Behaviour Guidelines for Employees Working in Virtual Worlds


Gartner recently advised that by 2013 seventy percent of businesses will have guidelines for their staff’s activities within virtual worlds. I’ve just completed a set of behaviour and dress guidelines for a company that has plans to work in Second Life. I’ve adapted them and thought I’d share:

Many of the guidelines that a company currently employs for social networking also apply in virtual worlds. If you need some help in establishing those then here are 40 examples that you can draw upon for inspiration. There are a few issues that are virtual world specific that require special attention, however.

Learn the tools

While any interface requires some time to learn, virtual worlds usually have a sharp learning curve. While it may be possible to wing it on Twitter or Facebook virtual worlds are a different kettle of fish and frankly, nothing says n00b like an avatar that can’t walk in a straight line or know how to sit or otherwise interact with the virtual world. It looks and is unprofessional. It is as harmful as blink tags or animated gifs on your company’s website.

So take the time to learn and experiment. Not just how to operate your avatar but also various social etiquettes involved. Virtual worlds tend to be social microcosms and failing to learn the particular niceties can affect how your company is perceived in-world.

Managers: give your staff the training they need and time to master these new business tools. Encourage them to teach and to collaborate with others. Also provide them with the computing power they need. Don’t expect them to have to work from a 5yo laptop. It may be fine for their everyday work but if their avatars stagger rather than walk then they need a system upgrade.

Dress the part

Very few companies would endorse their reps attending a business meeting with a new client attired in a sloganed t-shirt and jeans. However I see this all the time in the virtual world. As I wrote last year first impressions matter. While that doesn’t mean you should only dress in a suit, it does mean that you should dress your avatar appropriately for the situation. When in doubt err on the side of caution.

Avoid Red Lights

Some virtual worlds like Second Life have red light districts – places of adult entertainment. Unless they have a work-related reason to be there employees should avoid adults-only locations. This goes doubly if they are attired in company logos or have a company cognomen.

Separate Identities

Ideally, employees should be encouraged to have separate work and play avatars. This minimises any issues with their out-of-work in-world play. It also separates their work and play in-world bank balances. Even then employees should act responsibly when using their alternative avatars.

Just as in the real world, when in the virtual world you represent the company. Feel free to engage, collaborate, share and learn in these new online environments, but do so responsibly.

About the Author: skribe

Based in Perth, Australia, Antonio Barimen (aka skribe) is a writer, digital media consultant and social media producer.

He is available to help you develop social marketing and digital media strategies, improving communication between staff, partners and suppliers or just increasing the number of fans on Facebook. He has developed successful digital and social media projects for clients including CBS, Evian, Procter & Gamble, Discovery Networks, Pernod Ricard and American Express.

Connect with him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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Post Under Advice, Business, virtual worlds October 13, 2009
  • Ryu Darragh

    Agreed, Skribe. Too many businesses go into virtual worlds with no idea what they are there for and no idea how they should present themselves.

    And, once they *are* inworld and are trying to promote whatever activity they are there for, *then* they come up with all the ancillary details, like attire, behaviour and training of staff.

    That was, and still is, the problem for ABC.

    All too often, the best resource for helping corporations get into the game are inworld, but the resources actually tapped are those hanging around the watercooler and the fuzz faced kids fresh from the world of “gaming”.

    I’d advise the “powers that be” in a company contemplating working inworld in a virtual community to go make friends in communities with well run setups and ask *them* how they do it.

    Nothing hurts a corporate image worse than preventable ignorance.

    • No, the problem with the ABC is that it still hasn’t found a reason to be in Second Life. I suspect that like BigPond the ABC will soon make an announcement about their abandoning the platform.

      • Ryu Darragh

        That’s part of what I said in agreeing with your article, Skribe 🙂

        And, sadly, you may be right about their abandoning the effort. Won’t do away with folks from down unda coming into SL, but it will shine a little less brightly.