OK, ok, my title on this article was meant to be an eye catcher, and I bet it caught yours! I am not really saying that e-mail is a bad thing, or that you should not use it. However, it is true that I believe you should, in some cases, use e-mail as little as you can.
Well, let me explain what I mean in terms of when you should curtail your use of e-mail to communicate.
If you write a blog post on your site, and somebody makes a comment asking a question regarding something you wrote. Some people invariably end their question by saying…
Please respond to my e-mail…
Sorry, but I don’t do that in most cases. Why? Well, for a few reasons.
Firstly, if “John” had a question regarding something you wrote, it is likely that other readers had a similar question as well. Let’s say that you wrote an article about how to insert a video on your blog. John wrote a comment asking something like:
If I have a YouTube Video that I want to include in my blog post, can I just use the “embed” code that YouTube lists on their site? Please e-mail me the answer.
OK, well, you know the answer to the question, and you e-mail it to John. But, Charlie had the same question in mind. So, Charlie leaves the same question for you, and you have to answer it again. If Charlie wants an e-mail reply, then it doesn’t help Fred. See what I mean?
For me, I like to build community on my sites. I like John, Charlie and Fred to all join in and discuss things on the site. This brings more readers and participants to your site. It makes your site a great repository of information because there is the article you wrote, and a lot of questions with answers in the comments. Because of this, your site will get a reputation quickly that it is a great place to find answers, and lots of them.
Sending out answers by e-mail tends to keep your community small. John is not communicating with Charlie. Fred doesn’t communicate at all, he just reads your posts. It is an interaction between you and Fred, you and Charlie and you and John instead of a communication between you, John, Fred and Charlie. It’s not nearly as effective as if the whole group has a conversation.
Another thing is that the person who asks for an e-mail response is basically saying to you that he is not going to come back to your site to check your answer. Why go to the work and trouble of writing out an answer to help John if he has already told you that he has no interest in coming back to your site again? For me, even if John doesn’t come back to read your answer, it’s better to put the answer on the blog so that Fred and Charlie can benefit from it. John is free to benefit too if he comes back and looks at your site again. If he has no intention of returning to your site anyway, you lose nothing by just letting him go about his business and find his answer elsewhere.
So, considering everything above, I believe that the best move is to answer questions right on the blog itself, and forget about sending out a private e-mail to answer a question that many readers may be wondering about.
What do you think?