Answer this IM etiquette question: Do you consider the people you communicate with via IM to be on a level different from the ones who communicate with you via e-mail?
With the pace that technology changes, I shouldn't feel bad if I'm unclear as to any kind of etiquette surrounding certain uses of it. But I do. So, I have a really dumb question for you guys.
Where does IM fall in your communications spectrum? In other words, do you consider those people you communicate with via IM to be on a level different from the ones who communicate with you via regular e-mail?
Here's why I ask. I don't care much about who has my e-mail address. Most of the people I would avoid like the plague (e.g., spammers) have it anyway, so I have a different level of expectation for it. But I reserve IM for a few co-workers who I frequently have to touch base with or friends who I like to "pop in on."
Recently, someone I do business with infrequently, and with whom I would like to maintain a more formal client/contractor basis with, asked for my IM address. I was taken aback momentarily. I guess I should have responded with the reasoning I gave above, but I thought that if he asked so readily then I must be off in my view of IM's purpose.
Let me add that I am very prompt in replying to regular e-mail, so there was no business reason for me to be essentially available more immediately for this person. I guess it feels to me that if someone wants to volunteer his or her IM address, it's fine. But you put people on the spot when you ask for it.
So what do you think? Am I being off-base here?
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.