One of the first guidelines of business communication I ever learned was to respond in like kind. This means that if someone contacts you via phone, you reply with a phone call. If they contact via email, you send an email and so on and so forth. In the age of social media, this rule still holds true. If someone contacts you via Twitter or Facebook, then it's fine to reply via Twitter or Facebook.
Here are a couple of thoughts I have about this rule and how it ties in with new media:
1. If managing multiple inboxes is slowing you down, it is perfectly acceptable to reply to a Facebook or Twitter business inquiry and ask them to email you instead. I do this in order to keep all of my correspondence organized and in one place.
2. If someone contacts you via a private channel (email, Twitter DM, Facebook private messaging or through a phone call), ALWAYS assume that the information provided is privileged and confidential unless they note otherwise. It is not okay to publicly reply to an email or phone call on Twitter or Facebook and reveal information from those conversations. In this day and age of such open communication, it is still important to respect another company's or client's right to privacy.
This post was originally published in March 2010.