Monthly Archives: March 2012

Should social work be more social? a simple answer yes! #12thMW

On 13th March 2012 I am contributing to the 12th Maudsley workshop at the Institute of Psychiatry which is bringing together social work academics, practitioners and social media thought leaders to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of using social media as a means of continuing professional development in social work in social work.

A helpful statement from the College of Social Work @CollegeofSW about using social media to engage practitioners in discussions about their work.

A ten minutes presentation is not very long to provide an overview about social media and as an experiment I am sharing my thoughts in advance online and welcome feedback and thoughts. You can engage with the live discussions on Twitter tomorrow through #12thMW

Social media has revolutionised the way in which people communicate and share information – at local, national and international levels. Social media can help individuals and organisations to better understand, engage with and respond to people on the social web.

The public sector is under pressure to make savings, whilst maintaining vital frontline services. Social networking is a fast moving and constantly evolving environment which presents both opportunities and challenges for social work.

I am often asked how I use social media and the value for me is about   networking with a wide range of people in different disciplines and across the world, disseminating information, discussions and debate,  learning and support.

Why social media is important for social work

The best and most cost-effective outcomes for people who use services are achieved when professionals work and learn together, develop a common language and understanding and share knowledge and wisdom. The use of social technology and social networking enables people to collaborate, build relationships and share information and resources.

Professional Issues

How to make sure your online presence is professionally appropriate, while remaining alive to the potential benefits of social media for service users. Social media is a new way to applying the communication skills which are an essential skill for all social workers.

The Scottish Social Services Council have provided guidance on using social media for social service workers and employers.

  • To friend or not to friend?
  • No comment
  • Is private really that private?
  • Google your digital footprint – we all have one!

What is social media?

The terms “social media” and “social networking” are often used interchangeably to refer to web-based tools and technologies that support online communication and information sharing. They turn communication into interactive dialogue (Wikipedia). The term social media encompasses various tools and services, including:

  • blogs
  • microblogs (e.g. Twitter)
  • wikis
  • podcasts and audioboos
  • content sharing services (e.g. flickr, Youtube, Vimeo),
  • social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning)
  • social bookmarking (e.g. Delicious)
  • location based services (e.g Foursquare)

“Young people don’t see the risk of social media but older people don’t see the power” shared by @nickkeane speaking at #cepolsmap the European Conference on Social Media and Policing Lisbon

“it is not a question now about whether you should be involved in social media but how well you do it” @equalman Erik Qualman author of Socialnomics

Social Web statistics

  • 37.4 million UK adults use Facebook regularly
  • Twitter has 100 million active users worldwide and an estimated 15.5 million in the UK
  •  There are 7.9 million UK adults on LinkedIn
  • 6.7 million UK adults use Flickr
  • YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the internet. 32.1 million UK adults use YouTube regularly

61% of online adults use social networking sites

71% of online adults now use video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo

The Pew Internet & American Life Project

Digital engagement

Twitter chats are booming for social care (and I need to update this to include #dpulo and #SWChat)

Social work and Social Care LinkedIn Groups:

  • Advanced Social Work Practice Network
  • Network for professionals working with vulnerable children and adults
  • The Personalisation Group to integrate Social Care, Health and Housing
  • BASW
  • Community Care

Good examples of how the public sector is using social media

Monmouthshire County Council @monmouthshirecc  engages with residents, community groups and partners using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn to get involved in local conversations. All staff have access to, and are encouraged, to use social media.  

@PaulMatthews67 Chief Executive and @MCCSimonBurch Director of Social Services are both on Twitter.

Rewind story: fostering communication using Yammer.

Opening up social media access for all staff @helreynolds

Why the police have embraced the digital world

 ‘The future for personalisation? service users, carers & digital engagement’ @irissorg

Interesting Research but a continuing debate about how we define “older people”

Ageing and the use of the Internet – excellent report from the Nominet Trust which explores how the internet can be used to support the challenges faced by the older population.

Older People and Digital Inclusion – A report from AgeUK which shows that internet access continues to grow, with 55% of people aged 64 to 74 and 26% of those aged 75 plus having home internet access. The main barriers for older people are a lack of understanding and confidence.

