A Proposal: Let’s Not Talk Business Over Facebook Messenger and Text

25 January 2019 | 53 Comments

Over the last 6 months, I’ve increasingly been contacted via my personal Facebook Messenger about Stonemaier Games business. I have no hard feelings against anyone who has done this, but I’d like to propose a halt to this method of communication, as I don’t think it’s the most effective way of doing business. Here’s why I think Facebook Messenger is a problem, followed by a solution:

  • It’s personal. Okay, it’s not that personal, but most companies have a company Facebook page. If you really want to talk business on Facebook, why would you choose to personally message someone at the company instead of messaging their company Facebook page? It’s like showing up at someone’s house instead of their office.
  • It’s disruptive. In my opinion, anything that forces me to immediately pay attention to it is disruptive. If I’m in one of our Facebook groups to answer a rules question and I get a new message, it pops up on the screen, shouting, “Look at me now!” Same thing with texts–they’re an intrusion into your time.
  • It’s disjointed to search. It’s getting more and more difficult to search for specific written conversations because they happen on so many different platforms (Facebook, text, BGG Geekmail, Slack, Discord, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, etc). But it doesn’t have to be that way.
  • It’s slow for typing. This is more about texting and Instagram than Facebook Messenger, as I can answer messengers on my computer. But text? I know some of you are pretty fast texters, but does anyone really prefer it to typing on a full keyboard? Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but typing on a phone is so much slower for me than using a keyboard.

My proposal is that we simply use email for business communications. It addresses all of these issues–it’s easy to separate personal and business, you can read and respond to emails on your schedule, it’s easy to search through everything all in one place, and you get to use a real keyboard if you’re at a computer.

Of course, if something is truly urgent, text makes sense. If you’re having a group chat, Discord works well. And if you need a quick back-and-forth exchange, use Skype. But most written business communications, I really think e-mail is best.

Even if you disagree (which I completely respect), please don’t contact me about anything business related via Facebook Messenger or text. Heck, please don’t contact me about anything via Facebook Messenger–I’d love to disable it completely!

Oh, also, just to let you know, my Facebook rule is that we can become Facebook friends if–and only if, with rare exceptions–we’ve actually met in real life. And as usual, for anything other than private/confidential questions, it’s much more helpful for the masses to ask in public.

What’s your preferred way for people to contact you about business? Email? Phone? Carrier pigeon?

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53 Comments on “A Proposal: Let’s Not Talk Business Over Facebook Messenger and Text

  1. I agree, except in the case where I’ve sent someone a half dozen emails about something important over the course of a month, and they’re not responding. Then, I don’t feel bad about Facebook messaging them to see if something is wrong, or they’re not getting my emails.

    1. That makes sense as long as you give them a little time. Every now and then I get the same message from someone on 5 different platforms within 5 minutes–just 1 is all you typically need. :)

      1. This isn’t exactly the same, but it reminded me of something. When my kid started school, the school automatically signed me up for a school messaging system. At first, that sounds fine. However, they will robo-call (and leave a voicemail), text, and email me all within a few minutes. If it was just for emergencies with my kid, that would be fine, but they sometimes do this to inform us of voluntary school events. When I asked to have robo-calls and texts disable, they had no clue if that was even possible. Ugh.

  2. Messenger is annoying alright. What about “tagging” you in posts on facebook? I think you had a post about requesting people to do this if I’m not mistaken. Do you still want that?

    If yes, do you prefer for people to tag you using Jamey Stegmaier or Stonemaier Games, or both, or none at all?

    1. Oh yes, I like tagging, as it alerts me to questions I need to answer. I participate on Facebook as myself, so it’s okay to tag me–I just don’t like people to contact me privately on personal channels about business stuff.

  3. I totally agree with you. But it can get even worse: voice messages. Its so frustrating having to listen to somebody’s mostly unstructured voice messages while trying to figure out what he (or she) wants to tell you.
    There is also a legal issue. If something is business related there are certain requirements to archive communication for tax audits and other situations where you bette have prove of something.

    1. Voicemail is the worst, business or personal. On my personal phone, I can’t dismiss the voicemail notification without listening to it. Most of the time, it’s either a robo-call or someone telling me to call them. Telling/asking me to me call is probably the most aggravating voicemail for me for me because by the time I listen, they’ve probably already called me again or texted me. Nobody ever believes a voicemail will be checked (and honestly, I’d rather not), so everybody keeps trying, making the voicemail moot.

