I don’t know about you but I love newsletters, or those email opt-ins that give you lots of tips about topics of interest. I probably subscribe to 20 newsletters, follow a couple of hundred blogs and have several Google alerts on various topics. It’s stuff like this that really makes me love the Internet. You can learn so much, so quickly from so many sources. In a word, it’s awesome.
Naturally, one of my major interests is writing, the craft of it, marketing it, improving it, etc. So I subscribe to several publications on writing and they land in my inbox regularly. In particular I subscribed to email tips from a copywriter whom I’d come to admire.
Today’s topic was about something I was pretty familiar with and I felt compelled to respond to the article, which I thought would be fine considering the writer frequently mentions emails he gets from readers.
So I happily responded to his article and sent it off, thinking that he might even respond and how lovely it might be to have a small conversation, via email about the topic.
Well, I got a response but not one I would have ever expected. It was short and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I haven’t written anything on (the topic) in ages.” Which was awfully strange since the topic was right there in the title of the article. And it maybe it was just my imagination but I really got that he was beyond irritated and maybe even indignant that I had written him. And possibly was saying between the lines that I was some kind of nut.
Suffice to say that I unsubscribed and assured him in my short response to his response that I wouldn’t bother him again.
Okay, so why did I bring this up?
Here’s the thing, we who make our living via the Internet and aren’t dealing with people face-to-face have to realize that a few words splashed on digital page can make or break us. This particular fellow writes regularly about how important it is to know your prospect/customer and that you should use language that speaks to them, that it is the customer/client/prospect who is important, not what you think. And ironically, his response went against everything he preaches.
Which is unfortunate because now I don’t believe him. Now I think maybe he is just full of it or possibly himself. Now, I have no desire for his products or services, nor will I recommend him to anyone for any reason. And a chunk of goodwill that he had worked hard to build with me is now just gone.
You may think, so what? He lost one person from his email list. True, maybe I am the only person who has ever emailed him to which he responded that way. But logic tells me, if he would respond to one person that way, he’d probably respond to others the same way. Which probably means he is messing up his own goodwill. And I’m one of those people who when they discover someone who I think is great, I recommend them to everyone I know, then there’s also those people who will not hear about him. So maybe now he’s lost people he could have had.
And the word gets around. You should never think it doesn’t because it does. And you never know how much damage you are doing to yourself by one seemingly small incident.
Manners really never do go out of style
Unfortunately, because of the anonymity of the Internet, we feel a little freer to be rude, curt or unkind. Believing it won’t come back to us, because we’re safe behind our keyboards and monitors. We believe that manners maybe aren’t as important as they used to be, maybe even that it’s an old-fashioned concept and we have the freedom to be as rude, crude or mean as we feel like being.
And people sure do seem to get away with it. You see it all the time on social networking sites, forums, comments on articles and blog posts, especially if the topic is even slightly controversial, the mud really slings.
However, if you hope to make a living or even just part of your living (like say with a website) on the Internet, it’s good practice to keep those manners bright and shiny.
Even if someone sends you a lame email. Even if someone says something you think is stupid or rude. Even if you really had a bad day and needed to lash out. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. And it’s really hard if not impossible to take back.