People often ask me about our social media presence as private practice therapists. Which platforms to use, how often to post, what to post, etc. At least 50% of the time, the person asking then tells me how much they don’t want to use a specific platform, how much they hate social media, how they don’t want to turn their relaxing Facebook time into business. Much like my email list stance, I’m about to say something unpopular: you don’t have to leverage social media to build your business.

Yes, people do get clients through social. It can be incredibly effective AND if you hate social media or hate a particular platform, guess what– you don’t have to waste your valuable time on it. The truth is, there are a million ways to build your practice and spending a bunch of time on something you hate isn’t necessary.

So, for those of you that do like social and want to use it, here are some bite sized tips for you.

First, figure out where your ideal clients hang out. If they’re 20, it’s probably not facebook. That’s where us “fogeys” hang out now, y’know, the 30-50-somethings. Try Instagram instead. If your ideal clients are overwhelmed moms who are trying to do everything right, Pinterest will be a great spot for you. Are you providing supervision services as a part of your practice? LinkedIn can be a great place to find and connect with people. I know Twitter and it’s cousin Periscope are great for some folks; they’ve been good for me in connecting with other therapists/potential referral sources more so than clients. Each platform has it’s own personality, own etiquette, own boundaries. Simply promoting your services doesn’t work in any of them. Social is a place to build your know/like/trust factor. People don’t tend to work with or hire people without that.

Second, keep your personal social accounts on privacy lockdown and don’t friend/follow/link with your potential/current/past clients. Some platforms don’t allow you to be private so manage your social media as if your clients are reading everything you post. Maybe you don’t mind your clients seeing pictures of your kids since there’s a photo of them in your office, okay. But if your personal account allows others to post on your wall or tag you in pictures, you don’t have full oversight of your account. Keep your boundaries. You can funnel folks over to your business pages, of course, but keep your personal page for your friends, family, and randoms from high school.

Third, focus on one at a time at first. It can get both incredibly overwhelming and intensely time-consuming to manage them all if you’re learning new platforms and don’t have a system down. The only way I’m possibly able to manage all of this at once in a semi-consistent way is because I have an assistant. And we’re still totally aware that we’re not doing them all the way I’d recommend. That’s not necessary for many private practitioners. Don’t spread yourself too thin here. 

Fourth, consider a scheduling system like Hootsuite or Buffer. Planning your social media calendar out a ways is helpful. That means having a plan, yes. 🙂 Using a system that posts for you can be really helpful, though some platforms, like Facebook ding you for it on a business page. Luckily Facebook has it’s own scheduling system within the platform you can use.

Let’s explore each of the major platforms (feel free to follow me by clicking on the links):

Facebook, my favorite, offers business pages. Last year these pages became “pay to play” which means what you post on your business page doesn’t automatically plop into your followers’ newsfeeds. Facebook wants your money for that to happen more consistently.  I know, it sucks. The good news is, you can “boost” any blog posts you put on your page for as little as $5. I had a group member do this and I think she got 80,000 hits from people sharing her post all over the world. It did yield some clientele. If you’re doing supervision or consultation, a Facebook Group is an AMAZING place to create community. I’m pretty in love with the people in my group, who represent everything I want in my community: compassion, collaboration, authenticity, vulnerability. If you’re into those things, too, hop in.

Twitter is my least favorite. It moves so fast so the recommendation is to post at least 5-10 times per day. That’s a lot. It’s great for internet-meeting people. When people follow you, unless they seem creepy, it’s good to follow them back. It’s a reciprocity thing. Use hashtags wisely so people can find what you’re posting. Post original content, quotes, articles you like, etc. Twitter overwhelms me so I’m not on there a lot (as I was typing that a notification came in about someone retweeting something I posted– hilarious), so then I have to “catch up” on the messages and follows. I feel like I should say here that if I haven’t followed you back it’s not because I think you’re creepy; it’s probably because I missed it when I went to catch up! It’s one I would ditch if it was just my private practice, but that’s my own bias. The point of Twitter is to post a lot and make connections through follows, favorites, and retweets.

Pinterest is fun and can be great for SEO (google-ability). If you’re used to pinning recipes or home decor or gear, you may be wondering how in the world you can use Pinterest for your private practice. First, set up your business Pinterest page; your fashion choices can stay on your personal page. Then think about what your ideal clients may be searching for. Again, hashtags are used. If you’re a couples counselor, make sure your pins and hashtags are easy to find for someone who may be searching for “strengthening marriage” or “infidelity support” or whatever your ideal clients might choose. If you help moms find balance, “self care for moms” or “making time for yourself” may be helpful. You can play around with analytics and see what is searched a lot. Make sure you include your city in those hashtags as well as a call to action and link to your website in your description so local folks know they can see you for counseling. A cool thing about Pinterest is that your pins are seen a lot more after you post them than anything you post elsewhere. So 90 days later, you may get a ton of interest in something you posted.

LinkedIn is a great place to network. Link up with some folks you know and the folks they know in your niche or your city. You may find some clients on there if you work with folks who hang out there and if you use their blogging feature to really highlight what you do.

Instagram is where a lot of Millenials are hanging out. Who doesn’t love scrolling through pictures? Again, hashtags make you searchable. People really like to “like” quotes. You can create quotes and include branding using a tool like Canva. You can only post from your smart phone, which can be super-handy or a pain depending on how you manage your social media. I save my hashtags in the Notes section of my phone so I can just paste them in a comment. The only clickable link is in your profile. If you put a link in a comment or description of your photo, people can’t click on it.

Poor Google+ gets a bad rap. No, I don’t know a lot of people who spend a ton of time on it, but it can help increase your SEO. Google wants you to play with him, and Google+ is one way to do that.
Are you using social to build your practice? If so, what’s working? What’s not? Let us know in the comments!

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