Social Media Policy
Whitestone Solicitors presents its social media policy and understands that social media is an increasingly popular and growing area. It is for this reason that Whitestone Solicitors can see how important it is for the practice to keep up to date with developments in social media which can present real opportunities if utilised effectively.
Whilst often perceived as a personal networking activity, social media can offer many specific professional benefits:-
- commercial benefits arise from the ability to communicate products and materials via social media and use them as marketing/advertising tools
- Whitestone Solicitors brand recognition increases as well as the business’s visibility
- social media activity CAN be beneficial for engaging with clients and fellow professionals
- social media can be the medium for allowing greater access to legal information and resources
- it is unquestionable that social media provides great opportunities for professional networking
- social media facilitates a national access to the practice’s profile and brand, possibly even an international one where if the practice’s intention is to market themselves internationally
It is the strategy of Whitestone Solicitors therefore to utilise social media to raise the profile of the practice.
Whitestone Solicitors currently has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It is intended that this presence will support or promote the practice’s aims and objectives.
Guidelines for Engaging
Whitestone Solicitors are well aware that social media carries with it the potential for problems and so the practice has very carefully considered the risks. The practice’s response to these identified risk regarding the use of social media will be set out in this policy document. These risks were assessed at the outset of the decision for the practice to embrace the use of social media. The practice considers that the following categories of risk need to be included:
- The potential for reputational damage to the practice or an individual within the practice
- The potential for inappropriate use of social media
- Ensuring client confidentiality and personal data is maintained
- Ensuring that the use of social media does not result in activity that is non-compliant so far as the SRA Code of Conduct is concerned
Whitestone Solicitors is aware that there is a potential blurring of the boundaries between personal and professional use.
The practice name of Whitestone Solicitors can only be used by Mr Sajid Sadiq, Managing Director on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This policy will be reviewed upon specific request from any member of the practice although it was felt that this effectively reduced to an absolute minimum the risks of social media as identified and set out above.
Whitestone Solicitors respects the privacy of its members of staff so far as their individual social media activity is concerned. There is a strict policy in place that no members of the practice are to engage in any type of social media during office hours although Whitestone Solicitors respects its staff and is confident they will ensure their individual social media activity outside office hours is responsible, suitably professional and will not bring the practice into disrepute or otherwise cause reputational damage to Whitestone Solicitors.
The social media policy of Whitestone Solicitors is managed by Mr Sajid Sadiq, Managing Director who has sole responsibility for ensuring compliance.
It is acknowledged that there is a clear overlap between the management of the social media policy and the guidelines for engagement set out above.
Whitestone Solicitors accept that the same ethical considerations that staff adhere to on a professional basis also applies to their conduct in an online environment. All members of staff are aware that whatever the context of their social media activity they must act with integrity; must not allow their independence to be compromised; and must behave in such a way that maintains the trust the public places in solicitors and the provision of legal services. Whitestone Solicitors also ensures that all members of staff are aware of considerations of client care, confidentiality and disclosure whenever they are participating in social media. All members of staff are aware that if they form an online relationship with a client through any social media, the overriding consideration is to ensure that there is no breach of any of the principals or requirements in the SRA Code.
Should it transpire that there has been a breach of the practice’s social media policy then managing the same will be the responsibility of Mr Sajid Sadiq, Managing Director. Whitestone Solicitors takes very seriously the fact that an individual of the practice’s conduct both ‘online’ and otherwise is subject to the same professional ethical considerations and any breach of this will be treated as a disciplinary matter of the highest seriousness. The full Disciplinary Procedure of the practice is set out in detail in the Practice Manual.
Whitestone Solicitors are within their rights to monitor the use of social media and whether it is having an impact on the practice’s risk exposure and/or profitability from a chargeable time perspective. All staff are aware that the use of the internet and social media is monitored and this is outlined in the firms Privacy Information Notice.
Roles and Responsibilities
All the requirements of overseeing social media activity within the practice are the sole responsibility of Mr Sajid Sadiq, Managing Director. Mr Sadiq will take responsibility for the day to day administration of the different social media activities.
For the avoidance of doubt, Whitestone Solicitors will retain the content and contracts of their own page on any social media site. It is acknowledged that individual staff members’ contacts on their own personal page on a social media site belong to them.
The question of whether it is more appropriate to use a work email address or a personal one is largely a matter of personal choice. Whitestone Solicitors does not have an automatic preference for either one or the other, especially taking into account the high level of professionalism which is expected of all staff members on any social media network. Whitestone Solicitors can see that it might make more sense to use a personal email address on social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn where the intention is purely personal social interaction but that on the other hand, a work email address might be more appropriate if the intention of the individual was to promote, for example, services of the practice.
Consideration must always be given as to whether any social media activity is compliant with the Code of Conduct. The practice must be satisfied that the requirements and standard of service on client care will not be adversely affected in any way by the social media activity. Whitestone Solicitors acknowledge that utilising the benefits of social media must not be allowed to alter their obligations towards their clients.
Whenever there is social media activity there is a possibility that there may be a loss of confidentiality and that information may be disclosed to third parties when it should not be. Procedures must be in place to ensure that when social media activity is undertaken those doing so keep all client information confidential and anonymous. Whitestone Solicitors believe that this is a question of education among members of staff and that together with the rigid management policies in place regarding the use of social media and the interests of the clients of the practice will not be compromised.
Whitestone Solicitors aim to ensure that the presentation of social media activity is consistent with the practice’s branding guidelines. The sole use of the name ‘Whitestone Solicitors’ in social media by Mr Sadiq, Managing Director ensures a uniformity and consistency in any messages or contribution to discussions that take place within different social media channels.
The practice has initiated a systematic approach to the management of the perceived risk presented by the use of social media including:
- ensuring that all those engaging in social media activity within the practice abide by the absolute standard of client confidentiality;
- maintaining authorised/official comments on behalf of the practice within a very narrow selection of individuals so that the opportunity for inappropriate use of social media is kept to an absolute minimum;
- ensuring that all staff making use of social media are aware of the standards and processes that are in place, and are using the most appropriate channels
- conducting an annual review of the practice’s policy regarding the use of social media
In order to ensure that it remains fit for purpose, this policy will be formally reviewed annually by the senior management team. This review process will also serve as a means of continually improving the practice’s approach to risk management.
ANNUAL REVIEW BY ST OCTOBER 2018:-
This policy incorporates the internet access policy of the practice and remains fit for purpose.
The practice remains aware of the importance of social media and Whitestone Solicitors did look at the viability of engaging a qualified person in the field of information technology to manage such sites (Facebook, Twitter) but decided against it. LinkedIn was seen as more professionally based and employees have been encouraged to register on that site.
REVIEWED 2019-we are reviewing the possibility of conducting a Facebook etc campaign via skilled social media companies.