When it comes to social media, psychologists Tyson Bailey, PsyD, and Ali Mattu, PhD, are almost at opposite ends of the spectrum.
While Bailey uses Facebook to connect with friends and family, he doesn’t have a Facebook page for his practice. He does have a LinkedIn profile, but rarely updates it or posts material. Meanwhile, Mattu uses Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube — even Snapchat.
For Bailey, a partner in Spectrum Psychological Associates in Lynnwood, Washington, social media represents a potential risk for his forensic work. “Anything out there on the web is available for attorneys to use,” he says.
For Mattu, an assistant professor of medical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University, social media helps him achieve his goal of sharing psychology with the world and reaching out to colleagues, clients and the public.
Wherever you fall upon the continuum, consider these points:
- Identify your goals. Don’t just plunge into social media because everyone else has, says Bailey. Think about who you’re trying to reach, what they’re like and how best to connect, he says. The answer may not be social media. But also consider what happens if you’re not engaged, says Mattu, noting that social media users will be having conversations without you. Even a minimal presence can help you understand how social media works — important if you serve clients under 40, he says.
- Choose the right platform. “Don’t try to do it all,” says Mattu, urging practitioners to find a platform that resonates. Twitter, for example, makes it easy to share resources and chat with colleagues, journalists and everyone else. Snapchat — a platform in which users share videos or photos that disappear once viewed — is a good way to show how psychology permeates everyday life. One of Mattu’s Snapchat videos explained how drinking coffee from a cup without a lid can improve the taste and boost your appreciation for the beverage.
- Let people get to know you and your values. Share your passions, Mattu suggests. “People can get a better impression of who I am — and who I will be in the office — from social media,” he says. And don’t just post links to articles; instead, make it personal and add value by highlighting a tidbit you found intriguing.
- Protect patients’ privacy … and your own. Even a seemingly innocuous statement like “Just had a great session” could violate a patient’s confidentiality, says Mattu. Safeguard your own privacy, too. Bailey has his personal Facebook account so “locked down” it doesn’t come up in searches, asks friends to untag him in photos and reviews privacy policies frequently.
- Incorporate social media into informed consent. Bailey shares a written social media policy with clients as part of the informed consent process. The policy explains that Bailey doesn’t connect with current or past clients over social media. It’s not because he doesn’t like them, he explains; it’s because he must protect their privacy.
For more information, join Bailey’s APA Practice Organization webinar “We Are Business People? Learning to Market Yourself as a Psychologist” at 12 noon ET on April 18. To register for the webinar, visit the registration page.