Experts Blog

Social Media Guidelines or The Resurgence of Netiquette

  • Philippe Surber

“Social Media Guidelines” are actually old wine in new bottles. But since more and more companies are arriving in the “Social Web”, good old “netiquette” [1. Netiquette is understood as (good) behaviour in virtual communication.] is more in demand than ever before. Digital Natives [2. A Digital Native is a person raised during a period in which digital technologies such as computers, the Internet, cell phones, and MP3s were already available. These include the age groups born from the late 1980s on.] were not necessarily spoon-fed the rules of behaviour during the World Wide Web’s first years.

Web 2.0: Social and candid

More and more people are expressing themselves on social-media platforms, privately and businesswise. They are active on Facebook, Xing, or Twitter, whereby the employer is often a fixed component of activities such as these. Thoughtless handling of e-mails, direct messages, Wikis, blogs and micro blogs or forums cannot only cause long-term harm to a company but also to a private person. Information on employers spread by employees is no longer private. They are permanently indexed in digital form by Google, Bing, and dozens of other search engines and thus made publicly accessible.

Guidelines 2.0

This development cannot be stopped. Although firewalls can control business access to Facebook, they cannot prevent subsequent online information given by employees.  Social media guidelines are therefore increasingly in demand.

it is usually easier for companies that regard the Web as an integral component of their communication – those shying away from the Internet like the devil from holy water have a harder time. The guidelines of Bayer and SAP for instance differ significantly in their design. While Bayer’s guidelines are penned in a condescending and lecturing manner, SAP would rather provide recommendations and suggestions to their employees. The blogger Thilo Specht has dealt with these differences in an article: “Guidelines want to affect certain behaviour and are always written for people. If the view of humanity is negative, guidelines will have more of a coercive nature. If the view of humanity is positive, the guidelines will support certain behaviourisms, which are already established and do not have a negative effect on individuals. This is made very clear in the specific case of Bayer’s and SAP’s Social Media Guidelines.”

Unic’s Guidelines

Unic also has guidelines for (social) Web contact.

Unic expressly permits the use of social networks and motivates employees to communicate on social media sites. We believe that communication positively influences our work and our knowledge and supports us in the development of relationships.

Our guidelines are limited to 7 points:

  1. Personal responsibility: You are personally responsible for your postings. Pay attention to what you leave behind on the web. Provide interesting, individual perspectives, stay respectful and polite.
  2. Openness: Identify yourself with your name and any function if the contents are connected to Unic. Make it clear that you are expressing your own opinion.
  3. Confidentiality: Respect confidential information regarding Unic (for example, information on the Intranet) and customers.
  4. Respect: Do not publish negative articles about the competition.
  5. Copyright: Respect copyright and specify quotes and image sources.
  6. Security: Check your security settings on social media platforms: who can see what?
  7. Never spam.

Social Media Guidelines in Europe

The number of international companies with social media policies is already large. The website Social Media Governance has compiled a list to that effect.  In German speaking countries, for instance, Daimler has published Comment Guidelines.