But used without guidelines, it can hamper productivity, embarrass you and even jeopardize your company’s trade secrets.
Here are some pointers from Microsoft on how to craft IM use at your business:
-Don’t use IM to communicate confidential or sensitive information. If your business involves providing professional advice regarding stocks, finances, medicine or law, don’t do it through instant messaging … unless you want it to someday end up in the hands of your competitors. Because it could.
-Organize your contact lists to separate business and personal contacts. Eliminate the remote possibility that a social contact could be included in a business chat with a partner or customer. Make sure your employees do the same. -Restrict employees’ personal communications. Require that all IM messages generate new customers or revenue; relegate all personal chats to break times or prohibit them entirely.
-Remember that instant messages can come back to haunt you. Just like regular e-mail, IM communications can reside on the recipient’s server for years and years. So, don’t IM anything you wouldn’t want in writing.
-Don’t compromise your company’s liability or reputation. Statements that you or your employees make about other people, your company or other companies likely won’t land you in court. But they could damage your company’s reputation or credibility.
-Beware of viruses and related security risks. Learn more about the quality of your own firewall protection before deciding whether or not to restrict transferring files through IM.
-Prohibit employees from sharing personal information through IM. Because the text of your chat is relayed to a Web server en route to your contact, anyone on the connection can see personal information.
-Don’t confuse your contacts with a misleading user name or status. IM user names should be consistent throughout your company.