Texting in business: Not a good idea

Texting in business: Not a good idea

Summary: Texting has become so commonplace that it's now being used to conduct business. It may be convenient but email is almost always a better form of communication in the workplace.

Texting Cnet
(Image: CNET)

Texting. We all do it. It's so easy to fire off a quick text message to communicate with family or friends. It's become so commonplace that many of us are now doing it for work. But that's not a good idea.

Text messaging has come a long way since the early days. In the beginning carriers charged us per message and stories were commonplace detailing how texters were getting massive phone bills. Over time the carriers had to bend to customers' wishes, leading to near free service today.

Free messaging led most of us to start texting all the time. It's an easy way to get in touch with personal acquaintances without worrying if they'll get the message right away. This ease of use has led texting to make its way to the workplace.

Communicating with coworkers is important, even if a given message seems innocuous. If it has to do with work then every message should be treated the same as any other, and that means it is important. Email is much better for this than texting.

There are several reasons why work communications should almost always be done with email and not via text message:

  • Text messages can give the impression that what's being conveyed to a coworker is not important.

  • Work communications done with both texting and email don't send a cohesive image for work teams.

  • Email leaves a digital paper trail for both sender and recipient that resides with all email about work.

Note that texting is fine for personal messages such as telling Bob where you'll meet him for lunch. It's not necessary to never text at work, but only for messages that aren't work-related. If it's about a project or status, for example, then it should go into an email.

The lure to send text messages is particularly strong for those using their own phones in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) shop. That urge should be pushed back in favor of the email. In the event of a legal situation which is more common than it should be in this litigious atmosphere, workers don't want the only record of a conversation being on a personal phone.

While texting coworkers about work projects is bad enough, sending them to affiliates in other companies is even worse. The three rules noted above are even more pertinent for communications to those on the outside. Put it in an email, it sends a much better image of you and your company.

Some companies have incorporated texting into the heart of work practices and it might be impossible to forego them in such an environment. If that's the case it's a good idea to follow up the texts with email to get them in the corporate record. That's especially the case if document attachments are involved. If a text is received asking for the latest financial spreadsheet for example, follow up the text message with it attached with an email with the document also attached. 

Texting is convenient and we all do it, often as a first line of communications. Even so, the more formal method of using email is almost always the better method to have business conversations. It keeps the record straight as indicated, and sets a more professional tone for dealing with colleagues.

See related:

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones, Bring Your Own Device

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  • Hate SMS BUT! disagree with the article

    While I hate SMS I completely disagree with this article.
    I rarely send SMS and instead have used BBM with corporate contacts both within companies I've worked for and with their customers / distributors.

    In a world where our inboxes see 100+ emails a day Instant messaging plays a very important roll in communicating with your colleagues and customers. If the message needs a paper trail or multiple recipients then you use email. To tell a colleague that the presentation should hit their inbox by 1pm, or to confirm an appointment that was previously set IM is far more useful.
    When discussing the next catalog layout 30 or 40 back and forwards can happen with the art department, taking the time to do that via email fills an already filling inbox, slows down your syncing when you finally boot up outlook at the end of the day/week and really provides little value an email at the start of the copy multiple SMS/IM and then the last communication via email.

    Email only is for people who work at desks and believe everyone else should as well.
  • Also for Real Time Surveys and the Like

    One opinion show which I watch on TV always asks a yes/no opinion question at the start of the show, giving a 5-digit text-only number. By the end of the show, they give the results of the quick poll. This is occasionally used in other entertainment-media contexts as well.

    Now if only the carriers would not screen texts going to a 5-digit number as not going to a "valid number!"
  • Telephone? Face to face conversations?

    Why is text vs. email the sole focus of this post. The same negative points against texting can be made against business phone calls and person-to-person meetings.
  • Change the year to 1999

    and substitute 'Email" for "texting. Same argument, still wrong.
  • There are uses for business texting -- but also good to have separate acct

    The company I work for, RingCentral, has a "Business SMS" feature in its cloud-phone mobile app that is useful for specific situations. Our users tell us that customers text them about appointments and quick questions, and users of the system send quick reminders and updates to their customers. These are quick and easy for both parties, and better than emails - especially in a world in which too many people ignore their overflowing emails!

    Two keys, though: First, don't text something that is better sent by email -- such as contracts, important questions or info for which you need an e-paper trail, and the like. This leaves plenty of texting-worthy situations.

    Second, it helps a lot if you are able to use a business-only SMS system rather than your personal phone SMS. The RingCentral app includes a separate SMS system that shows up as coming from their business phone number - even though they're using their personal phones - hello BYOD! In other words, a technical solution exists for this business problem!
  • Texting auto reply allows employees to focus on task at hand...

    This reminds me of my friend who works at Wells Fargo. He told me that his team's meeting productivity would increase 40% or more if everyone wasn't texting and checking their texts during meetings. These same employees were guilty of occasionally checking texts while driving.

    After my three year old daughter was nearly run down by a texting driver in 2009, I invented an app to manage texting whether the user is at home, in the office or on the road. OTTER (One Touch Text Response) has GPS road safety features and a silent texting Auto Reply with a timer and unlimited, grouped, customizable responses. Its simple and easy to schedule "texting blackout periods" so you can focus on the task at hand, like an important meeting - or anything like... watching a movie. Maybe technology can help us get back to doing one thing at a time with quality results.

    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER app
    do one thing well... be great.
  • I did agree with this article

    The sending of group text is a very effective medium of business promotion, which offers higher response rates. You, too, can boost your business with SMS marketing, especially if you’re looking for a cost-efficient way of pulling in sales.
  • Paper Trail Exists!

    [quote]•Email leaves a digital paper trail for both sender and recipient that resides with all email about work.[/quote]

    Not true. We, lucky Americans, can rest assured that the NSA is keeping a "digital paper trail" of all our personal phone text messages. Be at ease: the paper trail exists!
  • Txting now a Discoverable Record

    In certain business arenas, such as medical, ALL communications are Discoverable Records, and pursuant to Court precedent, if you can't produce those records, you probably will lose any lawsuit.

    In many other types of business, the same does or will soon apply.

    So go ahead. BYOD. Use your phones and computers to intermingle business and personal information.

    Just remember that discovery means ALL records must be provided, else how will you prove and how will they know you did not use personal communicati0ns to evade the laws?
  • Texting IS an important piece of business communications!

    Nice, thought-provoking piece. The HeyWire Busienss team just pulled together a response on our blog if you would like to check it out. We welcome the open dialogue! http://bit.ly/19y4pLC