Writing digital content is a great way to develop your community relationships in a way that accelerates your career forward. (If this is unfamiliar, check out this article.) Ideally, your content is meaningful, thought-provoking, impacts others, and prompts people to engage and connect with you. When it’s done right, your inbox will receive messages and requests. It can be time consuming to figure out who’s legitimate, what’s a scam, and fundamentally: who to and how to respond.
Here are some steps to help you save time, better navigate the digital landscape, and make the most of opportunities that content creation gives us. Whether you’re on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and/or Facebook, these guidelines work on any platform, on any scale.
Screen Your Messages
Deciding who to let in (and push out of) your inbox might feel small, but these decisions compound over time. A network of genuine individuals is very different from a bunch of random people who aren’t actually interested in connecting with you. Your time is valuable, and you should be using what little extra time you have to connect with people who add value–whether it be new opportunities, a chance to expand your network, or new insights.
It’s pretty clear when someone sends a personalized, intentional message, and it’s just as obvious when someone copies and pastes a generic note. Those who send a personal, intentional message are much more intriguing than a standard marketing email.
Move forward with messages that feel unique and personalized. These messages demonstrate the sender’s thoughtful and intentional effort. When someone has put in the time and energy to craft a thoughtful message, the phone or Zoom conversations that ensue are thoughtful and personalized as well––- worthy of any busy CEO or leader’s time.
Decide How to Respond
If you have decided that you want to engage with the inbound message(s), consider the ROI. Is this a potential network connection that can bring opportunities (sales lead, PR, etc)? Or a qualified opportunity? If so, set up a call immediately. Also ask, will this person be a good contact for my future and how does this 30 minutes of time I’m going to invest align with my future goals?
Avoiding an Inbound Message
If you sense that an inbound message is spam, or you deem it has no ROI, then it’s best to ignore the message and delete it to free-up your inbox. Or, reply kindly and mention “I am heads down at the moment, but feel free to follow up in a few months.”
You can change your LinkedIn preferences to either avoid any networking invitations, or require the inquirer to submit your email as proof that they are likely within your network or have good reason to connect with you.
For platforms like Twitter and Instagram, it’s also important to review messaging settings.You can change who can send you messages and who can’t based on if there’s a mutual following.
How to Move From Inbox to Calendar
If you decide to follow up with someone that has messaged you, keep track of their platform, name, contact information (email), topic of the inquiry, and date/time of your connection in a tracking sheet such as Tello, Notion, or even Google Sheets.
From there, have them send you an email with days and times that make it easy to schedule. If you’re the sender of the initial message finding the person, make it easy on the end user.
Your Inbox Represents Your Network
It’s crucial to have a thoughtful approach to managing who is in your social network. These are the people who will see your content, engage with it, and form perceptions of you. It’s not just about content creation or building an audience, but understanding who you let into your network and how to build relationships with them that is most important.
Your social inbox is an extension of you and your brand. The way that you interact with people in your inbox says a lot about you. Keep it professional by responding to people in a timely manner and staying authentically yourself. Just like in standard business practice, letting people know that you truly care will go a long way. Follow up after calls, check-in every so often, and remember to emphasize the small details. You’ll make the other person feel seen, you’ll stand out from the crowd, and your calendar will soon begin to fill up with calls with the right approach.