When You Absolutely, Positively Need to Reach Someone Quickly

In the last week, I’ve needed to get in touch with a few people via email about a social media project. For a few of them, I was missing email addresses so needed to contact the participants first by some other means to ask them to send their email addresses.

For Contact #1, I knew we were connected on LinkedIn, so I decided to send him a message through that service on Friday, Dec. 30.

For the next three, I checked first to see whether they were following me on Twitter, and sent them direct tweets instead.

Finally, yesterday, after having not heard from #1, I sent a direct tweet.

Here is the table of my results:

I realize this isn’t a large enough sample to be statistically meaningful. I also realize that my LinkedIn message was sent on a Friday before a holiday weekend, so it probably wasn’t the fairest test. But I wasn’t exactly fair to Twitter, either. For participants 2-4, I sent the tweets in the mid-to-late evening, possibly after some had gone to bed (they were all an hour ahead of me in the Eastern time zone). Number 3 responded at 4 a.m. I sent a follow-up to Number 4 the next afternoon, and this time the response was less than 2 hours.

Still, these results do fit with what I perceive as my experience in the relative responsiveness of Twitter vs. LinkedIn.

I think it relates to the way most people interact with the platforms. I don’t have statistics to support this (if you have some, please put them in the comments), but it seems people tend to use LinkedIn through its Web site. When you send someone a message in LinkedIn, therefore, people see it when they visit the site, or possibly through an email notification.

On Twitter, people can get notifications of new messages in those ways, but also tend to use smart phone clients or get text message alerts. This makes it much more likely they will get the notice quickly, wherever they are.

I’m not hacking on LinkedIn; it obviously has capabilities Twitter doesn’t, and you need to use different tools depending on what you want to accomplish. For soliciting and organizing professional recommendations, for instance, LinkedIn is clearly superior.

I have the LinkedIn iPhone app (although I haven’t used it much) and it probably offers push notifications as the Twitter app does (again, I welcome confirmation in the comments). My point isn’t that people couldn’t respond as quickly on LinkedIn as they do on Twitter, it’s just that in my experience they don’t.

How about you?

When you need to reach someone quickly, and if you don’t have the old-school contact information such as email or cell phone (and yes, having grown up with a single land line and snail mail, I realize the irony of calling email and cell phone “old school”), what do you find is the best social platform to use?

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

8 thoughts on “When You Absolutely, Positively Need to Reach Someone Quickly”

  1. I would definitely agree that Twitter DMs are very efficient. I check LinkedIn on a weekly basis, whereas Twitter gets a lot more of my attention and DMs pop right into my phone. The only frustration is trying to DM someone who isn’t following you!

  2. I have been getting huge amounts of spam through LinkedIn, so I have reached a point where I don’t respond to anything from there. Haven’t figured out how to screen the unwanted stuff that comes, so it is proving to be not such a great source for quick info.

  3. Great post Lee!

    Two lessons to learn here:

    1) collecting data as you live your life provides unique ways to measure what works and doesn’t work – we ALL need to get better at this.

    2) not every channel will work for every need – there is no silver bullet. But in the long run, we need to be aware and familiar with the various channels and what value they add to our lives. (good to check out the problem/solution heat map that McKinsey recently published: http://bit.ly/McKinseyData)



    1. Thanks, Brian…it’s got me thinking that I should start collecting data more comprehensively so I can see meaningful patterns. I don’t want to do artificial experiments for their own sake, but have the measurement be a byproduct that comes in the course of other regular work.

  4. I often hear that Facebook’s for the young, Twitter’s for grownups, and email is for the elderly. Perhaps as the communication landscape continues to bloom, our channel of choice will be the information-age equivalent of the midcentury haircut: it will date you to the decade.

    But for me, having entered my 40s last week, I buck the trend and still prefer email. You can say what you want in the space you need, you can organize and search your content, it gets pushed to your smartphone as fast as a tweet, and it’s less ephemeral. I’m old-fashioned that way. My phone never leaves my side, and if it dies, my iPad and MacBook are not far afield and are synced to the cloud.


  5. Great points…I definitely appreciate email, and in this case what I was looking for was email addresses to address a topic in more detail.

    One thing about email, though, is that it doesn’t make my phone buzz when I get a new message. I see Twitter as kind of a pager tool for alerts.

  6. Not many of my friends use Twitter with any regularity, but they are on FB. I use FB more than email. During the holidays, sending an email could take days if it was their work account, but most check in on FB at least daily.

  7. Old FedX commercials ““When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight”
    Now you showed us we are now talking minutes vs. overnight.

    One of the most valuable methods Twitter power is being harnessed is as a communication tool during Emergency situations. The Red Cross and other agencies who deal with emergency situations are doing a splendid job using Twitter to get the word out quickly and accurately.

    “The Federal Emergency Management Agency has increased use of social media under its administrator, W. Craig Fugate. Mr. Fugate said, the agency has already used Twitter as one method to publicize evacuation orders from local officials.”

    Source: Twitter, as a Helpmate, Goes to Capitol Hill #nytimes

    Thank you Lee for showing us once again that Twitter is a professional tool that needs to be embraced within the work place.

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