Over on Facebook, the Business & Marketing Skills for Therapist Group (here) are helpfully discussing how they can get their message about their practices (etc) out into a wider world. Some members of the group are professional marketeers, some members are professional therapists. Something happened to me today that made me notice something that’s essential to therapists as we learn to market our services using public social networks.
Let me share with you a story…
Tweeting? Twittering? Tweeping?
Over the past month or so I’ve been posting information about counselling on Twitter. I have only 90-or-so followers (compare this with Stephen Fry who has nearly 4 million followers). It’s good fun, it strengthens my reflective practice, it gets me known a little more and brings some new folk to my website.
One might think that 90 people – some of whom are porn stars, one of whom I’m sure is not really a hedgehog, and some of whom seem to hope I’ll be buying their obscure products any moment now – are all who are reading my posts. Maybe not even 10% of the 90 are really reading what I haven’t say. So little feedback, you see. So, what might it matter if I might casually slip in a small case example to demonstrate a point in a Tweet? What harm could 140 characters cause? It’s only 9-ish people that’ll ever read what I tweeted.
The issue, though, isn’t how few people are reading me (or you, dear fellow therapist, once you hit that Tipping Point). The issue is that once my post goes into the world, anyone can get at it.
Do you know who reads your tweets?
Today, I was surprised (though delighted) to find that some of my Tweets have begun appearing in online newspapers recently. Surprised because these are online resources that I do not follow, they don’t follow me, and I haven’t sent them any of my tweets. But they’ve still gotten hold of them (“public”, remember!).
By some mathem-agical power of the InterWeb, my little tweets have somehow spread out into the big, scary world and, by chance more than design, have gotten included in publications that I’ve never heard of. My words are circulating around (at least for 24 hours until the next publications go out tomorrow, at least).
But, can we return back to that little case example I might have Tweeted about?
I put to you – dear ethical reader – the query…
…what if one of the readers of these online papers happened to be the client that I referred to in my Tweet?
What if he recognised himself?
What damage would I have done by, perhaps imagining that non of my followers had anything to do with my client; that they were the only ones who would have read my misplaced comment* ?
Ethics & Marketing.
In the Facebook group earlier discussed, therapists and skilled marketers are passing around valuable information on how a therapist might get their message out there into the world. I would suggest to you that sometimes it happens – and when it happens BOY does it get far and wide out there.
Marketing experts will teach us therapists these things… but the ethics in what we, as therapists, put out there are entirely our responsibility … and ours alone.
Anonymising a case is not the same as protecting its confidentiality.
And anything you write on the Internet is not private :p
I’ll leave you with that thought.
Comments are welcome, below, but preferably back on the Facebook group if this is where you found this post.
Just to clarify – I don’t discuss online/in public forums any current case work at all. When demonstrating a point, I tend to make references to generalised examples or to casework that is already in public circulation (eg a case discussed by Patrick Casement in one of his books) .