  4. Another interesting article Jaime! I agree 100% than Facebook messenger can be intrusive. Nothing quite as annoying as trying to do something only to have Messenger go off. For me, I think I would agree email is the best option 99.99% of the time.

    1. Oops I meant Jamey! I’m so sorry for misspelling your name! My only excuse is my older brother used to spell his name that way (he now pretty much exclusively goes by James). It’s even right on the page I was replying on multiple times…..

  5. I am really conflicted on this topic. I hardly ever use a computer to communicate. It is almost always on my phone. I am on my computer to program. That is it. So I can text/message on my phone 1000% faster than a keyboard.

    Business is mobile. More and more companies are moving away from email as their prime communication method. People are on the move now more than ever so mobile devices are much more convenient meaning mobile apps are more convenient. I have actually dealt with quite a few companies via messenger, but they usually reach out to me first. Some are through their official FB account and some through their personal. So there is some conflicting messages being sent to consumers about the best way to communicate.

    It is a tough spot to be in. If you do not want IMs then you will definitely need to announce and enforce such policy. But you will also need a method besides email IMHO.

    Great topic. Great thoughts.

    1. I might be too old, but I prefer email for official lagged communication over various forms of inboxes for the same reasons Jamey laid out (Disruption, searching, coordination). You can also hook up ticketing system for email really easy to about any issue tracker.

      Also you can email on your phone.

  6. I completely agree, I get regular personal Facebook messages now about business too and it’s the one platform I encourage people not to use. With Facebook groups, Facebook company pages, Twitter, BGG, website forms, and email, I do find it frustrating.

    I believe public forums and groups are the best place for general questions as others can often answer before me.

    When it comes to business or a direct question aimed at me? Then email is the most effective! If I believe the answer will take more than an email then I’ll suggest a platform (hangouts/skype) to chat and arrange a convenient time for us both!

  7. I run a small, independent book store and we get people sending questions via Facebook messenger at all hours. It’s very difficult to check stock availability at midnight, however. Even when I’m at the store I rarely have Facebook up and running on a store computer, so it’s not what I consider the most ideal form of communication. I do, however, check email at least once an hour.

  8. I 100% agree! Thanks for taking this stand, Jamey. I like Facebook for the groups, but I despise Messenger. It’s so intrusive. And why can’t I turn it off?! When someone sends me a FB message, it makes me feel like I have to answer it very quickly. Emails allow me to get to it when it’s convenient for me rather than when it’s convenience for the sender. Especially if I don’t know the sender… what a terrible first impression to interrupt my day with a FB message. Just send me an email. I will respond.

    What I’ve found helpful is, when someone sends me a FB message, unless we’re specifically talking about a Facebook topic, I will usually respond by giving them my email address and asking them to email me instead. Sure, I could answer their question right there, but then they would send me a FB message whenever they have another question instead of using email. Another tactic I use is, if I have the sender’s email address, I will send them a FB reply saying I will respond to them via email.

    1. One problem is that I think if you aren’t friends with someone and you actually reply to their Facebook message, it gives them the ability to message you again at any point.

      I can’t remember it exactly but there’s a disclaimer text that shows up just above the text field you reply from.

  9. Yes I agree, face book is trying to take over everything. It will even down load when you haven’t clickrd it or anything. Keepd automatically downloading to my phone and updating by it’s self. Don’t like anything that I can’t control.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with this, and if there were a way to disable messenger from a company page on Facebook, would do so in a heartbeat.

    Several times, I’ve had people send a message on my company Facebook messenger, receive a reply that the best contact method is email, and please send all messages to a specific address, then proceed to receive additional messages via messenger because the person chose to ignore the “I’m happy to discuss this over email” message.

    Messenger is quite disruptive, and agree that email is the best for all business communication with my company’s customer, but do use Slack for internal messaging, since most things discussed on Slack are time sensitive and warrant the instant messaging speed.

    1. We use Slack and HipChat for internal conversations, and I like it for that, because I can see it come up while working and can reply quickly from my keyboard.

      I actually miss a lot of emails while working!

  11. I can’t believe how many people have become afraid to converse on the phone or in person. They want to send 200 texts back and forth, removing 90% of the communication, such as vocal tone, inflection, etc. Then they get frustrated at all the communication errors. Business mistakes can be too costly to rely on text or messenger.

    1. Natalie: I agree that there are times when live communication (phone, in person, or Skype) is incredibly helpful. But it can also be disruptive, as you can’t respond on your own time, and you can’t search that conversation later to see what was said (something I’ve found to be incredibly important, especially for business conversations).

