It’s been about 18 months since I wrote an article on social media. Since then, UTMB has approved and published an Institutional Handbook on Operating Procedures on Social Media. While the policy is mostly common sense, there may be a few things that might not be readily apparent. So, in an effort to keep you well informed, I figured it was time to speak to it once again.

The policy defines social media as any online networking service on which people publish, converse and share content from works of user-created video, audio, text or multimedia with the general public or with discreet groups of friends, colleagues or followers.

Examples include, but are not limited to: online posts/comments; media messaging service (MMS); Twitter, Facebook , Linked-In, YouTube and all other social networks; and personal and organizational websites, blogs, wikis, and similar outlets.
Now that we have the draconian description of it out of the way, lets talk about what it really is. 
The phenomenon of social media has allowed millions, if not billions, of people to seek out others with similar interests, connect with family and friends, and to promote ideas and causes.  UTMB uses it to communicate with faculty, staff, students and the community about current and upcoming events. It’s also used to promote our world-class health care, research and academics to people and organizations around the globe.
An interesting statistic:  If you had to guess which internet website is accessed the most from UTMB, what would it be?  If you guessed Facebook, you’re right. Facebook is by far the most accessed site. YouTube takes second.   We’re not unique; this statistic is echoed in most organizations who allow internet access. Is it problem? Maybe, maybe not.
While social media has come to be loved by many, it does have a negative aspect. Its irresponsible use can tarnish reputations, cause legal actions, put personal security at risk and impact productivity. 
To protect yourself and UTMB, the following tips have been published as part of the social media policy. If you use on-line social networks, whether for work or fun, here are some questions to ask yourself: 
  • Did I set my privacy setting to help control who can look at my profile, my information and photos? You can limit access somewhat but not completely, and you have no control over what someone else may share or do with your postings. Once you post information it is public and may be shared without your permission or knowledge.
  • How much information do I want people who I don’t know to know about me? If I give them my cell phone number, address, email, class schedule, a list of possessions, how might they use it? With whom will they share it? Not everyone will respect my personal or physical space.
  • Would I post this material on a roadside billboard or on the door to my residence? Can this information be hurtful? Would I be embarrassed to say this to someone’s face?
  • Is the image I’m projecting by my materials and photos the one I want my current and future friends to know me by? What does my profile say to potential faculty members and advisors? Future graduate school/internship interviewers? Potential employers? Neighbors? Family? Parents? Which doors am I opening? Which am I closing?
  • What if I change my mind about what I post? For instance, what if I want to remove something I posted as a joke or to make a point? Have I read the social networking site’s privacy and caching statements? Removing material from network caches can be difficult. Posted material remains accessible on the internet until you’ve completed the prescribed process for removing information from the caching technology of one or multiple (potentially unknown) search engines.
  • Have I asked permission to post someone else’s image or information? Am I infringing on their privacy? Could I be hurting someone? Could I be subject to libel suits? Am I violating network use policy? Could I be subject to a judiciary hearing?
  • Does my equipment have spyware and virus protections installed? Did you know that many social networking sites collect profile information to SPAM you? Others contain links that can infect your equipment with viruses that potentially can destroy data and infect others with whom you communicate. Remember to backup your work on an external source in case of destructive attacks

Everyone who participates in social media activities should understand and follow these simple, but important best practices:

  • Take responsibility and use good judgment. You are responsible for the material you post on personal blogs or other social media. Be courteous, respectful, and thoughtful about how other members of the university community, including our patients and students, may perceive or be affected by postings. Incomplete, inaccurate, inappropriate, threatening, harassing or poorly worded postings may be harmful to others. They may damage relationships, undermine UTMB’s brand or reputation, discourage teamwork, and negatively impact the institution’s commitment to patient care, education, research, and community service.
  • Think twice before you post. Anything you post is highly likely to be permanently connected to you and your reputation through internet and email archives. Future employers can often have access to this information and may use it to evaluate you. Take great care and be thoughtful before placing your identifiable comments in the public domain. If you wouldn’t say it to someone in the media or post it on a billboard, you probably shouldn’t post it online.
  • Protect patient privacy. Disclosing information about patients without written permission, including photographs or potentially identifiable information is strictly prohibited. You also need to be aware that de-identifying is a slippery slope, so when in doubt leave it out…. These rules also apply to deceased patients and to posts even in the secure section of your Facebook page (that’s the section that’s accessible by approved friends only). You should never use social media for activities like communicating appointment reminders, prescription refills, and the like either to the patient directly or by posting to their wall.
  • Protect your own privacy. Make sure you understand how the privacy policies and security features work on the sites where you are posting material.
  • Respect work commitments. Although IHOP Policy 2.19.6 Information Resources Security allows for incidental use of information resources, you should make sure that your blogging, social networking, and other external media activities do not interfere with your work commitments.
  • Identify yourself when speaking officially. Users who are authorized to speak on behalf of UTMB should identify themselves by their full name, title, department and contact information when posting or exchanging information on social media forums when acting in their official capacity, and address issues only within the scope of their specific authorization.
  • Use a disclaimer. Where your connection to UTMB is apparent but you’re stating your personal opinion, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of UTMB. A disclaimer, such as, " The contents, including all opinions and views expressed, in my profile (or on my page) are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of anyone else, including other employees in my department or at the University of Texas Medical Branch." may be appropriate.
  • Respect copyright and Fair Use laws. For UTMB’s protection, as well as your own, it is critical that you show proper respect for the laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others, including UTMB’s own copyrights and brands.
  • Protect proprietary information. Do not share confidential or proprietary information that may compromise UTMB’s business practices or security. Similarly, do not share information in violation of any laws or regulations.
  • Seek expert guidance. Consult with the Office of Public Affairs if you have any questions about the appropriateness of materials you plan to publish or if you require clarification on whether specific information has been publicly disclosed before you disclose it publicly. Social media may generate interest from the press. If you are contacted by a member of the media about a UTMB related blog posting or UTMB information of any kind, contact the Office of Public Affairs at (409) 772-2618 or