So you want to incorporate enterprise social software into company operations. Do you envision Emily Post-worthy standards of etiquette? Or will you let Emily post whatever she wants? 

Whether you’ve considered this thoughtfully — or not at all — a well-crafted social netiquette plan can deepen dialogue and advance business objectives. Drafting a governance plan and investing key departments in the process will help you create a structure that’s solid and institutionally supported. 

Provide Freedom Within a Framework

Contrary as it sounds, open communication needs a framework to function effectively. All technology initiatives require governance, and social software is no different. The structure established by enterprises like McDonald’s is “freedom within a framework.” 

Draft guidelines that are approachable and appropriate. The resulting dialogue will be fresh and respectful of personal freedoms. 

Develop an Acceptable Use Policy

If you fear employee coups in the comments section, don’t let this keep you up at night. Develop an acceptable use policy (AUP) from the outset. You may need to involve legal, compliance or HR in this process, but it’ll be worth it. Your AUP will educate employees about which tools to use and when to use them. Address questions such as:

  • What's the right channel for me to express an opinion?
  • When should I use email instead of IM?
  • What’s proper commenting etiquette?

As the maven of modern manners, Emily Post believed that all etiquette books should begin with the words, “Keep your hands to yourself.” So go ahead and state the obvious: 

  • Respect people’s privacy
  • Attack the idea, not the person
  • Treat others the way you wish to be treated 

These are behavioral norms worth repeating (and monitoring). 

Learning Opportunities

Make HR Your Rollout Resource

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Social software, as a medium, raises legitimate questions about privacy, union rules, employee contracts and evaluations. Teaming up with HR early on isn’t a courtesy, it’s a necessity. For starters, HR can help you determine whether a “social computing competency” is appropriate for some (or all) job descriptions. If you expect an employee to edit a company blog or answer questions on an internal social network, HR may need to tweak a job description or hiring requirements. 

As the PR partner in your corner, HR can emphasize social software’s attributes to the team. Once employees understand how the software can improve their projects and career networks, buy in is bound to happen. 

Keep IT in the Know

Make IT your wingman in the process. On a basic level, you’ll need them to connect any SaaS-based service to your enterprise identity management system. If you’re afraid that IT will shoot down your strategy, you’re probably mistaken. In fact, most IT decision-makers have used social software for some time, and are knowledgeable about their capabilities. But don’t be surprised if they ask tough questions about the performance, longevity or security of the system (it is, after all, their job). And in a discovery or regulatory episode, it’s essential that they’re in the know. Authorities will assume that IT can produce all company information. Cover your colleagues and yourself: involve IT in your initiative. 

Creating a social netiquette strategy isn’t merely political, it’s practical. Give your initiative the framework, legitimacy and institutional support it deserves. Go forth and collaborate. 

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