The use of external social media (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube) within organizations, including physicians’ offices, clinics and businesses providing medical services, for business purposes is increasing. It is highly recommended that all businesses develop a policy with respect to the use of social media both for business purposes (providing information and marketing) and for individual’s (physicians, employees and contractors) accessing social media from business computers.
Social media exposes a certain amount of information that can be visible to not only the intended target market, but also to ‘friends of friends’. While this exposure is a key mechanism driving value, it can also create inappropriate conduit for information to pass between personal and business contacts. Tools to establish barriers between personal and private networks and tools to centrally manage accounts are only beginning to emerge. IT or management involvement for security, privacy, and bandwidth concerns is of utmost importance.
Here is a suggested Social Media Policy Template to help set employee expectations and establish guidelines for appropriate use of these applications. The first section covers the scope of how Social Media can be used, the second section covers the terms under which employees and physicians may access social media sites. This template is an example of what a social media policy might look like. Change, delete, or add to the example as required for your medical practice, office or business.
There are several ways an organization can benefit from using external (public) social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Use this section to outline which ones apply to your organization. The following are examples of legitimate business usage of public social media:
- Building positive brand image: Organizations can use social media to promote a positive brand image. This is particularly important for organizations generally vulnerable to negative press or consumer discontent.
- Increasing mind share: Social media can reach large audiences at very low monetary cost, giving organizations another medium for promotion, increasing awareness of your organization/brand.
- Improving customer satisfaction: Customers that receive more timely and personal service in the medium that they prefer will be more satisfied.
- Gaining customer insights: Social media can be used to monitor public opinion about a company, its products and services, or its competitors.
- Increasing customer retention. Using social media builds affinity and loyalty since customers are engaged using a medium they prefer – something the organization needs to offer to remain competitive.
- Increasing revenue: Use of social media to create custom network applications (a.k.a. plug-ins) for product and brand promotion or integration with a company’s own online services.
- Customer acquisition: Use of social networks like LinkedIn for professional networking, such as maintaining academic contacts or maintaining contacts with members of professional or standards organizations that can lead to prospecting.
- Reducing cost of servicing customers: Use of social media to quickly and efficiently respond to customer service issues. The answer to the problem can be public, making it searchable by other customers that have the same request.
- Providing information to clients and prospective clients: Use of social medial networks to provide information that is applicable to a wide number of clients e.g. pain management techniques or questions about child immunization. Making answers to repeatedly asked questions public, and reduce the amount of time a physician spends answering routine questions, and allow for more patient-specific care.
This policy is not applicable to private social networks maintained entirely within the organization which are for employee use only, such as those available from Jive or Socialtext.
Terms and Conditions of Use
The following is an example policy and process for use of external social media by employees.
- One person in the office/organization will be designated to approve all requests for access to social media sites.
- All requests for employee use of external social media must be submitted to this person and must be pre-approved before access is established.
- Use of personal social media accounts and user IDs for company use is prohibited. As necessary, user IDs will be created on the targeted social media service using the employee’s corporate e-mail address and the initial account password will be communicated to the employee. The employee will receive an account activation e-mail directly from the social media service.
- Where access to public social media sites is currently blocked for all employees, this step is be necessary. When appropriate, access will be established for the applicable employees to the targeted social media site; making exceptions in firewall, proxy, or Web content filter rules as necessary.
- Use of company social media user IDs for personal use is prohibited. Examples of prohibited use of company User IDs include: downloading and installing plug-ins or helper applications such as those that try to access the company e-mail directory, joining groups using a company user ID for personal reasons or adding personal friends to an employee’s friends list.
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