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14 Instant Messaging Etiquette Tips for Bloggers

One of the best parts about this blog is that it puts me into direct contact with hundreds of bloggers from around the world every week. This happens on a variety of levels – comments, email and increasingly Instant Messaging. I have my IM details on my about pages which is a great thing – but also at times a frustrating thing.

I don’t want to come across as a grump – I really do enjoy the interaction that I have with readers – but after a week where I’ve had almost 50 IM conversations with people I’ve not had contact with before I’ve decided it might be worthwhile coming up with a list of Instant Messaging etiquette when contacting other bloggers for the first time (let me emphasize that the majority of those who have contacted me this week have not inspired this post). I’ll also admit that I’m not always the best on IM – I need to learn to turn mind off more when I don’t have the time to chat.

Here’s my Top 14 Instant Messaging Etiquette Tips for contacting Bloggers:

  1. Introductions – When instant messaging a blogger for the first time – politely introduce yourself and don’t just launch into conversation. In fact it might be worth introducing yourself for the first few IM conversations – if the blogger gets a lot of readers contacting them they might not remember who you are form conversation to conversation. A good introduction might include your name, your location ad if you have one – your blog’s URL.
  2. Ask if the have time to chat - The blogger you are messaging might be halfway through something, might be about to go to bed or could have 37 other IM conversations going on at the same time. Check out if it is convenient for them to chat – if it’s not ask if there might be a better time to try?
  3. Have something to Say – Don’t IM someone with a greeting and then let them start a conversation with you. It’s probably not a good approach to simply say ‘Hi there…..’ and then say nothing else. This might be OK with someone you know well but with someone that doesn’t know you it’s probably not the best way to make an impression unless you’re going for the ‘strong silent (and slightly freaky) type’ impression. Similarly avoid multi tasking if you initiate an IM conversation – if the phone rings consider not answering it or at least telling the other person where you’ve gone.
  4. Keep your initial IM conversations brief and to the point - again I’m talking here more about those first IM conversations. Many bloggers are busy people and while they might have time for a long rambling chat on some occasions, on others they may not. When I IM someone I don’t know very well I attempt to get to the point and then give the person a way out of the conversation. If they want to keep chatting then that’s fine – but it’s probably better to leave them hungering for another chat than for them to get to the conversation and block you for being long winded.
  5. End conversations well – first and last impressions are everything. Thank the blogger for their time and bring the conversation to a definite end. There is nothing worse than those awkward silences at the end of conversations when you don’t know if the other person is done or not.
  6. Don’t expect them to be there 24/7 for you - the great thing about blogging is the global nature of it. Of course this can be frustrating at times because people are in different time zones to you. Some people leave their IM client open when they sleep or while they are away from their computer (sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose). If they don’t respond to your greeting then it could be that they just are not there. Don’t IM them every three minutes for hours on end until they return while getting angrier and angrier (yes it’s happened to me). On a similar topic – if the person has an ‘Away’ or ‘Do not Disturb’ message showing – consider that they are ‘away’ or ‘do not wish to be disturbed’.
  7. Consider Cultural Differences - Another thing to consider out of the global nature of blogging is that your culture could well be quite different from other cultures. This comes out in IM in a variety of ways including different spelling of words, geo-specific words, people not having a grasp of your language and what is and isn’t acceptable to talk about. Consider what you’re saying before you say it and how it might impact the other person. If you don’t understand something that they say – politely ask them to repeat it.
  8. If you’re going to ask questions at least make some attempt to find the answers for yourself first - You may be getting in contact with the blogger in question to ask them a question about their area of expertise. It might be a good idea to head to their blog before you IM them and do a search for the information you’re looking for. At least make an attempt to do this before asking your question – you’ll probably find they’ve answered the question at least once already on their blog.
  9. Don’t get too personal too quick - You might not want to make your opening greeting to a blogger you’ve not talked to before – ‘hi – how much do you earn?’ or ‘what’s your wife’s real name’? While these questions might be appropriate to ask a friend or of someone in real life – remember that you’re online and people might be a bit hesitant to give such information out to a complete stranger that they’ve had no contact with before. There are also some questions that might not be appropriate to ask because they are business related and they might not want to reveal all their strategies. In general I’d advise building up to deeper and more personal question over a number of conversations. Establish trust, prove that you’re not just pumping them for information, be willing to share some of your own information and in time you might find it appropriate to ask what you really want to know.
  10. Try using words like ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ - Being polite will get you a long way with online interactions. One of the fastest ways to shut down an IM conversation is to be arrogant, rude or over familiar.
  11. Make contact before the IM conversation - While not essential – it could be helpful to email the person you wish to have a conversation with to introduce yourself and let them know that you’re planning on contacting them. I find IM conversations tend to go better if the other person has some idea of who they are speaking to first.
  12. Avoid too much jargon – Abbreviations and acronyms may make your job of typing faster but you might just disallussion, confuse or anger the other person. Try to keep your spelling at least resembling the language that you’re writing in.
  13. Be aware that some things don’t convey well in written form – sarcasm is one thing that often gets people into trouble with IM. Until people know what wave length you’re on it might be worth clarifying attempted humor. Sometimes emoticons (the little faces) can help with this – sometimes they can get you into even more trouble!
  14. Don’t be too Demanding – You might want to take a breath in conversations to allow the other person to ask a question of you. Don’t let your IM relationship get too one sided. Look back over your past IM conversations with bloggers and see who is getting the most out of your conversations. While there is nothing wrong with asking question – one way to wear out a relationship in real life is to always be taking and never giving. IM relationships can be similar. Similarly if you’re a fast typer you might want to slow down and let the other person respond – don’t overwhelm them with 10 comments for every 1 of theirs.

