Rules of Engagement, Social Media Style

Now that even celebrities and journalists are jumping into social media — from Britney on Facebook to Anderson Cooper on Twitter — the adoption rate by previously skeptical organizations and individuals is skyrocketing.

But many are forgetting to look before leaping into the social media pool. Groundwork must be laid for any successful engagement online, and social media is no exception.

One of the first things any company or organization must develop (and it can be argued that this benefits individuals as well) is structure for that engagement. Rules, in fact.

“Whoah!” many of you are crying. “Social media is about conversation and authenticity. How can I do that if I have rules?”

OK, then. Let’s think of it another way. In the words of Captain Barbossa, erstwhile pilot of the Black Pearl, “It’s more what you might call guidelines.”

You should know what you’re trying to achieve in social media — and “you” here can mean one person, or a Fortune 500 company and all of its employees. And you should let participants know what they’re encouraged to do, and what they’re discouraged from doing. It may be “authentic” to post your drunken cocktail party photos to Facebook, but I think we all know by now that it’s not such a great idea.

Great examples of social media guidelines/rules of engagement are from companies who actively participate online are IBM ( and Intel ( Not only are they thorough, but they explain why certain behaviors are discouraged, and are enthusiastic about what they do want employees to do online.

Here at CDG Interactive, we’ve developed our own generic version of Rules of Engagement for guiding our clients in crafting their own. Our document includes an introduction to social media; a summary set of guidelines; a section on how to get started, including how to create accounts at the most popular channels; and recommendations of how to participate after joining.

  • Does your organization follow a set of guidelines for participation in social media?
  • What should such rules of engagement contain?
  • And what are your 5 biggest no-no’s? (After nekkid Facebook photos, of course.)

If you don’t have social media rules of engagement for your organization, CDG can help. Contact us to develop a document tailored to your needs, market and business.

Update, Feb. 15, 2010: Nearly a year later, there continues to be a significant need for companies and organizations to provide guidance to their employees on the use of social media. According to Manpower’s January 2010 report, “Social Networks vs. Management? Harness the Power of Social Media,” 75% of employers say they don’t have any type of social media policy. (You can download a PDF of the Manpower report for free here.)

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