Ethical Considerations and Professionalism
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:
- DON’T provide confidential or other proprietary information. If there’s any question in your mind, err on the side of keeping silent.
- DO be mindful that whatever you publish will be public for a long time, possibly for your entire dog training career.
- DON’T violate copyright, fair use, or financial disclosure laws. When you quote somebody, (another dog trainer or commentator) link back to the source if possible.
- Never post when you’re overly-tired, jet lagged, intoxicated, angry or upset.
- DO make certain that your online profiles and related content are consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues and clients and the dog training world.
- DON’T assume that posting anonymously will keep your true identity secret if you publish inappropriate comments and content.
- DO take personal responsibility for the content that you publish on blogs, wikis, or any other public forum.
- Compose your posts, updates or tweets in a word processing document so you can check grammar and spelling before you send them.
- DON’T forget that your business brand is represented by its people and what you publish will inevitably reflect on that brand.
- Use a different profile or account for your personal connections. Business and pleasure do not mix in this medium.
- DO your best to add value by providing worthwhile information and perspective rather than mere opinion and bluster.
- DO show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for sensitivities that may exist concerning politics and dog training/behaviour especially if it can not be lawfully supported (evidenced)
- DON’T use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any online conduct that would not be acceptable at work.
- Offer information of value. Don’t talk just about yourself and your company.
- Pick a screen name that represents you and your company well. Don’t call yourself ‘do dar doggy unless you want to be known by that name. Business is professional image.
- Don’t put anything on the Internet that you don’t want your future boss, current client or potential clients to read.
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.