Approaching someone new is often quite a scary thing to do. No matter if you’re about to do it at a party, on a bus, or online – via email. We always want to make a lasting first impression, and not sound like we’re desperate or aggressive.
These are all the things we’re going to cover in this part and the following parts of the series.
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Channels of contact
Nowadays, there are 6 main ways of reaching someone:
- Email or contact forms on the person’s website.
- Social media.
- Forums and message boards.
- Comments on their blog.
- Phone or Skype.
- Traditional mail.
1. Email/Contact Forms
Email is the most obvious and the most popular way to contact someone on the internet. There are millions of emails sent every day (I don’t know the exact number because it’s too boring of a fact to actually look it up, but still). And that is all great, but emails are not as effective as they were just a couple of years ago.
Back in the day it was like: “yay, I have new mail!” Now it’s like: “oh no, I have new mail.“
Receiving an email is no longer an event because it doesn’t occur every once in a while anymore. These days it’s more like a certainty. People have got used to this and they’ve even developed some patterns of behavior. Let’s take a look at an example – four baskets of email.
First basket – The most important characteristic of an email is who the sender is. We always read every email from our friends and family, no matter what the subject is (these emails are in our first basket, so to speak). Even if your good friend sends you an email titled “Great business opportunity, get it for FREE and be RICH” you are still going to read it.
Second basket – Then there’s the second basket – emails from other people we know, but we’re not that close or haven’t been in touch with for some time. These we tend to read too. Not our first priority, but still.
Therefore, the simplest rule of thumb is that if someone knows you personally, they will read your email.
If you’re emailing someone for the first time you are in a much more difficult situation. You fell into the third or the fourth basket.
Third basket – The third basket contains emails that have been sent by someone we don’t know, but the subject is a combination of some of these characteristics: harmless, plain/ordinary, personal, outrageous, and non-promotional.
These emails have a good chance of being read, but still not as big as the emails from the second basket (hint: the goal is to get to this second basket).
Fourth basket – Now the fourth basket. It contains all emails from unknown senders with subject lines that seem promotional, or spammy in any way.
These emails have NO CHANCE of being read.
Why am I telling you all this? Simply because a situation when you receive no answer for your email will inevitably happen. And this is something you have to understand. Often it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not proof that the person you’re trying to contact doesn’t care. It’s just proof that you haven’t done your best while crafting the email … sorry, 90% of the time it truly is on you.
With time you will find your own unique voice and ability to contact people effectively, but until then, expect to fail every now and then.
2. Social media
This is somewhat new to everybody. People haven’t truly developed any patterns of behavior for social media yet. We haven’t had the chance to imprint this into our minds. Instead, we just act as we feel.
This makes it easy to use social media for contacting someone. However, there are still a handful of things you need to keep in mind.
The most important rule is to use the native functionality of a given social media platform.
Let me explain this using Twitter as an example. One of its native functionalities is @replies. This is something unique to Twitter. Something that didn’t exist earlier, but this is not the point here. What is important is that people expect to be contacted that way. For most of us, this is an integral part of our everyday Twitter usage. Direct messages, on the other hand, are not.
Direct messages are very similar to email in some way … you are sending a message, it arrives in your recipient’s inbox, and no one else sees it except the recipient. The only difference is that there’s no email address, no email software, and you can’t send an attachment. Other than that, it’s the same. And that means that the same safety mechanisms fire up whenever we see a direct message.
And not without a reason, just look at the direct messages you’re receiving. On my profile, for example, 90% of DMs are pure spam … people trying to sell me on all kinds of things. What’s the case for you? Similar? – Probably.
All this makes DMs not good for contacting people. I’d advise sticking to @replies.
Another thing is that social media should only be treated as a way of getting on the radar. It’s not really possible to have any meaningful conversation in social media. On Twitter, you only get 140 characters, and the conversation is public to whoever follows both you and the person you’re talking to.
Getting on the radar means that you’re communicating using brief messages, mostly replies to other person’s tweets, so they can notice you. Once you get on the radar you are more likely to succeed using other forms of communication (like email).
Where social media really shines is maintaining further contact. You have to admit that it may seem uncomfortable to shoot someone an email out of the blue saying something like “what’s up?” This would imply that you have some personal relationship between you (like friends do), which may not be the case at this point, so your recipient might wonder why you, of all people, are contacting them.
There’s no such problem in social media. When someone you want to remain in touch with posts something, you can always simply comment/reply. This is more than enough to stay on the radar.
