Essential Rules of Instant Messaging for Business

Instant Messaging Tips for Business


With the help of technology and the growing digital transformation across all industries, it’s no wonder that companies are now implementing a wide array of communication tools. Whether they are customer or employee-oriented, these outlets help people stay connected and engaged. However, each demands a unique set of rules and expectation management, so that companies can avoid employee misconduct, misunderstandings, and even lawsuits. 

From legal liability to basic common etiquette, instant messaging is a particularly sensitive way of interaction. It leverages emoticons, voice messages, video calls, as well as basic chat, so it provides all kinds of opportunities both for employees to make mistakes and to bond with the people on the other end of the line. Establishing those rules for communicating through instant messages is vital for protecting your reputation and for sending the right messages about your business – here are a few to keep in mind. 

Timing Is Everything With Messaging

As companies and employees are adjusting to the new normal and remote work at the same time, some are fairing better than the rest. In terms of instant messages, some teams, supervisors, and some employees have less awareness in terms of boundaries that were once obvious when they worked from an office. Now that people work from home, many treat IM as another form of casual texting, leading them to message employees and other team members after hours.

Even though most have no ill intentions when doing that, it’s best for the people who are in charge, their immediate supervisors to set up clear boundaries with instant messaging apps. Make it part of your onboarding process for newcomers as well, so that they know what’s acceptable and what’s not in terms of timing their IM interactions.

Keep Business and Casual Separate

Unifying communications onto a single, seamless system is still possible when you keep your conversations about business and personal matters separate. For example, companies are quickly adopting VoIP-based communication tools to utilize all of their available features, from messaging, emailing, calling, all the way to analytics and video conferencing. 

As you switch to voice over internet protocol to enable internet-based phone calls and simplify the work of your support and sales teams, you can still encourage friendly interactions via messaging on the same platform. The important distinction should be to keep those conversations separate, so as to avoid sharing sensitive client data with those who are not involved in a project. So, you can set up different chat groups for casual conversations and employee bonding and interactions that are business-related. 

Set Clear Language Ground Rules

Since language permeates everything that you do as a business, it also reflects your values and your attitudes towards customers and employees alike. As such, your corporate language should have clear definitions of what is considered offensive, unacceptable, and what’s encouraged and consistent with your brand. 

Your employees actively create the language of your business, and how you treat their instant messaging habits will greatly shape your brand culture, too. Build a language rule book that will help cover your business from a legal perspective, but that will also help build a culture of mutual respect and appreciation.

Define Customer-Oriented Communication

Although some freedom is expected when coworkers exchange memes and funny cat clips via your IM software, you should be able to rely on those same employees to retain a professional attitude when interacting with your customers

Of course, that is not to say that humor and a casual take on communication are out of the question, especially if both are in line with your brand identity as being goofy, youthful, and casual by nature. It’s key, however, to clearly establish expectations and acceptable tone of voice when using your IM tools for customer interactions. 

Keep It Short and Purpose-Driven

IM exchanges are designed to be brief and effective, and to help employees get information quickly, or exchange suggestions. However, if you find that what you want to discuss calls for more than a quick reply, you might want to reconsider and perhaps use the email instead. The same depends on whom you are speaking to – if it’s your teammate, IM is often a good way to get things done quickly, but if you want to reach your superior, perhaps going through official channels is more prudent.

Another perk of IM is that different applications and software solutions intended for messaging will allow users to set up a status. It signifies whether someone is busy, online, or offline, and it helps people know when it’s appropriate to send a message. 

Communication via messaging can be both fun and still follow some basic rules to make sure everyone is respectful and transparent. Setting the tone of these interactions from the get-go will help you keep your employees on the right track when communicating their preferences as well as issues, but also when simply trying to build closer relationships with their team-mates. Instant messaging is an opportunity to establish a strong corporate culture and to give your employees a perfect space to bond – just make sure the foundation for such communication is healthy and clear to all involved.


About the Author:

Emma Worden is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a Marketing degree, she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant industry-related online publications and is both an executive editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University.

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