Social Media Policy
Purpose of the Guidelines
The aim of these guidelines is to help:
- Protect and support staff / students acting on behalf of the organisation contributing to, and engaging with, social media
- Encourage good practice and consistency across the organisation’s online activities
- Promote the effective use of social media
- Protect the reputation of the organisation, its staff, students and partner organisations
- Protect patients.
‘The organisation’ refers to ABDO College.
Scope of the Guidelines
These social media guidelines are aimed at staff and students who use, or intend to use, social media as part of their work on behalf of the organisation. These guidelines also apply to staff and students’ personal use of social media in and out of working hours where their comments could be taken to reflect on the organisation. This could include handling student queries, promoting ABDO College events, updates on organisational news, communication between staff and/ or between students.
This does not cover personal use of social media, such as communicating with friends and family.
Social media, where people network, comment and share online, is a now a part of everyday life. According to the ONS, the internet was used daily or almost daily by 82% of adults (41.8 million) in Great Britain in 2016, compared with 78% (39.3 million) in 2015 and 35% (16.2 million) in 2006. 89% of households in Great Britain (23.7 million) had internet access, an increase from 86% in 2015 and 57% in 2006. Per the most recent data, 63% of adults use the internet for social media. 51% of adult internet users have used it to look for health information.
Despite the opportunities presented by social media, there are risks. Social media allows individuals to communicate with a potentially huge audience. Unlike traditional media it is all about two‐way communication, with immediate publication of comments, and debates can become heated. Its informality can encourage us to be less cautious than we would be using other more traditional methods of communicating and interacting.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are all examples of social media. For the purposes of this policy we do not include email.
These guidelines fit within:
- GOC standards
- ABDO professional conduct advice and guidelines
General Optical Council ‐ Codes of Conduct
The General Optical Council (GOC) Codes of Conduct (ii) apply to online activity and communication just as much as to face‐to‐face contact.
Social media is specifically mentioned in the following points, where registrants should:
“14.3 Maintain confidentiality when communicating publicly, including speaking to or writing in the media, or writing online including on social media.”
“17.2 Ensure your conduct in the online environment, particularly in relation to social media, whether or not connected to your professional practice, does not damage public confidence in you or your profession.”
Beyond that, several of the standards Code of Conduct for Individual Registrants are particularly relevant to professionalism in the virtual world: 2, 3, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, as follows
As an optometrist or dispensing optician you must:
2. Communicate effectively with your patients
3. Obtain valid consent
11. Protect and safeguard patients, colleagues and others from harm
12. Ensure a safe environment for your patients
14. Maintain confidentiality and respect your patients’ privacy
15. Maintain appropriate boundaries with others
16. Be honest and trustworthy
17. Do not damage the reputation of your profession through your conduct
Registrants should download the standards and consider how each point reflects on social media
The Code of Conduct for Business Registrants (iii) contains the following key provisions:
2. Require as a condition of employment or engagement that those individual registrants currently employed or otherwise engaged to provide optical services comply with the GOC’s Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians or the Standards for Optical Students;
3. Not knowingly act in a way which might contribute to or cause a breach of the Code of Conduct for Individual Registrants by any individual registrant employed or otherwise engaged by it to provide optical services;
6. Respect and protect confidential information for both patients and employees in accordance with current legislation;
8. Provide mechanisms to enable those that work for or are otherwise engaged by the business registrant to raise concerns about risks to patients;
10. Ensure that the criteria enshrined in this code are applied as may be appropriate to registered medical practitioners in relation to the GMC and any other relevant codes and guidance.
Business registrants should download the standards and consider how each point reflects on social media use.
Association of British Dispensing Opticians – Advice and Guidelines on Professional Conduct
The first paragraph of the ABDO Professional Conduct guidelines lay a good foundation for approaching social media as an optician:
1.1.1 Dispensing opticians shall always place the welfare of the public, who require their professional services, before all other considerations. They shall behave in a proper manner towards their patients, the GOC, ABDO and professional colleagues and shall not bring them or the profession into disrepute. They must maintain a high standard of behaviour, integrity and competence, bringing to bear all their knowledge, skill and expertise in serving the public. Dispensing opticians should be aware that conviction for any non‐optical offence may cause them to appear before the GOC for bringing the profession into disrepute, and subsequently be reported to ABDO.
Staff and students should also study section 1.11 Professional Publicity and 1.12 Media Relations to guide their use of social media.