3. Forums and message boards
Forums are an old-school element of internet real estate. They have been around for a long time, and they still maintain a steady level of popularity. Many bloggers are active members of various forums, which I’m sure you know.
They do it for a number of reasons. Some out of pure pleasure, some to get other forum members to visit their sites. The reasons are not that important. What is important is the sole fact that they are there, communicating with others, sharing advice, and engaging with the community.
A perfect thing to do is to join that community and become a part of the conversation too. The fact that you can get in touch with a given person is just one of many benefits because quite often you will also find other people who are worth getting to know.
The approach is simple. Join various discussions, get noticed, have your place on the radar.
4. Blog comments
This is the most straightforward approach here. Bloggers really notice who is commenting on their blogs. Many bloggers also like to respond to every comment, so you can get some immediate attention.
The thing to remember here is not to spam. Simply saying “That’s great! Thanks for the advice” is not a quality comment. It doesn’t get you on the radar. It gets you in the spam folder.
Some people have experienced a situation where the blog owner contacted them with a guest post proposition after seeing a number of insightful comments. This doesn’t happen often, but it shows the power of commenting, nonetheless.
5. Phone and Skype
As a matter of fact, phone and Skype shouldn’t share the same paragraph because they’re nothing alike. The only thing in common is that you are speaking, like through your mouth, but that’s it.
The main difference is that calling a stranger on Skype is most likely to get no response. This is my own personal opinion, but I know that many people have a similar one. Whenever there’s an unknown caller reaching out, sorry, but I’m not available.
A phone is a different story. By contacting someone directly on the phone you are hitting them where they don’t expect to be hit. It’s the online age right? Why would any of your online followers want to contact you on the phone? Well, that’s why it works.
But here’s the problem. What is it so important you have to say that you want to make a call? That’s right … you probably don’t have anything that’s really important.
“Cold calling” might work if you’re really good at it, I’m not, so I’m not going to teach you anything about it more than what I already shared. For more information on how to make phone calls work for you, I send you over to the movie “Boiler Room.”
6. Traditional mail
Back in the day, there were tons of stuff in our traditional inboxes. Mail from our friends, family, promotional stuff, and so on. Now, everything has shifted to the digital sphere and is sent an email (hence all the spam problems).
So the roles have shifted. These days we receive hardly any traditional mail, and this is actually great because you can use it to catch someone off guard. If someone shares their postal address openly (i.e. you don’t have to sniff around to get it) then I’d advise to go ahead and send a postcard. Just saying Hi! is unique enough.
I think that traditional mail works better now than it has ever been. And I don’t think this is going to change anytime soon.
Finding a preferable channel of communication
Now it’s time for some research. No matter who you want to contact, there’s always a preferable way of contacting this specific person. Here’s what you should notice.
First, go to the contact page on the person’s blog, and see what it says. If the person displays an email then they most likely want to be contacted that way. If there’s a contact form then don’t sniff around looking for an email, simply use the form.
Sometimes there’s even a phrase like “I prefer to be contacted via X.” No matter what you’ll find, the contact page is always the best starting point, but, before you can start sending out emails or making calls let’s get back to our list of 6 channels of contact and divide it into two groups:
- Getting on the radar.
- Doing the business.
Things that are meant for getting on the radar are: social media, forums, and message boards, blog comments, traditional mail, and … wait for it … email and things that work best as the means of contacting someone directly (aka doing the business) are: email, phone, and Skype.
The whole trick is to get on the radar first, and then contact directly.
Of course, you can skip the first part, but it’s way easier to find success if you implement both of these steps. The how-to part is what we’re going to cover in the next posts, but let’s get back to email for a second.
Email is magic
As you’ve noticed, first, I said that email is no good for anything. Then I said that it’s good if you know someone personally. And finally, I said that it’s great for both getting on the radar and contacting people directly. What the hell is going on?!
Well, email is still magic. In my opinion, it all depends on the message you’ve written, and most importantly on your subject line. Email is copywriting in its pure form. The subject line is a piece of copy with the goal of getting someone to open the email. The email itself has often a different goal. It shares some call to action in hope that people will, indeed, take this action.
The simple truth is this: if you master the way of crafting great emails they will work for whatever you want. If you fail at this, they will work for nothing else than securing you a place in the spam folder.
Next post is all about writing messages that get attention. No matter if you’re going to be sending them via social media or email, the principles are always the same… That’s because the people are always the same, no matter what medium they’re using.
What’s your opinion on email? I’m sure that you receive loads of it every day, but are you sending it equally as often?
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