Your online communication skills are critical to success in the 21st century but they are particularly important if you run any kind of online business (like most of my readers do).
There are a number of subtle, yet critical differences between communicating online (with written words and images) than communicating via face to face communication. Many fail at properly communicating online and they can come off as disingenuous, awkward or even rude.
Poor branding and relationship damaging aren't all though. Communicating poorly online is going to lead to a lot of extra time and effort clarifying things that weren't expressed properly the first time.
Whether the issue is a generational thing (people in their twenties and thirties like myself have been communicating online for a long time) or it's the absence of mannerisms and subtle nuance, there are definitely plenty among us who don't communicate well.
It doesn't matter who you are, you need to master the art of proper online communication and you should do it soon!
Here are some immediately implementable ways that you can improve your online communication skills.
#1 Take Time to Draft a Proper Response
A big difference between internet and in person communication is that we have time to draft better, more thought out responses.
This means you can say the right thing, avoid flippant responses, and get your point across clearly.
"Speak when you are angry -- and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." - Laurence Peters
Every time you tell someone off, you are missing the chance to be the bigger person. Many potential clients/customers may be turned off if you are easily riled up.
#2 Stop Saying So Much, Start Listening More
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. - Epictetus
Instead of immediately waxing on with a reply, consider getting more information and a better understanding of what the other person/people are saying.
Ask questions. Remember, you most people struggle to communicate clearly online, so help them out by seeking clarity whenever possible.
#3 AVOID USING All CAPS
This makes you seem like you are yelling. You can use all caps to draw attention to important parts of posts (especially since most social media sites don't allow for bold or italic texts.
When I get an email in all caps, I am immediately turned off.
#4 Avoid Sarcasm
Many personality types don't translate well online. Sarcasm is too often not picked up by the majority of readers and it can be mistaken for rudeness.
Be true to yourself, but also read through what you send with the perspective of, "are most people going to see that this is an attempt at sarcasm?"
Remember, it is perception, that matters.
I am a very sarcastic person, but I reserve my sarcasm for private messages with my close friends.
#5 Try and Match Replies in Length and Tone
If someone gives you praise and it is 3 sentences long, replying with a "thx," makes you look disengaged.
Instead, focus on adding some substance to your reply and actually show you care. Something like, "Thanks! That really means a lot to me to hear that."
Get into the habit of being mindful. It goes a long way.
#6 ...Don't Overuse the Ellipsis...
An ellipsis is the series of periods "..." at an end of a sentence.
These leave an unfinished tone to your writing, or worse, a sense of sarcasm.
While they have their place in communicating online, overuse is something that will seem awkward or as if the other person is holding something back at all times.
Don't be that person.
#7 Use Images Frequently
There are two main reasons images are critically important.
The first reason is that images get more engagement.
The second reason is that images lead to better retention for your audience.
When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. (Source)
So, do your readers a favor. Get their attention and teach them something that lasts!
I love GIFs and use them in a lot of private conversations. Aids in clarity. Oh, and they can be hilarious...
#8 Speak in the Voice of Your Audience
No one cares that you know fancy words. Seriously. No one has ever complained that a less complicated word was used in place of a less common one.
Use industry jargon as appropriate, but there is no point in distancing yourself from your audience by using complicated words that leave you sounding pompous.
#9 Sometimes Saying Nothing Is the Best
Be sure that you don't put on a show for thousands of people by arguing with someone excessively.
"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."― Benjamin Franklin
If you really have something to be settled, take it to a private chat.
I have always struggled with this, as I love the chance to partake in a war of words with someone I think is "trolling," but that rarely ends well.
#10 [On Social Media] Avoid Long Posts and Wordy Replies
"The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them." - Stephen King
As in quality copywriting, you are best suited to break down long responses into multiple posts or comments. Valuable or not, writing a manifesto as a reply will typically be ignored.