The use of social media is subject to the same ethical and professional standards as all other conduct of a member of the Dog Training profession. Individual dog trainers must ensure they abide by the professional practice rules and maintain professional relationships with clients and other members of the profession as described in the code of conduct.
Social networks are now commonplace in sales, marketing, and general business communications. Unfortunately, some people still don’t know how to use social media in the workplace without landing in hot water.
Here are the GODT rules, loosely adapted from IBM’s social networking policy with some additional common sense:
Social media is often designed to encourage informal communication and sharing of personal views and opinions. The nature of social media also often leads to a blurring of the distinction between public and private.
Although building personal relationships and creating a personal dimension to a profile may be a good thing, care is needed to ensure that appropriate standards are met, even in a more informal environment.
Defamation may be committed through comments made online, including through social media. Tone can be much harder to convey through text based communications, and what was meant as a joke may be treated more seriously.
Anonymity cannot be guaranteed, even when posting under a username, and members of the profession should always assume that comments may be traced back to them, and exercise appropriate discretion.
Issues around confidentiality should be carefully considered. Information made available by you to a small group in private can then be republished to a wider audience. Likewise, individuals should take care when forwarding or ‘re-tweeting’ information to understand in what context that information was sent to them, and whether it was intended for re-publication. Once information is committed to social media a large degree of control is lost.
Professional duties such as acting in the best interest of a client remain key issues when using social media, especially given the potentially large audience who may be able to see the information posted.
Other areas where members of the Dog Training profession have specific duties include the duty to maintain respectful and courteous relationships with clients and other members of the profession.
Some social media platforms will show content from friends and contacts within your own ‘stream’ – consideration should be given to how this external content could be perceived by employers and clients, and consideration given to settings to ensure all linked information within your pages is appropriate.
Linking to other members of the Dog Training profession should likewise be treated with common sense, and care should be taken to avoid inappropriate online communication, such as discussing a case or posting any other confidential information, and any potential or perceived conflict of interest.
It is worth remembering that even ‘direct messaging’ (private communication between two individuals) is not necessarily secure. It should also be noted that the internet allows information to be linked together, and that issues have arisen for professionals from that.
Finally make sure if you wish to comment or make a criticism of another that is relevant and valid and it is supported by evidence and not hearsay and would if challenged stand up in a court of law in the United Kingdom.