- "Hi Jane..." or ...
- "Hello subscribers ..."
Some writers prefer addressing the group as a group, simply because - they argue - they're actually "talking" to a group, not an individual, just as if they were standing in front and making a speech.
Others suggest that such an approach is colder, more impersonal. Also, since e-mail-merge technology is now easily available to automatically address each member of a group or email list by their first name or name they provided when they signed up for the newsletter, why not tap into the power of technology and get personal to create additional friendliness?
Whichever method you prefer, simply considering the issue and asking the question is time well spent. Often, like life, the best "answer" is rarely simple and straightforward. Much depends on your target readership and the kind of communication you're creating, whether written, spoken or presented.
However, natural sincerity goes a long way. Creating and fostering authenticity takes time: belief doesn't happen through the quick substitution of email placeholders for recipient names. Be patient and build your personal trust brand.
Which is best: Personal or Formal?
In general however, getting personal; using first names, addressing each reader individually using "you" more often is simply nicer than falling for the traps of using "he", "she", "they", and so on.
On this website, we use individual identification software routines and cookies to ensure that both visitors and members can enjoy a more personal web-based experience while logged in.
Sure, any experienced user knows that the software is actually addressing the subscriber or member. However, the essential point is, perceptive users know that we have thought about the issue and seek to do all we can to make their usage sessions more friendly. You can adopt that approach too.
When someone first visits InternetTIPS.com, we don't assume an over familiarity, we simply welcome whoever they are and ask each visitor to register. If a visitor chooses to subscribe, during registration, our website software asks each user how they would like to be addressed.
When our subscriber next logs in, she is welcomed either by first name or a preferred name they chose earlier. Clearly, "Welcome Jane" or "Welcome John", is much warmer than "Welcome Friend", "Welcome", or worse, simply saying nothing.
How to Determine Whether the Use of "Dear Friend" Should Be Avoided?
For US writers, here's a minor caution when using "Welcome Friend ..." in your communications that are aimed at or may include a UK and possibly a European audience. For some curious reason, the simple phrase "Welcome Friend ..." is often perceived by many people I've talked to "on this side of the pond", as "sleazy" or "foppish". I don't share that view even though I understand the reasons behind this minor dislike.
So just what is so risky with using "Dear Friend ..." on website pages and other documents that include UK and / or European users? Answer: perhaps the core reason is that in general the US is a culture within which service is valued highly.
Moreover, perhaps US-based audiences in general are more trusting.
When viewing television documentaries about airlines and airports in both the UK and USA, I have also been struck by the apparent high level of what can best be described as "a sincere willingness to help" often displayed from US airline staff, compared with procedures delivered by UK staff in similar situations.
Of course, I'm aware that US airline providers may modify their behavior in the knowledge that that they're part of a TV experience, and so what we see on Sky television programs like "Airline" or "Airport" may not offer a completely true picture. US airline companies may simply be better at marketing for television.
Nevertheless, from personal experience, I believe friendliness and a commitment to service appears to be almost second nature certainly among many small- and medium-sized US businesses and organizations.
However, many folks here in the UK and Europe are culturally more reserved than many folks from the USA, suspicious of strangers and therefore appear less friendly, until a bond is made. Perhaps that's why a UK visitor may react to the use of "Dear Friend" at the top of a web page with something like: "Don't call me your friend - until we are, maybe, if we get on!"
Key tip: so what is the answer? One remedy is to use personalization routines within your web design, as we do here at InternetTIPS.com. Then, you can avoid the entire issue and connect with users from a wide range of cultures with an almost universal friendliness.