Social networking policies for team members (Proceedings)

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Social networking policies for team members (Proceedings)

May 01, 2011

Social media is a quickly changing and ever-evolving area of the Internet that many practices are embracing in order to market more effectively, and to connect and build stronger relationships with their clients. This area is growing within veterinary medicine so quickly that many practices have no policies, protocols or written directions in place for their teams to follow or look to for guidance. This can result in disastrous consequences, even in the most well-meaning circumstances.

Practice owners need to have a good idea of the image they want their practice to portray, and this needs to be communicated to their Practice Manager and other members of the team so the message can be consistent. Are you formal and professional, or laid-back and neighborly? Do you want your practice to be "the client education resource" to your clients, or is "being their friendly neighborhood veterinarian" more important? These things must be determined before you can implement any marketing training with your team.

The first step in developing your Internet and Social Media policy should be to determine what websites are "approved" to use at work. There are many, many valuable resources on the Internet, but there are just as many that might lead your staff in the wrong direction. You should spend time exploring the resources that are relative to veterinary medicine and check them out yourself, developing a list for your team to use. If you want to empower your staff to serve your clients to the best of your ability, you need to empower them to utilize these vital online resources. Pair this approved list with internal training at a staff meeting, and you should feel comfortable in knowing staff are going to the best online resources to assist your clients. Encourage your staff to submit new websites they might come across, for review to the approved list. This will demonstrate your trust in your team, as well as include them in the decision-making process. If you decide to reject a suggestion for the approved list, be sure to explain to your team why a particular website did not pass your screening criteria. This will avoid any ill will or feelings that management or ownership are not listening.

Once you have compiled your list of approved websites, use a staff meeting to cover the uses of each site. You can demonstrate using a projector and screen or by gathering around a few computers and exploring the sites together. Be sure to include a variety of sites that can assist your team in the following:
     • Finding the correct navigational directions for clients
     • Online local phone directory
     • Your practice's website
     • Your practice's online pharmacy, if you maintain one
     • Veterinary association websites that support veterinarians, as well as practice managers
     • Any online continuing education resources you feel your team should or could participate in to further their professional knowledge and abilities
     • Any website you feel meets the criteria for properly answering general animal health questions
     • Any website you feel is appropriate for keeping your staff up-to-date on breaking news in the veterinary industry


Employee online social media policy
The next step in developing your Internet and Social Media policy is in writing your practice's employee policy with regards to social media. Here is an example of one such policy:

This is merely one example of a social media policy that can be used in veterinary practices. You should determine what is best for your practice and team, as far as restrictions and limitations for your policy.

When creating a written social media policy, it is important to define specifically what the practice views as social media and social media tools. Listing "personal electronics and mobile devices" is extremely important, as many team members might think that as long as they aren't using the practice's computers, they don't fall under your guidelines while at work. Social media is easily accessible today with the use of not only cellular telephone and Smartphone devices, but also many mp3 players and personal electronic devices can also access social media through applications, independent of logging in on a computer.

It is also extremely important to outline the division between personal and professional expressions when using social media. Team members need guidelines they can follow, that are clear and concise in order to succeed. In most cases you will have three distinct camps of employees when you cover this social media policy:
     1. Team members who may feel it is their right to vent their personal frustrations about their job, those they work with, or even use the practice name in a negative manner when they are "off the clock"
     2. Team members who are so proud of what they do, and where they work that in their zealousness may use your practice's name online, linking to inappropriate personal information and sites unintentionally
     3. Team members who have no idea why we need a social media policy as it doesn't apply to them because they don't use social media.... Yet.