by Kristin Battista-Frazee, MSW
As you engage happily on social media, you might finally feel like you’re taking control of your brand, until you receive a Facebook friend request from your client. The ethical dilemmas are immediate, and hopefully you’re prepared when and if this happens. Here are four steps for managing your brand on social media while in clinical practice.
- First, develop your brand to clarify your best attributes, understand what to say to the right audience, and set goals for your purpose on social media. Once you have a handle on these aspects of your brand, it will make creating your online presence easier. Remember, there’s a difference between using social media as a communications tool and the strategy behind why you are on social media in the first place. Learn the difference.
- Next, rely on a social media policy, either one for a private practice or for an agency, to guide your online interaction with clients. This policy should detail best practices for ethical social media use, protect client confidentiality, and address a host of other issues. If you don’t have access to a policy, see the resources below on how to create and how to use one.
- With Steps #1 and #2 providing a good foundation, move forward in honing a strong brand presence and interacting online to meet your professional goals. Your use of social media is key to establishing your expertise, networking, and possibly gaining the trust of your future/current clients.
- Lastly, realize managing a balanced presence on social media, where you are supporting your career goals and protecting your clients and your own privacy, will be ongoing. If questions arise, rely on the NASW Code of Ethics, colleagues, and supervisors about how to address problems.
Kristin Battista-Frazee Periscope on 4 steps to manage brand
Kristin Battista-Frazee's Periscope broadcast on the 4 steps to manage your brand on social media while in clinical practice.
Why Manage My Social Media Presence While in Clinical Practice?
Our world has moved online and blurs the professional and personal. Also, a strong brand demands transparency and authenticity. Everything you read about personal branding says, “Get out there on social media,” but then often as a clinician, you might feel pulled back because your clients are online, too. The rules of online engagement are different for you than for other professionals. What you share and how you interact online can have an impact on your clinical work and your brand. It can be confusing for social workers to engage in our digital world, but with good strategies, you can make it work.
“Social media shouldn’t be a burden on you, or something you are forced to do,” said Jonathan Singer, Ph.D., LCSW, founder of The Social Work Podcast and Associate Professor at Loyola University Chicago.
Luckily, there are resources to guide your branding and social media journey while in clinical practice, such as the NASW Code of Ethics, technology briefs, and experts in the space. See the below links.
Discussion about the Resources
Social Media Policy. Either at an agency or small private practice, there should be a policy that guides your social media activities. Many big corporations have a policy that states what is and is not acceptable for employees to share online and what’s expected in terms of conduct. In clinical practice, it goes beyond conduct but becomes about protecting confidentiality and other ethical and practice concerns. Dr. Keeley Kolmes has pioneered the social media policy for clinical practice. Check out her social media policy. Dr. Jonathan Singer recommends “thinking about the social media policy as something that clarifies what to do and not do. Also, this policy becomes a clinical tool and part of the initial intake, as well as ongoing guidance throughout the clinical relationship.”
A Word about Social Media Interaction with Clients. Clarifying and setting boundaries and expectations with your clients about your engagement with them on social media protects your therapeutic relationship. This also gives clients a clear understanding that by following or friending you on social media, it compromises their confidentiality. Additionally, as a part of informed consent, including details about if and how social media or Google searches might be used and documented provides client up-front knowledge they need and guidance for you. Check out The NASW Code of Ethics; 1.06(c) Conflicts of Interest, 1.03 Informed Consent, 1.07 Privacy and Confidentiality.
Creating personal profiles. There are ways to use social media for personal uses only, and profiles can be created with locked down privacy settings, or closed groups can be set up to interact with friends and family. Remember, though, that privacy settings are never a guarantee. For ultimate privacy, don’t post things that you absolutely don’t want visible to anyone.
How we utilize social media takes an extra layer of planning and thought. The push for digital literacy has transformed our culture. It’s no longer a question of if we will use social media, but how and in what way is most effective and ethical.
Submit Your Question or Brand. We want to include your input and incorporate your questions about social worker personal branding.
Special thanks to Jonathan Singer, Ph.D., LCSW, Founder of The Social Work Podcast and Associate Professor at Loyola University Chicago, and to Dawn Hobdy, Director of Ethics and Professional Review at NASW for recommending some of these great resources.
- Social Media, Digital Activism, and eCitizenship, Jimmy Young, Ph.D., Social Work Professor, California State University, San Marcos, October 21, 2014.
- The Current Status of Social Media use among Nonprofit Human Service Organizations: An Exploratory Study, 2012, Jimmy Young, Ph.D., Social Work Professor California State University, San Marcos.
- How to Build Trust with a Client Before the First Session, Dr. Julie Hanks, November 11, 2014.
- 8 Social Media and Technology Tips for Social Workers, Ethics 8 Series of NASW. (Requires log-in.)
- Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers, Revised 2008. Next revision to be approved by the Delegate Assembly at the next meeting scheduled for 2017 is to address ethical concerns around the use of technology and social media. For questions, contact Dawn Hobdy, director of Ethics and Professional Review at NASW, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice, ASWB International Technology Task Force, 2013-2014.
- NASW & ASWB Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice, 2005, to be updated in 2016.
- Your Informed Consent Form is Out of Date–You Just Don’t Know It Yet, November 5, 2012, Laura Lansrud-Lopez.
- Sample informed consent statement and social media policy from Dr. Keeley Kolmes. http://drkkolmes.com/.
- It’s ‘Better to Be Informed’ About Tech Tools: Social Media Is Playing a Prominent Role in Profession’s Future, NASW News, 2011, Matthew Malamud.
- Zur Institute, Continuing Education and Resources for Clinicians.