Does your company use online communications effectively? And would you call yourself an effective online communicator? Talking to an audience online is vastly different from engaging in a face-to-face conversation. There's no body language to read, no facial expressions to study. And whether you're writing a blog, composing a social media post for the company page, or shooting off a quick email to the boss, there are rules to follow that will make you more effective overall.
What Is Online Communication in Business?
Communication in the business world is more important than most employees realize. It means much more than simply sending or receiving a company-wide memo. Online communication, when used to its best advantage, can help with a wide variety of workday tasks, including:
- Updating team members with daily or monthly statistics
- Reminding team members of important dates, such as project deadlines
- Alerting management when there's a work-related problem
- Expediting communication between partners on a project
- Driving traffic to your company's website via social media
- Increasing conversion rates via the company blog
But there are also limitations regarding online communication. Primarily, because there is no in-person contact when the communication is being composed or read, elements such as intent and tone are easily misunderstood. Online communication can also become a vessel for overuse, clogging up email inboxes with information best left for the lunchroom or when you're gathered around the water cooler with friends.
Learning to use online communication effectively at work is key to becoming a successful and valued employee. It's also an earmark of a good employer. And skills like these can be relatively easy to improve. If you've been pondering the problem of how to be an effective online communicator, we have solutions.
How Does Your Company Use Online Communications?
The answer to this question will vary widely depending upon your industry. If you're a cog in the corporate wheel, then you probably encounter one or more of those tasks listed above daily. Department managers use online emails to coach or inspire team members to reach tight deadlines. They may organize video conferences to bring all members of a team together to share progress updates, or they may chat or text with employees privately to offer personalized feedback. But, if you're someone who spends the better portion of your day out in the field, selling ads or showing real estate, for example, your mobile device could be your tether back to the office. You might use it to check in to let your manager know where you are, or clients may text you to set up meetings nearby.
Regardless of how you use online communications, it's vital to use them effectively. Some of the biggest challenges employees face when communicating with the workplace online include:
- Forgetting there's a real person with feelings at the other end of the text or email
- Neglecting to use basic rules of etiquette in business correspondence
- Not using language that's clear and concise
- Paying too little attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation
- Inadvertently using irony or sarcasm that's easily misconstrued
It's much easier to joke and laugh with a manager or a client in person than it is through online communications. Online, your funny subject line may just come across as offensive. For this reason, it's best to save your sense of humor for in-person communications and stick to the exchange of information when communicating online.
What Are the Best Tools for Communicating Online?
In today's highly digital world, there's a wealth of easy-to-use online solutions for expediting communication between employees and employers, between employees and their coworkers, and between departments and administration. However, if everyone isn't properly trained in best practices for using them, they can become more of a liability than an asset. Therefore, as an employee, it's vital to attend regular training sessions on how to use the latest tools. And as management, it's necessary to schedule regular training sessions that keep team members in the know and fluent in the tools your company uses for online communications.
Some of the more popular choices for online communication tools for business include the following:
GoToMeeting integrates easily with platforms such as Slack, Google Calendar, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Office 365. It allows users to schedule high-definition video calls and provides a wealth of additional tools that make it easy for teams to stay organized online, including a dial-in conference line, screen sharing, web audio, and a record-meeting feature.
A feature of Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Teams makes meeting up online easier by offering screen and file sharing, Together Mode, and a host of other online features that are easy to use and designed to keep company workflow moving at a manageable pace.
Zoom is perfect for web and video conferencing, instant messaging, and file sharing. It can be accessed via desktop, mobile device, or through a company-wide video and web-conferencing system. It also easily integrates with other apps that offer voice, video, and screen-sharing.
Through tools such as these, it's deceptively easy to stay in touch with HQ, even as a remote worker. And as the manager or CEO of a company, software solutions like these are easy for even the most technically challenged employee to master. This is important in a global marketplace, where employees who are based across town or on the opposite side of the continent must stay in frequent contact.
What Are the Best Practices for Becoming an Effective Online Communicator?
By following a few simple rules, you can become a better communicator, whether through email, text, phone call, or video chat. These tips may help. And you may be surprised at how different coworkers and management may react once you begin upping your online game.
- Avoid using all caps for emphasis. This is often misconstrued as yelling.
- Pay close attention to your grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- Always proofread emails or texts before hitting the send button.
- Avoid the use of emoticons in business communications because they're too informal.
- Ensure all written communication includes your first and last name.
- Always add a salutation to business emails. Formal is usually best.
- Never fire off a missive when angry or stressed. Allow yourself time to cool down and reread what you've written.
- Aim for helpful, not critical. If you're unsure how your communication sounds, have someone else read it first.
- If you're crafting a blog or online article, make it "scannable" by using subheadings, images, and short passages of text.
There are other rules of thumb to use when engaging in business communications, and they often get lost when workers are attending from home. When joining a video conference, appear well-groomed and dressed in business attire. Try to position yourself so there's a wall behind you instead of a busy kitchen or living room where family members are lingering. Avoid areas where pets or children may interrupt you, and use the "mute" function on your keyboard when others are speaking, to silence any background noise coming from your end.
What Should You Avoid When Communicating Online?
The general rule of thumb when communicating online with business associates is to treat them as though you were meeting in person. Don't say things you wouldn't say to them directly. Take care of what tone you use in written communications, and ask for clarification if you receive communication that seems unclear. Avoid being overly sarcastic or humorous, or too casual or friendly, and always exhibit a professional appearance. And if you feel as though you need additional help with learning how to be an effective online communicator, consider taking a few classes or even earning your degree in a related field. Doing so will not only improve your skills in online communications, but it may make you a more marketable and valued employee overall.
If you're considering earning your degree in communication arts, we invite you to explore the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Earning your Bachelor of Science in Communication Arts or your Bachelor of Arts in Communications is a solid way to increase your earning potential and polish your skills as a communicator. A degree may make you more marketable overall, and it can float your resume to the top of the application pile when your dream job becomes available. Talk with an admissions advisor or fill out our convenient online form today.