If you use lots of emojis and choose not to punctuate or proofread when texting friends or family members, that’s perfectly fine. However, don’t let yourself slip into those habits when communicating professionally, or it will look decidedly unprofessional.