Advice and Guides

Using social media can raise profile of social work

HCPC launches guidance on using social media for social workers

Published on 11th September 2017

Locum social workers can use social media to raise awareness about the profession, the Health and Care Professions Council has urged.

While social workers should adhere to their employer’s policy on using social media, there is no need to refrain from using social media. In fact, using social media can “help the public understand what you do” and “raise the profile of the profession”.

The HCPC’s guidance on social media, produced to provide advice to social workers who use social media, also states that using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms can enable social workers to network with other professionals nationally and internationally.

Social workers can also develop and share their skills and knowledge using social media, says the HCPC.

However, the regulator warns that social workers need to maintain appropriate professional boundaries if you communicate with colleagues, service users or carers.

“Do not post inappropriate or offensive material,” says the guidance. “Use your professional judgement in deciding whether to post or share something.”

Social workers should refrain from posting information which could identify a service user unless you have their permission, it adds.

The guidance also says:

•    Think before you post. Assume that what you post could be shared and read by anyone.

•    Think about who can see what you share and manage your privacy settings accordingly. Remember that privacy settings cannot guarantee that something you post will not be publicly visible.

•    If you are employed, follow your employer’s social media policy.

•    When in doubt, get advice. Appropriate sources might include experienced colleagues, trade unions and professional bodies.

The HCPC’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics say: ‘You must use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites’. The social media guidance highlights that when using social media, you should apply the same standards as you would when communicating in other ways.

Be polite and respectful, and avoid using language that others might reasonably consider to be inappropriate or offensive. Use your professional judgement in deciding whether to post or share something. Remember that comments or posts may be taken out of context, or made visible to a wider audience than originally intended.

The standards also say: ‘You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession’. This means you need to think about who can see what you share. Make sure you understand the privacy settings of each social media channel that you use. Even on a completely personal account, your employer, colleagues or service users may be able to see your posts or personal information. “It is best to assume that anything you post online will be visible to everyone,” says the guidance.

The standards also state that social workers should ensure that any promotional activities you are involved in are accurate and are not likely to mislead. The guidance states that if you use social media to advertise or share information related to your professional practice, you must make sure it is fair and true, as far as you know. You may choose to include a disclaimer on your profile that your views are your own, and that they do not represent the views of your employer or anyone who contracts your services, the regulator adds.

“Keep on posting!” the guidance concludes. “We know that many registrants find using social media beneficial and do so without any issues. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep on using it with confidence.”

Guidance on using social media

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