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Guidance on the use of social media

This page sets out how our standards relate to the use of social media, tips for using social networks effectively and answers to questions that we are frequently asked. These include what you can share, appropriate professional boundaries, and inappropriate or offensive material.

 

Guidance on the use of social media

 

1. Top tips

The following are some top tips for using social media in a way which meets our standards. Information about how to put these into practice is below.

  • 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.
  • Maintain appropriate professional boundaries if you communicate with colleagues, service users or carers. 
  • Do not post information which could identify a service user unless you have their  permission.
  • Do not post inappropriate or offensive material. Use your professional judgement in deciding whether to post or share something.
  • 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. You can also contact us if you are unsure about our standards. If you think something could be inappropriate or offensive, do not post it.
  • Keep on posting! 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.

2. How to use social media


  • Registrants have told us that using social media lets them:

    – develop and share their skills and knowledge;
    – help the public understand what they do;
    – network with other professionals nationally and internationally; and
    – raise the profile of their profession.

    Most registrants who use social media already do so responsibly, in line with our standards, and without any difficulties at all. However, we know that registrants sometimes have questions or concerns about using social media because they want to make sure that they always meet our standards. 


  • The standards of conduct, performance and ethics say:

    ‘You must use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites’ (2.7)

    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. 


  • Our standards of conduct, performance and ethics say:

    ‘You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession’ (9.1)

    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. 

    Our standards of conduct, performance and ethics say:

    ‘You must make sure that any promotional activities you are involved in are accurate and are not likely to mislead’ (9.3)

    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.


  • Our standards of conduct, performance and ethics say:

    ‘You must treat information about service users as confidential’ (5.1)

    When you post information about another person on social media, think about whether it is appropriate to share that information. If the information could allow a service user to be identified, you must not put it on a site without their permission. This information could include details about their personal life, health or circumstances, or images relating to their care.

    Even if you have the highest level of privacy settings, something you share online can quickly be copied and redistributed to a much wider audience. This means a post can stay in the public domain after you delete it. Try to stay up to date with any changes to the privacy settings of the social media you use. If you are unsure whether to post something, stop and get advice first from an experienced colleague, professional body or trade union.


  • Our standards of conduct, performance and ethics say:

    ‘You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional.’ (1.7)

    Some professionals find using social media a valuable way of communicating with service users and the public. However, social media can blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. It is just as important to maintain appropriate boundaries when using social media as it would be if you were communicating by any other method. You must always communicate with service users in a professional way. 

    You might decide to set up a separate professional account where you provide general
    information for service users and the public. If you are employed and plan to use this account to have direct contact with service users, you should first agree with your employer whether this is appropriate.

    Keep in mind that service users may still be able to find and contact you through your personal account. If this happens, we recommend that you refuse friend requests. If appropriate, say that you cannot mix social and professional relationships.

    If you want to follow up any contact you receive, consider using a more secure communication channel, such as your professional email account. If you include content relating to your professional role on a personal account or vice versa, think about whether you would be happy for these different audiences to see the material you post.
    Think carefully about what you share and who can see it.

About our guidance

We work on the principle of ‘professional self-regulation’. This means you have a personal responsibility to maintain and manage your own fitness to practise.

Our standards of conduct, performance and ethics set out the criteria that all our registrants must meet. Within them, our requirements are outlined. To help registrants meet these we’ve produced additional material.

Read our standards of conduct, performance and ethics

Still have a question about meeting our standards?

For more information or clarification about our standards, please contact our Policy and Standards team.

Tel: 44 (0)20 7840 9815 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)

Email: policy@hcpc-uk.org

Page updated on: 29/06/2018
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