By Danielle Lambert

Having a social media policy for your veterinary hospital and managing employees’ behavior on social platforms terrifies a lot of practice managers. I don’t blame them! Social media puts our veterinary clinics – and the people who work for us – right out in front of the public eye. veterinary social media policy for employees

Managing a veterinary clinic in the age of social media can be scary, but I only see it become an issue when you are not prepared. I’ve broken it down into 3 key points to make it a little less daunting.

1) Actually HAVE social media policies in place at your veterinary practice!

I’m pretty fun and easy-going. When it comes to management, however, you’ve got to set ground rules. I recommend ensuring that your animal hospital has social media policies and agreements in place that cover a few key points.

Make sure your veterinary hospital’s social media policy covers:

  • How you obtain consent to share patient photos/videos, and where they can be shared
  • Whether or not you can share photos/videos of your employees on your hospital’s social media
  • How social media may or may not be used during the workday
  • Expectations for social media behavior outside of the workplace

Use existing policies to guide you:

If you’re a member of the Veterinary Hospital Managers’ Association, check their forums for great manager-reviewed policies. Outside of the veterinary world, check out how Intel gives their employees guidelines on social media behavior.

Three important things to remember with policies: Keep it short and sweet, get a lawyer’s approval and review policies periodically with your staff.

[RELATED: 5 Must-Have Social Media Tools for Your Veterinary Hospital]

2) “Because I said so” doesn’t make policies stick…

As veterinary practice managers, it is easy to adopt a “because I said so” mentality with policies. That is NOT going to work when it comes to something like social media.

Veterinary team members use social media during their free time, and they are not going to take kindly to you bossing them around about it veterinary team social media policy tips.

It is also easy to assume that, because we wrote policies, our staff reads them. Trust me – even if they signed a document saying they read something – they likely didn’t. I’ve already mentioned it, but review policies frequently!

In addition to creating and reviewing policies, realize that it is critical to explain WHY veterinary team social media policies are important.

Some key points to highlight are: Preserving your client’s need for confidentiality, maintaining a quality online reputation, acting as professionally online as we do in practice, etc.

If you do not wish for your veterinary team members to bash each other on social media, explain how those online interactions affect real life. This might seem like common sense. If you’ve been in management for any amount of time, you know that the existence of common sense can never be presumed.

3) Empower your veterinary staff to use social media responsibly.

One of the most powerful things I ever did with my team was sit down with those who wanted help & showed them how to edit privacy settings on their various social media accounts.

Don’t want all of your vet tech’s party pics on display on Facebook for your clients? Show them how to edit the settings, if they’re comfortable with you doing so.

Turns out, most veterinary team members don’t want their lives exposed to your clients either. They just didn’t know that those pieces of their lives were public. (Who can blame them? Facebook changes their settings ALL OF THE TIME!)

It is so important to have this open dialogue surrounding social media so the members of your team feel empowered. Honest discussion resonates a lot more than, “You’re fired if you post that puppy’s photo to your Instagram. Why? Because it’s against our company policy that you signed, but never read.”

4) Recognize passion and skill!

Don’t let policies stifle creativity completely. I always think that there is room for improvement and change with policies, especially in the realm of social media.

Let’s use this example: You have a team member who is always breaking your cell phone usage policy to take photos of patients. To remedy this issue, you start by taking the proper disciplinary measures, advising her that her phone is to be left in the break room. This team member proves to be compliant with you, and she leaves her cell phone in the break room for a few weeks. Why not reward that behavior change by giving her a hospital iPad and empowering her to be the clinic photographer? veterinary social media policy for employees and staff

Giving that photo-fanatic an iPad to take photos with allows you to recognize that passion and skill they already were demonstrating. In an industry where support staff is not paid a very fancy amount, job satisfaction is key. Retaining a happy, productive team member costs a lot less than having to fire, re-hire and train.

As managers, I strongly believe we CANNOT just think that we always know best. It is important to listen to your team and change policies where you see fit. Since social media is an ever-changing medium, it is a policy that should be frequently reviewed and revised to best-fit your veterinary hospital’s current needs.

What policies have helped you?

Feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve done something unique with a social media policy at your veterinary hospital.

Disclaimer: A trusted attorney should always be consulted when developing any sort of staff policy for your veterinary hospital. This blog does not take the place of 1-on-1, individualized attention from a lawyer that is well-versed in employment law.

Have questions?