In this day and age, we've got tons of ways to get in touch. Texting, instant messages, emails, phone calls — the possibilities are endless!

While the myriad of tools might seem like an enormous advantage, it also makes communication etiquette complicated. Which platform should you use, and what are the best practices for getting your point across (and making sure you get a reply)?

Here are some guidelines you can use to decide when to call, email, text, or slide into someone’s DMs — so you don’t look like you’re totally out of touch.

When to Text or Instant Message

Texting or instant messaging (through platforms like Slack or Teams) is an easy, fast way of communicating. And these days, many people prefer the immediacy of texts or IMs over emailing or chatting on the phone.

Here are three situations where texting or instant messaging might be the best choice:

  • Quick check-Ins: Text messages or IM are perfect for sending quick messages to colleagues or friends. If you just need to confirm a meeting time or ask a simple question, a short message is often more convenient and less disruptive than a phone call or email.
  • Time-sensitive messages: Sending a text message is a good way to get a message to someone quickly. This is particularly true if you suspect the recipient is not immediately available by phone, or if you’re worried your email might go into inbox purgatory.
  • Sending links: Need to send a quick URL to an individual or group? A text message or IM is the perfect vehicle for that.

If you’re going to text someone or use an instant messaging platform, double-check to make sure you’re sending your message to the right person. It’s easy to fire off a quick response and use the wrong thread (we’ve all done it!) which can lead to embarrassing or disastrous situations.

Texts and IM are usually considered the most informal communication platforms, so they’re not the right fit for official announcements or important, detailed messages.

When to Send an Email

Email is the standard for many workplace communication these days — and we often talk to friends and family this way, too! In 2020, the number of worldwide email users topped 4 billion, and experts predict that number will increase to 4.6 billion users by 2025.

Consider emailing in these situations:

  • Formal or complex communication: When you need to convey your message in a formal or professional setting, email is often the most appropriate choice. This might include job applications, business proposals, or legal matters, where you might want a written record of the communication.
  • Lengthy or complex messages: If your message is long, detailed, or complex, email is often the best option. Email allows you to include attachments, images, and longer blocks of text without worrying about character limits or message length.
  • Scheduling: You can use email messaging to schedule meetings and events — or share details of meetings to ensure everyone’s on the same page. Email allows you to send detailed information about the event, including the date, time, location, and any relevant details or attachments.

Keep in mind that your recipient may not read your message immediately, so don’t use email for urgent matters. If your hair's on fire, don’t reach for the keyboard!

If it’s absolutely necessary to keep someone in the loop, then copy that person on the message — otherwise, leave them off. We’ve all been the recipient of irrelevant emails, and it’s not fun.

When you’re crafting your email, be concise and clear, and use conversational language when possible.

When to Pick Up the Phone or Jump on a Video Call

Hiya’s 2022 State of the Call Report surveyed 12,000 consumers and 2,000 businesses in six countries and found that most people prefer phone calls over other methods of communication.

Despite the common belief that most people avoid the phone like the plague, consumers prefer to call when they need to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues — but they also use the phone more than other methods when they talk with credit card companies, banks, and healthcare providers.

Consider calling (or setting up a video call) in these situations:

  • Urgent circumstances: If you need an immediate response or there's an urgent situation, a call or video call is the best option.
  • Discussing complex or sensitive topics: If you need to have a detailed conversation and need to be able to pick up subtle verbal cues or intonation, it's better to call. Phone calls allow you to have more nuanced discussions and potentially avoid misunderstandings.
  • Building rapport and relationships: If you want to build stronger relationships with colleagues, clients, friends, or relatives, a call or video call can be more effective than text messaging or emailing. Talking on the phone allows you to make more personal connections and build trust.

In general, if you’re worried that something might come across incorrectly if you communicate it via text message, IM, or email, then it’s a good idea to call.

Depending on the situation, you may also want to text someone in advance to ask if they have time for a phone call.

Knowing When to Text, Email, and Call

Communication etiquette in the 21st century is all about being respectful, efficient, and effective — and knowing when to use each method of communication is key to building and maintaining positive relationships.

Follow the tips we've shared in this post to navigate the complex world of communication in the digital age. And be mindful of your audience’s platform preferences!

Find out more about how Showcase Workshop can help you empower sales reps to become communication pros.