Use Gmail for Your Regular Email
"Hey, in the future, can you email me at my Futureforth.com address, not my old Gmail address? I hardly check it," said some guy whose name I won't reveal, except it rhymes with "Cave Delaney."
"You don't roll your emails into your Gmail account?" I said, a little stunned. I've known, uh, "Cave" Delaney for several years. "Cave" even has a Gmail account. But does he use his Gmail account?
Not very much. This is staggering to me, because as the former owner of a few dozen different email addresses and programs over the years, I'm convinced Google is one of the best options available to entrepreneurs and networkers. I've been a Gmail user since 2004 when you had to get invited to the beta test. I wrangled one from a friend, and have been using it ever since.
It also helps that Google owns Gmail, and all their services are linked to that address. Basically, if you own a Gmail address, you have a Google Photos account, YouTube, Blogger, Analytics, Drive, and even Google+ (if anyone still uses it). Go to any of those websites, log in with your Gmail address, and you've got a new photo account, video channel, blog, analytics account, and cloud-based hard drive.
Here are five other reasons you should use your Gmail account, uh, "Cave."
1. Gmail is the Default 'Upload Your Contacts' Provider for New Social Networks
You can easily upload your Gmail contact list to new social networks to see if any of your friends are already there. Those networks will look for their members based on their email addresses and connect you with them.
You can also sync your Gmail with your LinkedIn contacts to ensure you have complete information for both of them. First, import your Gmail contacts into LinkedIn and make connection requests to anyone you're not already connected with. (Make sure you clean it out of anyone who's not a professional connection first.)
A few days later, export your now-expanded LinkedIn contacts list to your hard drive, and upload that back to Gmail. Merge all the duplicates and update all the new contact information, and you have a rock-solid contact list. Do that every six months, and you'll have a strong professional network that exists in two places.
2. Gmail is Cross-Platform
I also like Gmail because it works on all platforms, has dedicated apps, and a web interface. I can use it on my phone, my tablet, and my laptop. It works on iPhone and Android, Galaxy and iPad, Apple and Windows.
I keep Gmail open on my laptop browser for hours because I'm constantly using it. But I can shut it down whenever I need to avoid being distracted. I've also shut off all notifications on my phone and my laptop so I don't get tempted to check my email whenever a new message shows up.
3. Gmail is Cloud-Based
I also like that my emails are kept in the cloud rather than on my computer. I know there's the problem of not having access if I don't have wifi, but you still have that problem if you use programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Apple Mail.
And if I open it on my phone, I'm looking at the same information and same read/unread emails. I don't have to worry about syncing my emails or getting weird duplicates.
It also means if people send you large files, they can live in the cloud rather than taking up space on your hard drive. And if your files are too big, they'll be moved over to Google Drive automatically, which also saves hard drive space.
4. Your Gmail Address is Permanent
If you've ever gotten an email address from your cable provider or a local ISP, or even one from your employer, you know how much of a hassle it can be whenever you move, get a new provider, or change jobs, and you have to update your email address in hundreds of locations.
I remember having to abandon a couple loyalty travel accounts with thousands of miles because I had used an email work address and was no longer at that company. That meant I couldn't get the recovery password, and nothing I could do would get it to me. But as long as I never delete my Gmail account, I'll have it no matter where I go.
5. You can Import Your Other Email Addresses
If you have an email address for your business — and you should! — you don't have to figure out how to push the emails from your domain name provider into your email client. Go to your Gmail Settings --> Accounts and Import --> Check mail from other accounts. Then follow the instructions and login with your email credentials from your domain name provider.
Do the same thing with Send Email As (Reply as) and Import mail from other accounts if you want to pull in your Hotmail, Yahoo mail, and AOL.
Once you set up Gmail as the "master account," you can send and receive email from your Gmail window/app, but make it look like you're using that other account. So even if you never use your Gmail address, you can still use your "work address" without anyone being the wiser.
I do the opposite though. I tell all my clients, "Look, I have a grownup email address, and if you prefer, I can email you from it. But just know that it's all coming through my Gmail anyway. So if you get a message from my Gmail address, it doesn't mean I'm not a professional. It means I am on my Gmail window constantly." I've never had anyone complain.
6. You Can Create 'Alternate' Email Addresses
Everyone has that email address they use to sign up for downloads they want, but don't want to end up on someone else's junk mail list. You can do that with Gmail too.
There are two ways you can change your Gmail address, but still receive all your messages. You can put a + sign after your name, or you can use periods within your name.
For example, email@example.com can have dots inserted between letters, and it won't change the address in Gmail's eyes. We could do firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or even firstname.lastname@example.org, and John will still receive his email.
Or, you can put a + after John's name, and then a short word about which email he signed up for, like johnsmith+ESPN@gmail.com. This way, John knows which newsletter he signed up for, and if he ever starts getting junk mail with "+ESPN" in it, he knows who sold his address, and he can create a filter to block all email that comes to johnsmith+ESPN@gmail.com.
Gmail is one of the best email providers I've ever used, and I'll never switch. I've had my address for 13 years, and most of my professional communication and personal branding is all based on what I've been able to do with Gmail and its related Google properties. If you're not using it now, you should be. And if you have it, but rarely use it — looking at you, "Cave" Delaney! — dust it off and get into the habit of using it, even if it's only to pull all your work emails into your Gmail window.
Epilogue: As it turns out, "Cave" has been using Google Apps — Google's business email — this entire time. And when he followed this advice, it broke a few dozen filters he had previously set up over the years. He managed to get them back under control, with lots of swearing and cursing my name. So the moral of the story is don't listen to Erik don't do this if you're already using Google Apps. Instead, bring your other emails into your Google Apps window.
Erik Deckers is the president and owner of Pro Blog Service, because he got tired of being told no by other employers. He is also the co-author of No Bullshit Social Media and Branding Yourself, which should see its third edition released in October. You can reach him at his name at gmail dot com. (Not actually "his name," but rather his real name.)