As microblogging solutions such as Yammer sweep across the corporate sector, a melting pot of social media veterans and newbies inevitably begins to boil.
And this is a wonderful thing. Loads of new people from disparate areas of the business communicating and collaborating with one other, usually for the first time ever? I’m all for it.
Having said that, many of the noobs have never microblogged before. Some don’t even have a Facebook account, let alone Twitter.
This in itself isn’t a problem. They don’t need to qualify to participate, and their views are just as valid as anyone else’s.
However, it probably means they don’t know the ground rules.
And this can be a problem, because it frequently distracts other participants, discourages other noobs from joining in, and generally makes the whole process of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing much less efficient than it otherwise could be.
So what is good practice?
Good practice is a subjective concept, but some universal principles have emerged over the years.
If we set aside the obvious – bullying, belligerence, condescendence, and generally being an a**hole – then we have what I call the 10 Commandments of Microblogging…
I. Thou shalt use a real profile photo.
It’s really important in the workplace – especially the virtual workplace – that we know what you look like. At the very least it signifies you’re proud to be a member of the team.
II. Thou shalt respect other people’s opinions.
You might not always agree with us, but that doesn’t make you right. Consider our contexts and circumstances before pulling on your Captain Correct lycra.
A subset of this commandment is: Thou shalt not put words in other people’s mouths. Be careful of how you respond to our messages. Be mindful of what we did – and more importantly, what we did not – say.
III. Thou shalt steer clear of politics and religion.
We don’t care what you do or don’t believe in. Nothing you say in this forum will change our minds.
IV. When linking to an article, thou shalt explain why it’s relevant.
We’re busy people. We won’t click a link just because you say it’s “fantastic”.
V. When praising someone, thou shalt describe the outcome.
Saying that one of your team members was “really helpful” is really nice. If you explain how and why it matters, you’ll encourage the rest of us to be really helpful too.
VI. When running a poll, thou shalt include all the options.
If our answers aren’t options, we won’t pick another one to humour you. We’ll just ignore the poll, and you’ll be left with skewed results.
(Hint: “None of the above” is often a get-out-of-jail-free card.)
VII. Thou shalt not post many messages in quick succession.
This is known as “flooding”, and it makes you look like a douche. If your messages are truly valuable, then spread them out over time so that we can digest them and formulate constructive responses.
VIII. Thou shalt create a group.
It’s great that you’re so passionate about medieval basket weaving, but you’re polluting our feed with irrelevance. Create a group and party like it’s 1399.
IX. If you appreciate someone’s message, thou shalt “like” it.
It’s called professional courtesy, and it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. It also shows your boss that you have a brain and you’re not afraid to use it.
X. Thou shalt answer questions like an angel.
If you don’t know the answer to one of our questions, refer it to someone who does. The point of an enterprise-wide microblog is that it generates value. If that value is not realised, then why would we bother coming back?
Of course, I’m not going to pretend that social media veterans role model these 10 Commandments like modern-day disciples.
We’re all human, and we stray across our lanes every once in a while – sometimes with good cause.
Nevertheless, I hope they provide some semblance of order that will extract the most out of our corporate communities.