The dos and don’ts of social media

Venting your angst on a very public forum is not professional. What happens in your practice should stay in your practice

18 December, 2018 / management
 Susie Anderson Sharkey  

The Oxford English Dictionary (2016) defines social media as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”.

We have read a lot about the pitfalls of social media, about what is/is not appropriate to say on a social media platform, but I am still surprised at some of the things I read in forums from professionals who are ‘supposed to know better’. As King Solomon of old said: “There is no new thing under the sun.” While you may not read any new concepts in this article (quite simply because there aren’t any), my hope is that this will cause you to ponder again how you present yourself and your profession on the social media setting.

Every business nowadays has a policy in place regarding social media, which may state something like “work-related matters must not be placed on any social media site at any time either during or outside of working hours and includes access via any computer equipment, mobile phone or PDA” (taken directly from my own staff handbook).

However, with the rise of social networking forums where work-related matters are frequently discussed, we need to look again at these sites and be careful we are not breaching company policy whereby either a member of staff or a patient could be identified or the company may be in some way undermined.

I came across a dental forum recently where a member of staff was all but named, and certain words were used where the individual could be very easily identified. After I commented on the fact that the discussion had moved from being professional to personal, comments to the thread were switched off.

As a practice manager, I am a professional working in a professional industry, and I owe it to myself, my colleagues and my practice to present myself in a professional manner, no matter how frustrated I may sometimes feel. Venting my angst on a social media forum is not, and will never be, a professional way of dealing with a problem in my practice. What happens in your practice should stay in your practice, not brought out into a public forum. The social networking forums are there to help one another in the industry, and many of them serve a very worthwhile cause. It also helps to build relationships with colleagues and build a support network, which is all very positive and beneficial. As a practice manager it is easy to feel isolated, and most people will agree that the social networking business forums go a fair way in helping to ease that feeling of isolation. But we need to be aware that there are boundaries that must not be overstepped and we must keep our comments and questions professional and relevant at all times.

We must also be aware that commenting as a private individual and posting photos or other content as a private individual may also have repercussions for our practice. We need to think twice or even three times before we say anything of a controversial nature on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of the other popular social network settings, and how it may impact on our work setting.

In our practice handbook, we have a section regarding behaviour outside of work that states: “Activities that result in adverse publicity to ourselves, or which cause us to lose faith in your integrity, may give us grounds for your dismissal.” This includes, although is not exclusive to, how we conduct ourselves on social media sites, and we must make it very clear that any statements made are entirely our own thoughts and do not necessarily reflect our working situation.

However, rather than having to use a disclaimer before we spout forth on social media, perhaps we should take a few minutes to think about whether it’s really necessary to ‘spout forth’ at all! We do each have our own views on life, in fact it’s what makes life so varied and interesting, but we do have to think carefully about how our words and actions are impacting our work situation and our colleagues.

Once again I am only scratching the surface of what is a vast topic, and I realise I have only drawn attention to a tiny portion in the subject that is social media.

But to summarise this short article on the dos and don’ts of social media:

Do:

  • think about what you are going to post before you post it
  • know the policies in your staff handbook and how your statement will impact your work
  • use a disclaimer
  • remain professional.

Don’t:

  • use social media as a place to vent your own frustration
  • identify either patients or staff
  • say or do anything that would bring your practice into disrepute.

And on that note, happy networking!


“Perhaps we should take a few minutes to think about whether it’s really necessary to ‘spout forth’”


If you wish to contact Susie about this article or other practice management issues she can be reached at susie@dentalfx.co.uk

Tags: / what to do

Categories: Magazine / Management

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