Should therapists be on social media? Absolutely! Your therapy practice is a business and you are selling a product to customers. That product is a service, which is the culmination of your skills, education and experience. Social media is a valuable marketing channel that can communicate those benefits to potential clients, as well as engage current and former clients. While smart therapist entrepreneurs take advantage of every effective marketing opportunity, boundaries on social media are especially prudent for therapists.
Ultimately, your business is connecting with people in order to help them with their mental health issues, and social media platforms are a natural place to connect and build trust. However, there has always been competition in the mental health area, and increasingly on social media among independent therapists. How do you distinguish yourself in a crowded digital space?
Social media is a great way to become a thought leader in your particular area of practice. When people follow you on Twitter or read your business Facebook page, they start to get to know you professionally and see you as an expert. You can promote your expert status by creating and sharing content that reinforces your professional perspective, approach, and personality.
Using social media as a platform for thought leadership can strengthen potential and current client trust in your expertise. It doesn’t matter if you conduct online therapy or only see clients in your office, nearly all of your potential clients use the internet. They will research you; they will look to see if you’re the expert for the problems they have.
Being a thought leader does require some level of consistency. You don’t need to post every day to build a following, but at least once a week is ideal. The more you share, the easier it becomes to make it part of your day.
It doesn’t matter what you share, as long as it’s authentic to you, your practice, approach, and point of view. Content can take many forms, but should be a healthy mix of curated and original content. Curated content means you are sharing someone else’s words or images, and original means you created or wrote it yourself.
On platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, it’s fairly easy to share a link to an article with a few accompanying sentences about why it resonated for you. Instagram requires a more visual experience, but is easy to reshare someone else’s graphic or photo as long as you give credit to the original source. Again, it’s simple enough to share the image or graphic with a caption that adds your perspective.
If you are creating original content, that could look like long-form blog posts, videos, photos or graphics to share. You can easily write blog posts and share the link, or take excerpts from your blogs and make them visual graphics for Instagram. If you’re comfortable making videos and talking to the camera, this can be a very great source of content that will boost thought leadership and trust in potential clients.
Some ideas for content could be:
Again, keep it professional — but don’t be afraid to show some of your personality, and try to be a resource. People may follow you for a while before reaching out and becoming a client.
Social media can be overwhelming based on the sheer number of platforms and pressure to be active and good at all of them. This is simply not true! If you’re just starting out, pick one or two platforms that feel the most intuitive for you to use, and the easiest for you to update consistently. The major platforms you’ll use are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
On every platform, be sure you are creating a separate business page from your personal profile to maintain a code of ethics between you and patients. It’s a good idea to keep your personal profiles private and your business pages public to attract potential clients and promote thought leadership.
Create a Facebook page for your therapy business. It’s free and you can easily manage it from within your normal Facebook account. This is where you can provide your practice information and start having people “like” your page. Liking a business page is different from a friend request. Consider it an extension of your office. It’s OK for clients to like your page. Liking a page isn’t a problem for privacy because it’s someone saying they like your page. In fact, you want everyone you know to like your page because it amplifies your social reach. Liking your page is not admitting a therapeutic relationship.
Twitter matters because of your opportunity to connect with clients. Other platforms can also help you with this, but Twitter is preferred because you can get away with short text posts – whereas Facebook and Instagram require longer posts and usually images/video to drive engagement. You’re not going to communicate directly with clients on Twitter, but your clients are naturally curious about their therapists, so if you have a Twitter profile, some of your clients will find it and read it, especially if you link to it from your homepage.
This creates an opportunity for you. Most clients are looking for a therapist who they can connect with. If your Twitter account demonstrates some of your personality, you might help a prospective client feel as though they can connect with you. Or, if you are able to share insightful thoughts that show your expertise, clients might feel you are a trustworthy expert.
Of course, you can use Twitter for professional connections, too. It’s a bit less formal than LinkedIn, so it’s a nice way to establish friendly connections with colleagues. Twitter is an especially good way to keep connected with other clinicians that you meet at workshops or conferences. Swapping business cards is nice, but it’s easy to lose contact. However, if you follow someone on Twitter (or they follow you), you’ll keep popping up in each other’s feed on occasion. This keeps the connection warm, and makes it easier to reestablish contact later.
Like it or hate it, LinkedIn is an essential tool for professional connections. It’s also handy for establishing your professional credibility in general, which is useful if you want to be invited to speak at a conference or teach courses. So, even if you’re not planning on job hunting anytime soon, LinkedIn is still worth a visit.
Make sure you have a robust and complete profile that displays your expertise, education, and recommendations from colleagues. A concise summary of your background and approach will go a long way to differentiate you, as will an up to date, clear profile picture.
LinkedIn can be used like Twitter or Facebook to share links, posts, and other types of media content. You can also use it to write and post long form blogs.
The ethics of therapists and social media are extremely important. You always have to keep ethics and client privacy in mind when using social media. Key reminders:
The bottom line is that your social media accounts should be treated like a billboard. You can interact with people (that’s the fun), but do not assist clients over social media. Also, be aware that people in crisis might contact you via social media. Use the same procedures you would as if they sent you an email.
As a small business owner with a private practice, social media is one of your most powerful tools in gaining new clients and elevating your status in your field. As you can see, it is highly likely that your clients, potential clients, peers and industry leaders, are actively engaged on social media channels, and even those that don’t have an online counseling practice benefit from a robust professional social media presence; most potential clients will Google you before they book a session. They are searching for information, and if you do not have a presence on social media, they will move on to a therapist who does.
Social media is a powerful marketing tool that can allow you to build relationships with existing and potential clients. By posting a variety of content that is relevant to your practice and audience (your content and other’s content), you can build recognition, connect with your peers, and show that you are trustworthy.
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