I guess a lot of these tips on instant messaging etiquette can be summed up by a reminder that you’re actually speaking to a real person. Remind yourself of this before you IM them and ask yourself how you’d approach them in real life – your answer might be a good starting point to how an appropriate IM conversation might start.

On the flip side I’m sure we could come up with a list of IM etiquette tips for bloggers who make their IM details public. Here’s two that I’ve felt like saying to a couple of bloggers that I’ve tried to contact via IM over the past few months:

  • Don’t make your IM details public unless you’re willing to respond to people contacting you
  • If you don’t want to be contacted turn your IM off or to ‘Away

I’m sure there are other instant messaging etiquette tips – feel free to mention yours in comments below.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Stuart says:

    I think that some people need to realise that displaying your IM details may be necessary for business reasons. So social ‘callers’ should not be surprised if the are politely asked to “go away and let me get on with my work” :)

  2. This is a useful post. When I ran an interactive writing site my MSN Messenger would be pinging all the time. Since I’m one of those people who don’t like to flag they’re out when they’re not, I’d end up having the same conversation over and over. It went something like this : “I really, really want to be published. I’d do anything. Will you have a look at my novel and maybe you can put me in touch with an agent or a publisher?” The problem was I’d seen samples of the caller’s work on the site and knew they would probably never be published. Sometimes IM requires the wisdom of Solomon.

  3. Michele says:

    Darren

    I think you can safely apply your IM tips to all IM interactions. Many of us have to make ourselves available to our clients practically 24/7 and although we may enjoy making new “friends” a lot of us simply don’t have time to deal with $random IM users. If people want to speak to me on IM for example I have no problem, but the first time they contact me they really should let me know who they are, as I have a _lot_ of contacts already.

    IM spammers are as much as waste of time as email spammers :)

    Michele

  4. Lei says:

    For blogging purposes, I prefer e-mail over IM. IM feels too intimate.

  5. Michel says:

    I donno how u answer those IMs. IMs always make the person unable to operate the computer itself. I think email is better.

    This post will be useful not only for bloggers but to all others in general.

    Thanx Darren!

  6. Me? Chat? Nevar!!! ;-)

  7. Fly Girl says:

    I’d add on to your #6 comments (end the conversation well): Actually end the conversation and sign off. I’ve had IM’s that seem to take another couple of minutes to actually end.

