Signature files have been around since, well, before most current Netizens were even aware that e-mail existed. Before the Web, folks generally had basic contact info and included their favorite quote to show their feelings or perspective on certain issues.
Now, most will use their signature file as a quick identifier of who they are and what they do and offer a link to their Website while those online for personal use will still serve up witty, clever and many times interesting quotes.
The most important reason to use a sig file is that signature files allow you to promote your site indirectly by simply going about your daily online business. Whether you are posting on message boards, e-mailing other site owners or participating in mailing lists, your signature file gets your basic information and a link to your Website in front of everyone you e-mail or those who may just read your post on a message board.
Your sig file’s contents can help you solidify yourself as an astute technology user and if you have a business to soft-sell your enterprise to your contacts. Signature files are the ultimate in online passive promotion when used properly and effectively.
Let’s first cover the DON’Ts:
- DON’T have your signature file start right after the last sentence line in your e-mail. Make a point of setting up an extra line break in your e-mail program or just be sure to hit "enter" one extra time when typing your e-mail is completed. Keep your sig file no more than 4-6 lines. No, there is no law that will send you to the pokey if you break this guideline however, this is a role that most follow and is a recommended guideline so you don’t seem too pushy.
- DON’T have everything about you including the kitchen sink in your sig file. If you have a Web site, include a pointer to your URL to make sure folks can find out whatever they like about you – that is really what your sig file is for. To have your pager, cell, home, business, work, accreditations, and slogan about how great you are will lead to the perception that you are tad bit narcissistic. You also do not need to include your full “all about me” signature file on every email in ongoing conversations or with those who already are aware of all your information. Instead, for ongoing conversations, use a simpler less info-packed version, maybe one that just includes your most used sign-off and your name.
- DON’T use controversial or political quotes in your business signature file. Hey, everyone has the right to an opinion – that is one of the great things about the online environment is the free exchange of information and ideas. I’ve seen many a witty and humorous quote in e-mails. However, to intentionally have a quote you know is very controversial or offensive has no place in business e-mail.
- DON’T throw in any sales-pitchy type hype. Credibility online is very difficult to attain and keep up without undermining your efforts. Refraining from overzealous sales hype that ends in exclamation marks tends to lead to you being perceived as a seasoned professional. A short and sweet comment about your product or service is enough. Let your Website do the selling for you!
- DON’T use formatting in your sig file (or your business emails). This includes ASCII formatting, font colors and bolding or including graphic files in lieu of a plain text signature. Graphic files may be displayed as attachments and formatting can flag your e-mail as potential spam landing it in the recipients Trash box.
- DON’T close with your signature file reflecting anything but proper punctuation. Please capitalize your name formally: John A. Smith, John Smith, John. Not typing your name formally with proper capitalization can show a lack of education and business savvy.
- DON’T start using your sig file until you have verified, reviewed and double-checked that all the information is correct. I see signature files with errors every day! Sigs with errors lend to the perception that you lack attention to detail.
Now to the Do’s:
- DO align your sig’s text with spaces and not tabbing. Tabs and text are displayed differently on different machines, which can make your layout look yucky. Also keep in mind that you want to keep your sig file to 70 characters or less, as that is the set screen width default for many e-mail programs.
- DO make sure that your signature file has the basic info folks need to contact you. No need to include your email address – that is automatically noted at the top of every e-mail you send! The only instance where you would want to include your primary e-mail address in your signature file is if you are using a different or secondary e-mail address to send the e-mail in question.
- DO setup your e-mail program to automatically append your signature file and make sure to include your sign-off so that you do not have to type your name with every e-mail. So, for example you can have:
John A. Smith
Website Address Here
Slogan or Additional Information Here
- DO make sure that when you include your Website address that you add the "https://" before your site’s URL. In some e-mail programs without the https:// the program will not recognize the address as a link and it may not be clickable within your message. One of the neato things about sig files is they allow you to have every e-mail be one click away from your Website. Don’t miss this opportunity by forgetting the https:// .
- DO have several signatures that you can switch out dependent on tone or issue at hand. Sig files are an excellent way of cementing your message tone and directs the ongoing communication’s priority and level of formality. Sincerely, Best, Regards, Respectfully – each can be used differently depending on whom you are communicating with and the tone you would like to set. You can also set up signatures that have your formal name and a less informal version to set a comfort zone with the other party such as Elizabeth vs. Lizzy. Keep in mind to not be overly informal too soon with new contacts. Formalities are in place for a reason – especially in business communications.
- DO have signature files that relay a different message based on where and to whom you are e-mailing. If you are marketing on message boards or newsgroups, use a signature file that reflects your new product or the current promotion that is directed to that specific audience. Different terms and words have different effects depending on the market. Be sure to include a call to action such as: Download now… Contact Us today about… Get your free… – you get the idea – sans hype. Leave out the multiple exclamation or question marks.
- DO keep in mind that the perception your signature file provides will lend to the perception of who you are, what you believe in, if you follow the roles, if you know how to use technology – or not. Quotes are fine and sometimes ?propos depending on the conversations tone and topic, however, keep in mind who will be reading the e-mail and the perception your opinion via the quote you include will leave. Humorous or controversial quotes are best left to personal e-mail.
The beauty of your sig file is that you do not have to say anything about your own site in the body of a posting unless it would be relevant/appropriate and it is the proper forum. This is a great way to subtlety market to those you do not know. Keep in mind however, the last thing you want to do is post gratuitously or send an e-mail with a one word answer just for the sake of getting your signature file in front of folks. That is one of the oldest tricks in the books and folks will know what you are up to and may complain directly to you and/or the moderator. Credibility lost.
So, there you have it. The basics you need to know to use signature files properly and to your advantage. Use these tips to build your own personal library of signature files. Update and work on your signature files – there is always something new to say about yourself and your business!