From Email Sig File to Social Network: It's in the Link(s)
I am honored to be inheriting the Surviving Email column from Jennifer Rose. I enjoyed reading Jennifer’s sage and often humorous email-centric advice, and will miss her good words here.
For my first column, I thought it might be fun to stare Irony 2.0 in the face by turning to the current golden child of online communications, Twitter, to see what kinds of tips people are offering these days about email. I searched “Email Tip” on Twitter with the idea of listing for you, 140 characters at a time, the best words of ewisdom I might find.
That’s a plan for another day. It turns out that the first tweet I found deserves a column all of its own. And so, from Twitter to you, here goes:
Email Tip: List Your Email Address in Your Signature Contact Information
Probably obvious if you’ve already done it, but according to Bob Brill, the intellectual property lawyer who “tweeted” this suggestion, it is “applicable to a surprisingly large number of folks.”
Agreed. I might go a step further and say: don’t stop at an email address. Also include URLs in your signature, pointing recipients to key Web presences like your site, blog, LinkedIn profile, and others.
Q: If I include email and Web addresses in my signature, will that push my site’s traffic over the edge and make me one of the most-read online personalities of all time?
A: Unlikely, but that’s not the point.
Including this information is an easy courtesy that makes grabbing your email address and contact details for future reference so much easier. (It also allows me to connect with you on LinkedIn or Facebook if I want to get to know you better; or, to read your latest article, blog post, newsletter, client alert, think piece, etc., if I have an interest in “following” you online.)
Q: Can the information contained at the end of my email really be a seed to social networking?
A: Yes, you bet it can.
Many of the small online actions we take have to do with “being available” when opportunity comes knocking. You might have heard the phrase before, as applied to online networking: cast a wide net. This is definitely true in the case of contact-rich signatures because, as we all know for good and bad, email can take on a life of its own after you hit Send. Here’s a way to make it good.
If you participate on a public list serve, your email contributions are likely archived online and, as a consequence, they are potential fodder for Google. It is not unreasonable to assume that someone might discover you this way (for example, by stumbling upon that smart series of email messages you wrote last spring in your favorite consumer bankruptcy forum—now archived for general reference). Even if you participate in a “private” email group or list serve, you can count on your messages being forwarded, when appropriate, by other members to their colleagues and friends. Such email passes through my inbox regularly.
A well-placed link to your LinkedIn profile (or blog, or phone number, or website) can serve you well at times like these. (“This person knows what they’re talking about; could be useful contact for me.” Click.)
Also, it’s not especially, ahem, forward thinking simply to anticipate that colleagues and clients will forward email you send them directly, whenever it makes sense or is appropriate to do so. Such is the nature of the world we live in. (“Look at this ERISA info from Jackie—I think you’ll find it very interesting.”)
The point? Every email you send is, by virtue of online habits, also an opportunity to get noticed. Granted, each email is a small opportunity, but if you consider how many messages you send out on a daily basis—well, the numbers start adding up. Take advantage of this. Include links to “further reading” and/or easy contact at the end of every email. It’s as simple as that.
[On-topic digression: the above considerations about archived list serve conversations also clarify, for me, why there’s incredible value in participating in such forums in the first place. In my line of work, I believe wholeheartedly that a lawyer’s written word is a terrific showcase of legal expertise. You could do worse than joining a few list serves like Solosez, or email groups—and when you do, write your email not only for other members; also write for the archive. It’s part of your digital footprint; one way to expand your professional network or even find a new client.]
Upgrade With LinkedIn
Consider using LinkedIn’s terrific email signature tool—it allows you to create a mini LinkedIn profile on the go. Here’s how:
- Visit LinkedIn’s Create Email Signature page
- Select your design, color, and style from the variety available.
- Fill out all the fields you want to include in your signature (which are, after name and email address, optional: work phone, pager, fax number; instant messenger information; work mailing address; an image or corporate logo; website address; company tagline; and so forth).
- Click to save the information (bottom of the page, a link titled “Click here for instructions”—which will be different, depending on your email client).
- Choose your email client on the resulting page, and grab the appropriate .sig file code for your email client.
One value of the LinkedIn-enabled signature (besides the fact that it looks elegant) is that it includes a link to “See who we know in common.” File under: passive, constant networking via email.
Imagine sending an email to a prospective client who, thanks to your signature, can now see with a single click how the two of you might know each other or otherwise “share” people in common. This is what puts the “social” in social networking—and it really doesn’t take much to incorporate into your online, public, professional persona.
I’m always meeting new people by email; I love the convenience of now being able to see how our worlds intersect with the single click of an email link.
As you probably know, most email clients offer the ability to create signatures. In fact, many allow for multiple signatures, so you can choose different information for different recipient types (e.g. clients, friends, opposing counsel).
The term is ‘.sig file” because usually this is what you are creating: a file that contains whatever you choose to include in your signature. Because so many of us in the legal profession use Outlook, here are two links to help with that client:
- How to Create an Email Signature in Outlook (About.com)
- Create a signature for messages (Microsoft.com)
The process is somewhat similar (and fairly self-explanatory) regardless of which email client you use.
- In Google Mail, click the “Settings” link in the top right of the page.
- In Yahoo! Mail, click “Options” in the top right of page, then choose “Signature” in the resulting menu.
- In Mac Mail, choose “Mail” then select “Options” from the drop-down menu.
Aviva Cuyler is the founder and CEO of legal content and marketing site www.jdsupra.com. Send email signature files to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2009, American Bar Association.