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Is technology killing professionalism?

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It’s an intense question, but one I hadn’t even considered until a couple weeks ago.

Let me start by giving some context here.

I was in the middle of booking a branding and social media engagement with a high-end real estate firm. My assistant was tasked with scheduling the appointment, and during the communication it came to my attention there was a bit of confusion.

To ensure everything was clear, I called my clients a few moments before heading into a 7pm seminar. He didn’t answer, but texted me to acknowledge the call while I was in the three-hour seminar. I arrived home at 11pm that evening and was in the midst of responding to his text when my boyfriend stopped me dead in my tracks.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Answering my client. It’s important I get this resolved!”

“Kait, it’s after 11pm and you’re about to text a client you haven’t even met in person. What kind of precedent are you setting for the engagement?”

“Oh, yeah, good point,” I thought to myself as a put the phone down, “Probably not a good one.”

You see, as well-intentioned as my action was, and even though my client texted me, my boyfriend had a point. I was blurring boundaries by texting a client that late. Not to mention that stress it puts me under as a business owner to be “open” nearly 24 hours a day.

In a conventional business, you have set hours. When you’re a business owner, you are ALWAYS working. But this hyper-connectedness doesn’t always lend itself to professional boundaries.

Answering emails and texts at all hours of the day may occur as responsive and caring to you, but could read as a bit unprofessional to others.

A client of mine had an encounter with this. She was in the search of a vendor to help her with marketing and was looking to interview a freelancer. He missed the first call and proceeded to text her late at night to talk about scheduling and her product. She was completely turned off.

In addition to the unconventional hours that channels like texting may promote, it is important to also look at the level of communication sent on these platforms.

Texting is a medium that breeds familiarity and shorthandedness whether you’re aware of it or not. Abbreviations and informal responses are not a tone you want to set with clients. I would advise texting be a tool that you can use to quickly get ahold of someone if need be, but otherwise you want to use it to guide them toward an email exchange or phone call. This helps put professional boundaries in place for how and when you communicate with clients.

I would argue the same for any social media messenger service. I receive a ton of inquiries on Facebook messenger about my services, and I always advise them to email me to continue the conversation or book an appointment. While Facebook is a place that is 90{b70789d127c08e430ee622ef228f970cb02a448e08788bca70e3c33c285e2b6e} dedicated to my brand, it is also a place where I share my personal life, and while I have no problem connecting with clients on the platform, I’m not going to use it to have full-blown business conversations. The same thing applies for LinkedIn. Even though it is a professional platform, all prospect inquiries are directed to an email exchange. It helps me keep my head clear. My inbox and phone line are the places my business occurs. My social media channels are a place that feeds the inquiries to those appropriate places.

I’m curious to hear what you all think about this, and what channels of communication you use when connecting with clients and prospects. Comment below. 

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