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If, when, and how often to message your users

Rea

I gave a talk at Twilio about the importance of providing value per message when deciding how to interact with your users. I’ve decided to write a followup article, since there was a lot of demand for slides and mine tend to be mostly visual aid.

The era of information has turned into the era of noise. Whether you are a person who sends out newsletters, a product or a service that informs on certain activities, everyone benefits from understanding what value their notifications provide.

Plus, I give some insight into why your life feels noisy.

Noisy Inbox 🙈

This is a problem that doesn’t need definition.

But at the same time, it’s worth noting that for the week of July shown above, I opened none of the notifications emails, despite Gmail’s best effort to group them neatly for me.

It’s stressful to look at. I don’t want anything to do with them.

Annoying notifications aside, the issue with living amidst noise is that important information gets buried in a messy inbox.

Any of those stacks of notifications could have contained crucial information about production failures (I later found out they did). But when we, as an industry, allow noise to build, we start drowning out the things we care about.

Bombarded by notifications

Notifications are triggered by internal and external events.

Internal events are within the control of your company or team, e.g.:

  • blogs, articles, other content
  • sales, promotions, deals for your goods or services
  • questionnaires, surveys, other ways you maintain connection with users

External events are outside of the control of your company or team, e.g.:

  • alerts (like production failure)
  • alarms and reminders for events the user subscribed to
  • likes, new followers, other social media activity

In most cases, when an event happens, the quick and easy decision is to simply pass the occurrence of the event onto the end user.

This is easy to implement. But this is terrible user experience.

Turning on Do Not Disturb

How do users deal with this?

Tune out. Turn on Do Not Disturb. Try to get focus time.

But this isn’t true zen.

To achieve peace of mind, we need to know:

  • when someone (a human) needs our help
  • we won’t forget important events
  • if we miss something, it’s there, and it’s easily retrievable
Unintentional pun on Twilio SIGNAL

At Toast we built a Slack app that focuses on productivity for engineering teams. We take important events from GitHub and ping users when their team needs them. It is especially important that we don’t distract users, or in any way, contradict our mission.

You never want a user to feel

“Oh! I’ve missed something important.”

or

“I can’t focus. Stop talking. I can’t keep up.”

On both sides, you lose the trust of the user.

Since Toast is a collaboration platform that relies on individuals helping to unblock other teammates, it’s especially important that we value the user’s trust.

If we lose the trust of one user, the entire system fails.



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