    ME: Glad I good help, bye.
    THEM: OK thanks, bye.
    THEM: Oh, wait!
    ME: Yes?
    THEM: Oh, nothing, bye.
    ME: Good-bye
    THEM: Have a nice day.
    THEM: Enjoy your weekend.
    THEM: Ta-ta.
    THEM: Aren’t you still there?
    ME: Yes, I thought we were through.
    THEM: Oh, yeah, thanks again.
    THEM: Bye.
    THEM: Ciao.

    You get the idea — say good bye and be done with it.

  8. Darren Rowse says:

    nice one Fly Girl!

  9. HART says:

    I too, use MSN messenger all the time for my business.I try to make it a point to tell everybody from the start my 5 rules…

    (1) I am logging every word you say (including IP and URL’s) and often look up the history
    (2) If i’m in “away” mode, you can still type and leave me a message, and I will get it, but I may not respond until I’m good and ready or able.
    (3) If I’m in “busy” mode, you can chat with me and I will chat back, but first tell me where I can send my bill – because time is money and I will charge your for the time we chat.
    (4) If YOU see that I’m in “online” mode .. this means I’m between jobs, doing admin work, or just feel like chatting, so feel free to say hi and chat with me. I probably won’t initiate chat.
    (5) I’m online everyday and practically all of the time. If you can’t see me online at all … then I’ve banned you. Go away.

    Those etiquette rules should be common sense.. hopefully newbies will keep them in mind and remember some of them .. especially #2

  10. Joseph says:

    I am a helpful person and I enjoy passing on tips and dispensing advice, but I was having a lot of problems with IM’s from clients and potential clients, seeking advice at all hours.

    In the end, I had to steer them gently towards business hours and tell them politely, but firmly, the circumstances under which the meter starts ticking.

    When I am available to clients or potential clients depends on what services I am providing them with and what contact details they are given.

    I noticed that I was getting quite a lot of FAQ’s, so I have decided to set up a web site to help answer those questions.

    I have just about finished the design and there is nothing much there at the moment, but it should reduce the amount of messages I receive and get rid of any time wasters.

    So be gentle, but firm.

  11. Andrew says:

    You guys are all way too popular.

    I sometimes go for days without an IM chat :) Only having 15 contacts on there might have something to do with it.

    One thing I have learnt though is that when you chat with your 12 year old nephew make sure you use a version of messenger that doesn’t support nudges or animated smilies, helps keeping you sane.

  12. Yzabel says:

    Great series of tips, and I’ll agree with previous commenters on this: it’s worth for every kind of IM contact, not only with bloggers.

    I especially like the part about starting with e-mails first, since it’ll allow to know who you’re talking to, and where they have found your IM handle. At times, I’ve gotten MSN notices of “xx has added you”, and if the e-mail address isn’t familiar, I’m always torn between accepting all the same, or simply rejecting it. It also often happens that it takes days or even weeks for me and said person to be online at the same time, and by the time they finally contact me, I’m all “huh? who’s that?”. Same on ICQ… I’m not tough and bitchy regarding authorizing people, but my authroize message expressely asks for details such as “where do I know you from” or “tell me who you are”, so if the person doesn’t even give me a reason to add them, well… buh-bye. After a while of having had my share of fake handles, porn advertisement tricks and other nice little things, including people I’ve banned trying to sneak back in by pretending they’re somene else, I just don’t want to clutter my contact lists with junk.

  13. Jimmy says:

    Cool. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Very insightful topic. I’m not a heavy user of IM but still have it going as I do the ocassional chat with a client or business associate. Too me it just eats up too much of my time. I still prefer the old-fashioned (!!!) email as my primary communications tool and IM for the very select associate/client – it’s sounds harsh but there is just never enough hours in the day, and when I did went full-on with IM for a month way back it nearly drove me mad!

    Fly Girl – I’ve had that same thing happen me: ending a conversation can sometimes be painful.

    Hart – didn’t know you could still leave a message if you’re “Away” – tks for the heads up on that (shows how much I know about IM).

