As more people get online and communicate with one another on various social platforms, new rules of engagement and behavioral norms for businesses and Web users need to be set, observers noted.
According to Jonathan Andresen, director of product marketing for Asia-Pacific at Blue Coat, many businesses today are utilizing social networking sites as a marketing tool to build their brand awareness and develop brand loyalty for their clients.
The flip side is when access to social networking is allowed on the corporate network, this causes security and productivity issues, he added.
"There is now a need for companies to impose more control over the Internet, especially toward interactive Web sites such as Facebook and YouTube, while giving users and departments the ability to leverage the marketing and sales potential of using social networking sites for business," Andresen said.
With this in mind, ZDNet Asia spoke to Andresen and other insiders on the kinds of new online norms that need to be instituted in order to make the Internet a safer environment for all.
Users should be mindful of what they share on online social platforms and when they share, even as the volume of content shared via the Web has increased massively over the past five years, said a Google spokesperson.
This is because many online users are sharing content inappropriately today, she added. For example, employees may accidentally share photos of the party they had attended the night before during working hours, on a social media platform that their boss might be on, which might reflect badly on them, the spokesperson described.
"Share the right stuff with the right people at the right time," she said, and advised companies to come up with a set of social media rules for employees to comply with to eradicate the abovementioned scenarios.
The Google spokesperson went on to add that "curation" is another online norm that needs to be inculcated among today's users.
Elaborating, she said curation is the offline equivalent of "biting [one's] tongue when there is an urge to say something stupid", and saving such comments for the right audience.
"In real life, your friends don't actually know what you're thinking until you decide to say it [but] we also don't like friends who have diarrhea of the mouth, and I doubt things are different in the online social world," the spokesperson pointed out.
With this in mind, she advised companies not to blast their marketing message to every customer. Rather, they should customize each message according to the customer's interests to avoid oversharing content that the recipient might be loath to receive.
Don't communicate blindly
How companies interact with other businesses should be clearly differentiated from the way they engage consumers too, the Google spokesperson stated.
She explained that businesses and brands should embrace social networking sites to listen to their customers and reach out to them, but should refrain from treating other entities as if they were individual users and, similarly, not engage an individual customer as they would an organization.
Thus, companies need to "play by different rules on social networks", she stressed.
Calvin Siew, co-director of Omninfluence, pointed out though there is no "standard" way of interacting online and different industries would have different approaches and guidelines to help shape online conversations.
"Businesses should communicate or engage with customers in a way that's comfortable and works for them," he suggested.
Protect customer data
Another norm that companies need to observe would be more stringent data security practices, said Paul Ducklin, head of technology for Asia-Pacific at Sophos.
He mentioned in his e-mail that 2011 was the year for data leaks, pointing out to the amount of customer data stolen when companies such as Sony, Epsilon, Cyworld and Nate, had their systems breached by hackers.
"Any business which is collecting customer data must look after it properly," Ducklin said. "Customers should [only] choose to do business online with companies that have a good reputation for doing the right thing with their customer data."