And finally some wise words from Gordon Scobbie UK Police lead for Social Media: @DCCTayside “Be a role model, leader, give permission, forgive honest mistakes, provide clear guidance and support. Your people will do the rest.”


Opensourcing Professional Social Media Principles for Social Work

I’ve been thinking a lot about the development of principles around use of social media for social workers and social care workers in particular over the last few months.

Having been to events and had discussions with doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and users of services that we all provide, I think there are some great models for the College of Social Work to build on and thought I’d try and offer some thoughts up into the field.

I’m not an ‘expert’ in this area. I don’t honestly think at the moment there are any experts. There are people who use social media in different ways and it’s important that any guidelines are sufficiently flexible both to protect us from ourselves, especially when starting out but also allow very different uses and interpretations both of ‘social’ and ‘media’.

Ideally I’d like an open space for these issues to be discussed by those in the sector to help us decide on what we adopt as guidelines for the profession along with examples.

Is a social work student writing on a locked facebook account about their placement in a different position to someone who has opened their account up?

Is an anonymous account called ‘MysteriousSocialWorker’ subject to the same code as an account named as Jane Smith – Social Worker?

Whatever guidelines are developed they have to encourage and contain all these issues and allow the means to be seen as having an end result some of which will be professionally useful but some of which will cross heavily into ‘personal’ life.

As the use of open social media becomes ingrained in our societal interactions we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I heard earlier this year someone tell me they had been advised by a superior not to have any contact with Twitter/Facebook/Blogs either in a personal or professional capacity due to their role. I think we can all see the problems with this, it is not possible to ‘control’ or ‘limit’ this behaviour as it is increasingly a part of normal daily life.

It is also an aspect, certainly as far as I’m concerned, that enriches both my personal and professional life.

So what would I see as important as guidance?

– Be aware of social conventions/power relationships and confidentiality as we would be in a regular conversation aloud to a stranger in a public cafe.

If you are happy telling the person sitting next to you in the pub about what you do and who you are, there’s no reason to fear it particularly in a social media setting – but the limits of oversharing, giving personal information or revealing details of the work you do remain in place.

However, it is easy to overshare in the text-based setting. We can feel more reassured when we are sitting alone and typing into a computer about sharing our more private, more thoughtful moments. Stop and think before publishing. As someone who finds writing a very useful way to reflect, I am aware that not everything written has to be published and not every thought (even ones that may be helpful or interesting to others) needs to be shared.

See the potential of social media as a means for personal and professional growth.

It won’t suit everyone. Some people prefer books to Kindles. Some people prefer auditory to visual stimulation. As I learnt about ‘learning styles’ so we have different communication styles. Some people prefer Pinterest to Facebook. Some people prefer Twitter to longer form blog posts.

There is no and there will be no preferred medium as the different media diversify and we find the networks, groups and associates we feel more comfortable with.

Some people won’t want to engage at all but the opportunities should be there.

Use tools and don’t let the tools enamour you or dazzle you

It’s important to emphasise that the use of social media has to  have a purpose. Be that purpose learning, connecting or entertainment, it’s important not to lose sight of that.

Gaining numbers of followers is a by product not a purpose. Gaining genuine relationships with people with whom you might not otherwise have been able to, that’s a goal. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers games, I’ve certainly been attentive to my 100th follower and other ‘landmarks’ but the real value is what you do with that, rather than the numbers attained.

It’s easy to believe the hype of the social media ‘bubble’ from within but real influence in a real world setting takes more.

Ethical and Responsible Use and Modelling/Sharing Behaviours

I’ve written this before  but I’ve seen concerning practice of ‘oversharing’ publicly. I’ve also seen (and actually been subject to) bullying type practises that have spilled over into distress in my off-line world. While I use an anonymous moniker for now, it’s important to remain cautious of those who adopt names and who the person is behind the persona.

Equally important to remember that each name and each avatar is a real person with real feelings that can be affected.

Common sense is needed even in these new communication frontiers and opportunities that we are creating but how do we quantify the caution without stymying the potential?

I’m sure I’ll add to this list but I’d love to hear, through the comments of other guidelines which should be added and forwarded to the part of the College of Social Work which will be responsible for coordinating and writing a robust social media policy which is both positive and engaging rather than full of ‘don’t’s.

So please add comments and we can ask the College to read through them and consider them!