  15. Hidden Nook says:

    Thanks Darren! I was wondering how to deal with the “IM onslaught.” It’s something that has frustrated me for a while, so I would either not login on most of them or simply put “blogging” or “busy” in order to keep them away.

    I think email is probably better, as it gives me a chance to filter through messages. Thanks for the tip!

  16. Darren

    Great IM ‘rules’

    I used to use IM a long time ago but gave up because I was getting junk and nothing was getting done!

    Hart

    I like your rules of engagement. That sounds like something I will do when I’m ready to re-enter IM

  17. I found this post to be most helpful. Unfortunately over the last few years IM services have become common and we are yet to develop social etiquettes to follow when conversing with someone.
    We sometimes forget that we cannot speak in written word to people the way we would on the phone or face to face. Thus mood and tonality is critical to establish during conversations. I converse with many people thru out Asia so learning the cultured way to speak to my friends and business contacts around the world becomes critical.
    Although not linked to this topic, posting on forums also needs to follow similar polite etiquette.

  18. Hi,
    This is Hitesh From Hyderabad,India. After Reading about your section ” make Money from blogging” ,I’ve tried out all the Advertising programs,right from Adgenta to one Monkey,But have been unsuccessful in generating any kind of revenue from my blog ( http://jobsforindians.blogspot.com) I felt most of these AD program are suited only for websites,rather than blogs,because of the HTML Code.
    On the other Hand,I’ve found Adsense to be of no use. Infact,It has wasted a lot of my time and energy.

    Initially,I thought,I would be Able to Make Decent Income through AD programs in my Blogs,But all my Aspirations have turned out to be waste. Could you please suggest me a decent AD program for my Blog,As iam in need of quick bucks.
    Regards

  19. russell says:

    I use IM at work almost exclusively to ask quick technical questions.

    I start with “hello”. If the receiver is not busy then I continue.
    I then write a quick clear questions: “What’s the command to do X?”
    I may add a few lines after that to show what I’ve tried already.
    If the receiver is busy – “on phone”, “1 sec”, etc.
    I just send a np and wait.
    I do not send lots of replies – each one brings up to IM popup, which is annoying.
    I use ciao or bye to end the session – meaning “you do not need to type anything else…”

  20. Tara says:

    Please PLEASE do not rush to IM someone the second they sign on ALL OF THE TIME. This leads to the other party feeling bombarded, and can easily lead to them blocking you.

  21. Wow! This has been a good “tutorial” to me. I’ve already known some of ‘em. You know, all I can say is that if you really have good manners in approaching with other people, then just be ready to have ‘em in your life. For they’ll love to keep in touch with you, always.

  22. LJ says:

    I don’t know, but maybe my expectations are a little high. In my opinion, when a conversation through chat is started, it is no different than getting a phone call. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have someone start to participe in a conversation I have started, or the other way around and all of a sudden the other person drops out of the conversation. My question is, if you were speaking with someone on the phone, would you just put the phone down and walk off. I completely understand if someone you are speaking with is at work, but if you know it is someone who is at home, this becomes an annoyance.

    I had another issue early on when someone new to chat started chatting with me. She would leave her computer, and with out knowing, her husband would pick up on our conversation. I being a woman, did not appreciate this at all especially when the conversation was of a personal nature.
    When I had learned that they were doing this, I voiced my opinion. It seems they did not respect my opinion, and they stopped chatting with me all together, as if they were the ones with the concern.

    Lastly, there are still folks who use all caps. I would have thought by now, everyone know that using all caps meant that or could be seen as someone yelling!! If there intend is for thier font to be larger… well use another size font!!

    I know there isn’t anything that I can do to change the folk I chat with. But what I can do is decide whether I can muster the patience needed to chat with the individual. Or share from the heart how I feel about their actions and hope they not only understand but respect me and learn from the experiences as not to carry it into other interactions with people on line.

    Thanks for letting me share.
    L J

  23. Kate says:

    I think that a lot of these things are cleared up when the video chat is brought into the picture. People have a lot harder of a time walking away from a face. They also don’t usually leave theirs up 24/7.

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