  12. Completely agree, especially for the person contacting you because if they communicate with you on an effective platform, you can give them your full and undivided attention when you are working with them.

    It is actually in everyone’s best interest!

  13. Email might be necessary for inter-organization issues, but as an Engineer most of my issues are intra-organization and I find that I loathe email for tracking things that need to be done. That said, some of the principles are the same.

    Development and IT work tends to be ticket or issue driven, where you have a system managing the work to be done and issues go into that system as priority ordered work. Emails exist outside that system, and often get treated like low priority work that is often forgotten and overlooked.

    On some level, it sounds like you’re using email as your own personally managing tracking system for what work needs to be done. I’ve never had my email organized well enough to accomplish that (but then again I don’t run my own business so I don’t have the same concerns and motivations).

    And I think our general conclusion is the same. When you have a system for tracking and prioritizing the work you need to get done anything outside of that system is disruptive.

  14. Searching through FB messages is a huge issue for me even as a small publisher. I always respond asking for an email if they want a proper response. I’ll definitely forget about it otherwise.

  15. Liked. I’d love to disable messenger as well.

    I have it on my phone simply to speak with my family while away at conventions, and so it bugs me on my personal cell daily.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  16. I prefer e-mail.You can always look up old mails easy and fast. I don’t like the fact that when communicating thru social media I always have to think about “ahmm did I write to xy on facebook or instagram?” or “damn I don’t know the name from this person anymore” and I cannot search after written content. You also cannot mark a message as important, confidential oder urgent. Messenger is some kind of chat so why not going to the website of the company and use their chat (if applicable)? Further I have concerns about data protection when using social media (hacked accounts etc), e-mail is quite safe.

    Big companies put a lot of effort into their websites. The customer gets the needed information by others (forum) or by FAQ. Have you ever tried to contact UPS or DHL? Even if I finally end up with a telephone number on their websites, for sure you will get an automatic voice system which guides you to the problem (Press 1 for bla Press 2 for blabla; sorry you I didn’t understand)…

    Once I worked with Oracle and nearly everybody was asking me about things they should know themself and I ended up in answering mails and calls about processes and workarounds. I set up a website and when somebody asked me, I just sent the right link. But still the people kept calling because its faster and more convinient then reading on a website.

    I am now in the board game business for 1 year and what I learned is that you need one single page where all of my customers find answers to their problems (its not easy but we try it). No matter if they are using an app, social media etc. Try to route them to one site where they can discuss with others, find FAQs etc. Maybe you also setup a Facebook group where people can discuss your games (if not already done. And I mean an open group not a fan page).Sometimes the players know your game better than you, so let experts answer the questions. people like to help others.

    What I want to say is, that you should focus on what is really important: keeping the company healthy and this means you cannot help everyone because you have to run a business.

  17. Okay, I’d like to attempt to come to the rescue!

    You can disable the little chat windows (called Chat Tabs) and still keep messenger active (such as through the notification button at the top). Try googling “facebook disable chat tabs”.

    Find the little gear icon at the bottom of the list of friends on the right. When it pops up, you’ll see stuff like Chat Sounds, Emoji, etc. One of the options is “Turn Off Chat Tabs”. Click that to check it, and those dumb windows shouldn’t pop up any more. While you’re there, also click “Turn Off Post Tabs” to disable those same dumb windows that they use when people comment on your post.

  18. Most IMs like FB messenger have the “seen” or “delivered” notification. Means that the other person actually read it, so they know you read the information.

    But what if time difference matters? I from Europe send something at 9am to a US resident, it’s pitch dark there. When it is afternoon for me, they just got up and saw their phone, I don’t think they have a clear mind to answer my business things but THEY SAW IT! I am delusional that you do not want to answer fast, you get delusional that I demand a fast answer, so we both get frustrated.

    An email is the logical solution to inform/organize/respond/archive things, but some try to get advantage of a more casual way of communication, to earn your favor maybe?

  19. I prefer e-mail. I answer questions in FB groups for foster and adoptive parents, and some people reach out to me via messenger, but they don’t always show up in my feed because I don’t know them. I also very specifically give them ways to contact me directly and they aren’t messenger.

    On the other hand sometimes it is useful for a go back and forth information in real time, rather than delays with e-mail. But generally I am not answering messenger for work when off the clock. Got to have me time.

  20. Although I don’t run a business, I completely agree with you – especially point 3. If someone wants to give me some information, or ask a question that needs a detailed but not immediate answer, FB Messenger is awful – because I see the notification (probably on my phone) and then immediately forget about it.

