Social Media Guidelines for Employees

Social Media Guidelines for Employees


Social media is about building connections, conversations, and relationships in the digital space. It is an important part of how we share and exchange information online, and involves many different mediums, including blogs, networking platforms, online communities and video and photo sharing sites.

MSK is active on social media—including FacebookTwitterInstagram, YouTubeLinkedIn and blogs— to help us reach and engage with the public, and expand the brand awareness of MSK online.  As MSK employees, we strongly encourage you to use these platforms to communicate with colleagues and peers, share your knowledge with others, and to stay informed about news and happenings in your areas of interest. Our guidelines are meant to advise our employees on best practices for communicating online, and explain how you can help us uphold the reputation and values of our institution when using social media.

Follow basic, common-sense principles. Remember, the same rules that apply to any other form of communication apply when using social media. Your online communications are subject to all of our Policies and Procedures, such as the Code of Conduct, our Policy on Electronic Communications, the Information Systems Handbook, our media procedures, HIPAA regulations and all other relevant policies, including federal copyright laws. You should not post anything on MSK’s behalf unless you are given permission by the Department of Marketing & Communications, and MSK is not liable for any unauthorized posts.

Be transparent. If you are communicating online and endorsing MSK or its activities in an advertisement, testimonial or similar context, you must disclose your affiliation with MSK (even if your communication is not part of your official work responsibilities). MSK activities include patient care, biomedical and related research, clinical trials, drug development, and education and training programs. When communicating in these situations, you should make it clear that you are speaking for yourself, and not on behalf of MSK. If you comment or post on MSK’s Facebook page (beyond just “liking” an item), you should identify yourself as an employee if you haven’t already done so in your public profile.

Be yourself. Don’t use a pseudonym or “anonymous” account when commenting on MSK’s Facebook page or other MSK social media channels. You should feel comfortable speaking freely and openly as yourself online.

Always maintain confidentiality. Make sure that you do not disclose any confidential or proprietary information about MSK’s activities, such as intellectual property, trademarked information, or protected health information (PHI) that is subject to HIPAA. Please consult with the Department of Marketing & Communications if you have questions or concerns.

We believe in free but respectful speech. It’s important that your online communications remain respectful of the diverse groups we serve. Posting harassing, discriminatory, and/or defamatory material in violation of our policies against harassment and discrimination can result in disciplinary action, up to and including employment termination. Please consult with the Department of Marketing & Communications for advice on handling sensitive issues.

Separate your personal and professional lives online. On several social media sites, personal and professional activity co-exist within the same account. Be sure to exercise caution and good judgement when using any personal accounts, whether they are MSK-affiliated or not. You should also use a personal e-mail address to manage your personal social media account. Just like you wouldn’t use MSK stationery to express personal views in a letter to an editor, you shouldn’t use your MSK e-mail address when expressing your views and opinions online.

How can you distinguish your personal views from those of MSK?
Add this disclaimer in the “About” section of your profile: “I work for Memorial Sloan Kettering, but this is my personal opinion which may not reflect their views.” On Twitter, you can state, “Tweets are my own.”

Our physician/patient online interactions are subject to the same professional boundaries as they are under any other circumstances. MSK employees are discouraged from connecting with their patients online unless the relationship existed before their treatment at MSK. We also discourage supervisors and managers connecting with those reporting to them unless the employee initiates the interaction. You should never feel obligated to accept these kinds of requests from your supervisor or manager as part of your employment.

In addition, our physicians should exercise caution when posting comments online that may be considered medical advice, and should note that these comments can be subject to liability. Physicians should include a notice in the “About” section of your profile that the posts do not constitute medical advice and that personal information about medical issues should not be posted by others on your profile. All postings and related activity must adhere to HIPAA regulations.

Our name and logos belong to the organization. You should not use MSK’s name, the official logos of MSK, the Sloan Kettering Institute, or the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, or any related marks or images to promote or endorse any product, cause, political party, or candidate.

Sharing MSK information? First, make sure it’s OK to go public. You may want to share information about our institution on your social media accounts. The best way to do this is to share information MSK has posted in its social media channels.  We encourage you to let people know about what’s going on at MSK, but you should first make sure that the information has already been made public by our institution. If you have any questions about whether certain information has been released to the public, you can contact the Department of Marketing & Communications.

We need to see your department’s MSK-related videos before you post them. The Department of Marketing & Communications has the exclusive right to approve and coordinate the posting of MSK-related videos (on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo) and MSK-related photography (on sites like Instagram). If your department would like to post photos or videos on these sites or sites like them, please contact the Department of Marketing & Communications.

We also need to see your department’s Twitter account, Facebook Page, or other platform accounts before it goes live. If your department or service wants to create any social media presence, you first need to get the approval of your manager. You should then contact the Department of Marketing & Communications, who will determine if there is a need to establish an official MSK-affiliated account to communicate with a specific audience. Doing this ensures that your social media account does not overlap with other MSK accounts or confuse members of the public that visit it. All social media profiles must be appropriately branded following MSK’s visual identity guidelines and communications toolkit.

Use your judgment when mixing work and social media. Social media requires time and personnel to manage it effectively. While we allow our employees to access select social media sites at work, you should exercise good judgment to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with your job responsibilities. We encourage you to have conversations in the social media space— but work comes first.

Remember that social media is very public—and it’s forever. Our patients, colleagues, and supervisors can access what we post online. Remember, something originally intended just for friends and family can always be shared with others, and what you post online is permanent. Search engines can turn up information several years after its posted, comments can be forwarded or copied, and archival systems can save your posts even after you delete them.

If in doubt, leave it out. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want your manager, other MSK colleagues, or another potential employer to see your comments, you should not post them online.

Social media posts need to consider the commitment we make to all members of the public in terms of privacy while on site at MSK. Photography and video recording is not permitted in common/public areas at MSK. If filming or taking photography for personal use, only share it with only those people who need the information.

Help us help you. If you would like to use social media in your department, clear it with your supervisor, and then get in touch with the Department of Marketing & Communications, where we can help you get started. This helps us coordinate all of MSK’s different social media initiatives across our organization. Additionally, if you notice frequent online activity from other employees that doesn’t align with these guidelines, please bring it to the attention of your supervisor or the Department of Marketing & Communications.

If you have any questions about what is OK to include on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel or any other social media site, please contact the Social Media Strategist within the Department of Marketing & Communications. We can also share valuable tools, tips, and best practices to make your social media communications most effective. We welcome your interest in communicating about MSK online, and thank you for contributing to these conversations.