Instant messengers (IMs) are currently locked in a fierce battle to see who can provide users with the ability to create groups with the most people.
The trend isn’t surprising; group messages have become the go-to place for most people to catch up with friends, colleagues, and people with similar interests and even to know what’s going on in the world.
Billions of messages are shared daily across the most-used group communication platforms. Along with the ability to add hundreds and eventually thousands of people—if news of Meta’s plans for WhatsApp is to be believed—the group messaging apps have a variety of features, like group audio and video calls, screen sharing, file sharing, etc., that make them an unavoidable part of people’s routines.
Given that group messaging apps have become a source of unrestrained information flow from countless people, often unknowns, there is a very real possibility that their use may drain your productivity and well-being and even put you at risk of cyberattacks or not complying with workplace communication policy.
The non-negotiable rules for group messaging with a purpose
Undoubtedly, the do’s and don’ts of group messaging will vary a bit based on the demographic makeup of the group, the app in use, whether the communication is personal or business-related, the intent behind forming the group, etc., but these ten rules will be a great starting point for anyone looking to make the most out of their IM use.
1. Prioritize recordkeeping
The need to archive text messages can’t be overstated because everyone in the group knowing there is a recordkeeping mechanism in place will go a long way in reducing spam, misinformation, abusive messages, and even nonproductive chatter in the case of a workplace collaboration group chat.
Don’t rely on apps, like WhatsApp and Telegram to automatically back up messages on your phone. With features like disappearing messages and the ability to delete / edit messages becoming commonplace, it is essential to have a “single source of truth”, either in the form of an enterprise-grade network archiver for your company-wide use or an Android or iPhone app to safeguard your group messages. If you are in a heavily regulated industry, you may have regulator-mandated retention periods, so ensure your archiving solution can handle the requirement.
2. Implement a group-wide communication policy
This step is mission-critical especially if you are using group messengers for workplace communication. Nothing ensures communication compliance like a set of clear guidelines on what can be sent, how many messages can be sent per person in a day, what time is ideal for messaging in the group, and even what action will be taken on policy violators. Don’t hesitate to send out warnings in private or even remove people who are repeat offenders.
3. Have an active admin in place
Many group messaging apps have in place safeguards to automatically identify and delete harmful content, but a lot of it still gets through, which is where the role of admin comes in. Have someone manage the group, actively going through the messages to weed out non-compliance with the communication policy. You can even have multiple admins keeping the group messages from breaking down into chaos, especially for large groups.
4. Don’t add unknown people to your group
While it can be gratifying to see a lot of engagement with your message in a group, you might be downplaying the dangers of having outsiders access your group chats. Malicious individuals could message group members, who could be lulled into a false sense of safety because they are part of the same group, and take advantage of them. This could involve anything from sending spam to harmful malware that could compromise sensitive information. So, ensure that everyone in the group knows everyone as far as possible. It is also worth noting that you need to get people’s consent before adding them even if it is someone you know.
5. Don’t have two-person conversations in the group
It is quite common to see two people having long conversations in the group, with everyone else watching or even oblivious to what’s going on. If you are engaged in a conversation in an instant messenger with another person in a group, consider taking it off-thread. Having a back-and-forth that’s unconnected to the others can be quite distracting, and you could even be posting things that needn’t be said in front of others.
6. Don’t add to the chaos
Be on the lookout for pointless messages in the group. No one wants their phones buzzing all day with hundreds of good mornings, good afternoons, and good nights or anything else sent as a formality in large numbers.
Apart from such messages, there will also be instances where people forward random messages that don’t fit the theme of the group. Several IMs have limited the number of forwards per message to prevent this exact thing, but admins still need to tell people to not send out such messages.
Other than empty forwards and mindless wishes, group chats can also blow up with no one being able to get their point across if needless arguments or conversations that aren’t supposed to be happening in the group break out. For instance, a team’s chat can be filled in seconds if there’s a football game going on and someone starts talking about it. Arguments breaking out or even planning events or trips can go out of control in groups meant for work or other purposes if the admin isn’t paying attention.
7. Be careful with visual medium
Whether there is good or bad news posted on a group chat, it is common to see group messengers fill up with emojis, GIFs, etc., which could spell trouble because of their ambiguous nature.
8. Be courteous
Group messaging etiquette goes a long way in creating a pleasant atmosphere. Being polite in the group chat involves posting things in the group that aren’t divisive, informing people before leaving the conversation, being mindful of everyone’s time zones while messaging, and not escalating any disagreement that may take place.
9. Participate in the group
You don’t have to respond to every message or stay up until everyone else has left the conversation, but you need to make an effort to engage with others in the group. Respond when you are asked something, react positively to others’ opinions, and you can even take the initiative to start conversations. This will influence others to take part in the activities and also make newcomers feel comfortable.
10. Leave groups that don’t align with your goals or interests
Group message boards are notorious for filling up with countless notifications. If you don’t feel like you’re gaining value, consider leaving the group. Doing so will spare you the trouble of having to deal with waves of uninteresting messages. But if this is a group that you requested to join, consider letting the admin know before that you are leaving so you won’t make an abrupt exit.
Group messengers can be a potent way to send out information, catch up with people, stay informed, and even get entertained. However, participating in multiple groups without knowing what you are getting out of them or acting in the forums without restraint can cause you anxiety, kill your productivity, and even put you in danger of getting spammed or scammed. If you are using it for business purposes, mindlessly being a part of the avalanche of messages can inadvertently make you non-compliant with various company or industry policies. Being courteous, messaging in familiar groups, and enforcing communication policies will all keep you safe to an extent, but there’s no way to guarantee accountability in your group messaging without an archiver in place to record WhatsApp conversations, undertake Telegram recording, etc. To know more about how enterprises can securely and in a compliant way leverage group messaging, contact our team.
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