At first glance, using your cell phone as a business
communication tool makes perfect sense. It's lighter than a laptop, fits easily
in your pocket, purse or the palm of your hand, connects to the internet nearly
everywhere you go, and seemingly provides instant access to everything you need
when you're out of the office.
So why am I opposed to using an iPhone, BlackbBerry, Palm or other smart phone for business communication? I'm not. These are fantastic devices for communicating your message. I'm old enough to remember when you had to hunt down a street corner phone booth and plunk in a quarter in order to check in with the office. I get the convenience.
What I don't get is why some entrepreneurs choose to use a smart phone as the primary device for their written communications. I mean, think about it. The screen on the iPhone is under 2x3 inches, and workable screenage on the Palm is barely 2.5x1.7 inches. Heck, the BlackBerry, known as the "businessman's phone," has a screen size of 2x1.5 inches. Exactly how much constructive communicating can you do in a space the size of four postage stamps? Not much, that's how much.
Why would you choose to force the majority of your written communication through a miniscule thumb-operated keyboard and teensy screen that puts permanent squint lines on your face and is prone to spelling errors galore? What are you creating for your customers, peers and prospects when you try and get a lucid, well-constructed message across with not much more than a series of abbreviations and slang? OMG! Professionalism -- not to mention clarity -- goes right out the window.
I can't begin to tell you how much of my time is wasted -- utterly wasted -- by business people who insist on using their smart phone as a substitute for their laptop or desktop computer. While sending emails today may be considered "old school," at least it's not limited to 140 characters and you can get your message across without creating unnecessary confusion for the rest of us.
How in the world do you successfully open, read and edit a Microsoft Word document, PowerPoint presentation, Excel spreadsheet or other editable content on your cell phone? I'm telling you it can't be done efficiently. For one thing, it's going to take you a lot longer than doing it "old school" on your computer. And it's going to be prone to mistakes, oversights and all the other problems associated with communicating on the small screen. You're wasting your time and more importantly, that of your customer.
I certainly understand why texting, tweeting, instant messaging and poking are all the rage. They're short, sweet and to-the-point messages -- simple yes and no and other responses that can be clearly articulated in 140-character salvos.
But trying to convince yourself, or me -- when I'm sitting on the other end of your misspelled, incomplete, inarticulate, rushed messages -- that the same holds true for your written business communications, is a grave mistake.
BSF (but seriously folks), if this is where business communication is heading, we're all OTAUL (out to an unsavory lunch).
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.