    In those circumstances I’ll definitely say “can you email me this exact question at ” because then I can sit and compose a proper answer later, and I won’t forget about it as the message will stay in my inbox until I’ve dealt with it.

  21. I use fb messenger for work a fair amount and 95% of the time I contact someone (usually through the company page) it’s because I don’t have an email for them. The other 5% is because they aren’t repsponding to email or have only a shady form on their site

  22. Agree 100% with this sentiment. I’d recommend a polite response; “Hey steve, could you drop me an email at jamey@isfartoonice.com to discuss this in more detail? Thanks!”

    Outside of what Jamey has stated above, email is a focus rather than a distraction. You carve time out specifically to peruuse email and address and reply. Messenger and text is much more of a “running in the background” thing, so email provides an opportunity to address business concerns with another person who is attuned to what they’re reading, giving you full attention. As opposed to a simple distraction that cod potentially be overlooked if the recipient is too deeply involved in their current activity.

    Just my thoughts.

    1. Thanks Steve! That’s exactly what I do. I’ve found that if I answer at all via Facebook messenger (besides telling them to contact me elsewhere, the person will try to continue the conversation via messenger. So even for the most simple of questions, I usually tell the person to contact me via email (if it’s private) or in a Facebook group (if it’s a rules question, for example).

  23. Hi Jamey –

    Just like any other parts of life, I think having boundaries in the way you handle your customers is really important to any business. Sometimes I think customers believe that companies are at their whim at all times and for all reasons because “the customer is always right” and companies need to do anything to handle their issues right away.

    When I saw your post, it didn’t surprise me. I think most in this community would say that you set a pretty high bar for customer service as you tend to pop into discussions or questions for your products on Facebook and BGG all of the time on what looks like your personal account. This probably gives people the impression that you don’t mind being accessible ALL the time. Facebook Messenger is quick and easy, but if you want to keep it separate from your business, maybe it would be better to use a Stonemaier Games account to deal with customer issues so it separates it from your personal account?

    Email is the best way to handle customer service. It provides a nice paper trail and as you said, gives people time to write out a thoughtful response. “Texting” on FB Messenger is a bit too off the cuff for dealing with customers and companies.

    Hopefully people read your post and more importantly, respect it.

    1. Brett: Thanks for your comment. I agree that it’s fair to say that I put myself in this position by often replying to comments as myself. I guess the way I think about is, just because Elon Musk replies to tweets doesn’t make it okay to show up to his house. :) That’s a bit extreme, but do you see what I’m saying? I think there’s a big difference between talking to people publicly as yourself (even if you’re representing an organization) and being contacted privately on your personal channel about business.

  24. Jamey,

    I absolutely agree with you. I feel as though Messenger and texting should remain between and among friends and e-mail remains the area for professional correspondence. While I don’t have the following of larger companies such as Stonemaier Games, I perform game development work for a half dozen designers and publishers per year and I would never want to engage in business over Messenger. I pride myself on my professionalism and expect a high standard from those with whom I work in the industry.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  25. Here is what I can agree to;

    I will agree to reaching out to You, Jamey, and Stonemaier games through email.

    I agree full that when reaching out to a business or anyone in a professional manner that you should start with email if at all possible.

    However, I also believe that anyone your trying to get help/money/attention from, gets to dictate the terms of communication. You have to reach people where they’re at.

  26. Completely agree on this! And no, I don’t think it’s too much to ask or being old fashioned. Good is good. Being good communicators means acknowledging the best ways to have dialogue with others, in this case a business. Which is not in the same category as “gaming group” or “friends”.

    Inquiries should be sent in a way the business is actually set up to field them effectively. And not every enterprise has the same workflow.

    I do think texts and messenger can be good once a person has a closer collaborative relationship with a business though. Cheers!

    -E

  27. I actually find that Facebook Messenger is more effective in getting a response from retailers nowadays for quick answers if I see that the page is maintained regularly. Email on the other hand is a 30 year old technology that is a blackhole and often results in dissatisfactory responses – too much friction if subsequent rounds of communication are needed. More and more companies are transitioning into messaging systems so trying to insist on emailing is counterintuitive in my opinion. Perhaps look into messaging systems like Slack – they do a much better job at task managing than email.

  28. I have the same issue at work. (IT) We have five different methods of contact – e-mail, Lync, Microsoft Teams, phone calls, and text. (Though texts are rare.) That’s five different communication points I need to keep up with. If I worked in an office rather than from home then I’d also need to deal with a sixth with people walking right up to my desk or catching me in the lunch room. Sometimes too much isn’t a good thing.

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