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Gartner Says Organizations Should Not Prevent Participation in Social Applications for Fear of Bad Behavior


Organizations Should Implement a Multilevel Approach to Polices for Effective Governance

STAMFORD, Conn., August 2008 - Organizations should not shun Web participation for a fear of bad behavior, but instead they should anticipate it as part of the social experience and formulate a multilevel approach to policies for effective governance, according to Gartner Inc.

Creating policies for social application participation is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and policies will vary based on the goals of the particular social application and on the characteristics of the participating community.

“Before creating policies for social application participation, organizations need to understand the purposes of participation in a social application and the trust model of the target community,” said Anthony Bradley, managing vice president at Gartner. “The trust model helps organizations to understand the characteristics of a particular community and its likely behaviors, which, in turn, illuminate the behavior opportunities and risks that influence participation in policy formation.”

Mr. Bradley advised companies to build a trust model for all significant and strategic participation in social applications in order to add value to subsequent policy formation. He said that a trust model should capture information such as a basic definition of community and its characteristics, potential positive behaviors and their likelihood, potential bad behaviors and their likelihood, sensitivity to certain behaviors, required freedoms, a trust assessment, the potential for self governance, and a framework for guiding rules and behaviors.

When it comes to formulating governance strategies for social sites, it is important not to focus too tightly on controls and restrictions and thereby to lose sight of the fundamental goals of building a thriving, self-sustaining community.

“Overly restrictive policies and controls can substantially inhibit community growth and can lead to the failure of the social application initiative,” said Nikos Drakos, research director at Gartner. “Managing an appropriate balance between freedom and control is crucial to community growth and maintenance, and must be tuned continuously.”

Organizations should create a general policy statement for expected online behavior, which should reflect established corporate policies on appropriate and ethical behavior, underscoring that company policy extends to online social interactions. Employees should be aware that if their profiles on public social networking sites identify them as employees of a company, then their postings can have an impact on the company’s reputation.

Organizations concerned about general public misbehavior, such as copyright infringement and inappropriate brand use, should compile a second set of relevant policies but be careful not to restrict freedom of speech and personal freedoms; such restriction could risk alienating established and potential customers. Mr. Drakos said that such policies require careful consideration and crafting, because they may need to stand up in legal proceedings and as such should be carefully vetted by an organization’s public relations, marketing and legal departments.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Establishing Policies for Social Application Participation.” The report is available on Gartner’s Web site at

Gartner analysts will further discuss the adoption and impact of web-oriented collaboration tools in the workplace at the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit taking place on September 10-11 in London; and September 17-19 in Los Angeles. The Summit will gather leading Gartner analysts to help delegates empower their teams and knowledge workers to make better decisions faster, improve their company’s productivity and strategies with collaboration tools that drive innovation and finally learn when and when not to introduce technology into team processes. The Summit examines workplace technologies such as portals, content management, communications tools, Web communities, Web conferencing, e-mail management and collaboration support technologies and how these technologies can raise overall organizational productivity and employee impact. For complete event details for the Summit in London, please visit For event details for the Summit in Los Angeles, please visit


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