As I’m listening to all of this talk about Osama Bin Laden, I’m hearing a certain phrase a lot. “Rules of Engagement.” I decided to look at how this phrase is actually defined, at least according to that treasure trove of data, Wikipedia.
In military or police operations, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where, and how force shall be used.
It occurs to me that Social Media doesn’t really have rules of engagement. Social Media is kind of like the flower child revolution. “We don’t need rules, man.” But we kind of do, don’t we?
It’s all well and good to say that we have “best practices” or guidelines, but as Social Media comes of age, it seems like there are more and more questions arising with fewer and fewer answers. This feeling that we aren’t doing things right, or that we can do something horribly wrong without knowing it – it’s kind of scary, isn’t it? It could even be enough to make someone gun-shy about getting started.
What kinds of rules of engagement could we use? Here are some questions that I think we would all love help answering.
When to engage
When is a person more than just a contact? What is that magical line between friend and someone you respect? When is asking someone to tweet out a post crossing the line? Is it ever?
When is it appropriate to joust with someone in a friendly way and when is it inappropriate?
When does joking cross the line into bullying?
When is it okay to defend yourself against a perceived attack?
When does someone’s inappropriate behavior become disconcerting enough to call the police?
When will Twitter help take appropriate action when someone uses their platform to engage with people in a harmful way?
Where to engage
If two big names are having a conversation, is it okay to jump in because you’ve tweeted with one of them before? Is it okay to jump into a conversation on Twitter regardless of who’s talking? Where is it appropriate to jump into the conversation?
Where is it appropriate to promote your posts? Are chats a good place to do that? Are conversations you see in general good places to drop in a post as additional info?
Where can you find people with the same interests and similar objectives? Where can you find the people who will help your business grow? Where can you avoid the people who may become detractors?
Where do you alert someone that you can’t respond to their DM because they aren’t following you? Where do you ask someone if they can follow you? Where do you alert someone to a typo in their post or in their tweet?
Where do you go if you feel you are being victimized by someone’s poor behavior? What is a safe zone online? Is there one?
How to engage
How do you get people to comment on your posts? How do you get people to respond to you when you are talking to them on Twitter?
How do you know if it’s time to get personal? How do you know when personal becomes “too much information?” How do you know if it’s okay to share information about someone else?
How can you balance your business with your personal presence online? How can you grow your business without appearing “spammy?”
How can you befriend people while also maintaining the objective of growing your business? How can you “give to get” without expecting to “get” too much back?
Maybe rules are impossible
Maybe it’s impossible to establish “rules” for scenarios like these. We all have different objectives, different personalities, and different rules of our own, right? But just imagine, for a moment, if there was a definite course of action to take if someone was treating you inappropriately online. Imagine, if you will, an online world where there were rules about when or whether you can promote your blog posts within a chat. The ambiguity would be erased. Certainty would be in place. People would no longer simmer and boil at offenses that other people might deem perfectly fine.
I don’t know, I’m thinking that could be really beneficial, especially for people just getting started. I would have loved to have been able to go to the “Twitter rule book” to find out answers to some of those questions when I was just getting started.
What do you think? Do we need rules for engagement for the online world? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
This is post #49 in the Engagement Series. If you’re worried about missing a post, please feel free to hit that subscribe button. Thank you!
Image by Robin Utracik. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/RobinUtrac