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Signature File Dos and Donts

Signature files have been around since, well, before most current Netizens were even aware that e-mail existed. Most will use their signature file as a quick identifier of who they are and what they do and provide a link to their Web site while those online for personal use will serve up witty, clever and many times interesting quotes.

If online for commercial gain, the most important reason to use a signature file is that your signature file allows you to promote your Web 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 Web site in front of everyone you e-mail or those who may just read your post on a message board. Signature files are the ultimate in online passive promotion when used properly and effectively.

Let's first cover the DON'Ts:

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 ensure the recipient can find out whatever they like about you - that is really what your sig file is for. Keep it to 4-6 lines max. To have your pager, cell, home, business, work, accreditations, associations and slogan about how great you are will lead to the perception that you are tad bit overbearing.

DON'T throw in any sales pitchy type hype. Credibility online is very difficult to attain and maintain without undermining your efforts. Refraining from overzealous sales hype that ends in multiple exclamation marks lends to you being perceived as a seasoned professional. A short and sweet comment about your product or service is sufficient. Let your Web site do the selling for you!

DON'T include formatting in your sig file (or your business e-mails). This includes ASCII formatting, colors or attaching any animated graphics. If I had a dollar for every formatted sig or e-mail that then messed with my reply by formatting it as well or worse yet by looking like doo-doo because I read all my e-mail in plain text - I could retire. If you wouldn't turn your name or title bright red on your company letterhead - don't do it in e-mail.

DON'T close with your signature file reflecting anything but proper punctuation. Capitalize your name formally: John A. Smith, John Smith or John. Not typing your name formally with appropriate capitalization reflects a lack of education and busy savvy.

DON'T start using your sig file until you have verified, reviewed and double-checked that all the information is correct. Send yourself a couple e-mails and test your Web site link. I see signature files with errors every day! Sigs with errors can give the impression that you lack attention to detail.

Now to the Do's:

DO make sure that your signature file contains the basic info a recipient needs to contact you. No need to include your e-mail 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:

Thank you,
John A. Smith Widgets Sprockets

Web Site Address Here Slogan
Additional Information Here

Special Tip: You want to align your sig's text with spaces rather than 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 default width for most e-mail programs.

DO make sure that when you include your Web site address that you add the "http://" before your site's URL. In some e-mail programs and online applications without the http:// the program will not recognize the address as a link and it may not be clickable within your e-mail. One of the neato things about sig files is they allow you to have every e-mail be only one click away from your Web site. Don't miss this opportunity by forgetting the http:// .

DO have several signatures that you can switch dependent on tone or issue at hand. Sig files are an excellent way of setting a tone and directing the ongoing communication's priority or level of formality. Sincerely, Best, Regards, Respectfully 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 Judith versus Judi. 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 produce a different response 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. Don't use multiple exclamation marks or question marks.

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 or appropriate and it is the proper forum. Sigs are a great way to subtlety market to those you do not know. Keep in mind however, that 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 readers. That is one of the oldest tricks in the book and the other members will know what you are up to and may complain directly to you and/or the moderator. Credibility lost.

DO keep in mind that your signature file will naturally add to the perception of who you are, what you believe in, if you follow the rules and if you know how to use technology - or not. Quotes are fine and sometimes apropos depending on the conversation's 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 quotes are best left to personal e-mail. You also want to make sure to have all your e-mail basics covered by visiting: http://www.GetNetiquette.com.

So, there you have it. The basics you need to know to use signature files properly. Use these tips to build your own personal library of signature files. I have over 75! Always update and work on your signature files - there is always something new to say about yourself or your business!

About the Author:
Judith Kallos is an authoritative and good-humored Technology Muse who has been playing @ http://www.TheIStudio.com for over a decade. Check out her popular Technology Cheat Sheets @ http://www.LearnAndThrive.com

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