If you’re a therapist or counsellor, chances are you’ve heard clients ask one or more of the following when they’re thinking about starting therapy:
How can it help me?
Is it confidential?
I think it might help but how do I get started?
In all likelihood, you’ve asked similar questions about the benefits of using social media to grow your practice.
We know we did.
But 18 months ago we took the plunge and now regularly share content and engage with our followers and fans on our Twitter and Facebook pages.
In this post, we identify the therapists’ ‘pain points’ (marketing speak for problems – real or perceived) when it comes to using social media to promote their business and share our top tips.
1. How can it help me?
The short answer is, social media marketing can help you promote your private practice and find more therapy clients! If you’re looking to reach new clients you need to go where they go. And 37 million people in the UK – more than half the UK population – are regularly hanging out on social media.
There are a plethora of social media platforms to choose from to reach clients you think you’re likely to work well with: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat – which to go for?
It’s a good idea to write down what you think are the characteristics, needs and goals of the clients you might work with. Where do they live? Are they parents? Do they run a business? If you have a niche, for example family therapy or executive coaching, this can also help you hone in on the most appropriate social media channel for your practice.
But it’s important to make sure you have the time, skillset and assets to manage your social media. There’s no point trying to use Instagram, for example, if you know you don’t have the time or inclination to create your own images to share.
It’s much better to pick one channel and manage it well than spread yourself thinly across them all. If you always feel you don’t have enough time, social media will begin to feel like a chore, and you’ll not be inclined to keep it up.
A safe bet is Facebook. It remains the most used social media platform and more than half the UK population actively use it (and 45% say they use it ‘several times a day’).
Concerns about fake news and data breaches earlier in the year prompted commentators to predict a decline in the number of Facebook users, but many people continue to use this platform to keep in touch with friends and family, share photos and research and buy brands. People also use Facebook groups (public, closed or private) to learn new skills, build on existing ones and network with peers, and that includes therapists. Closed Facebook groups Good Enough Counsellor and Get Social with Saz each has sizeable therapist memberships who support each other daily with professional and marketing issues.
Google Analytics (a free web traffic analytics tool) tells us that Facebook tends to drive more people to visit our website than Twitter. However, Twitter is invaluable for sector news, increasing awareness of our practice and engaging with peers, mental health bloggers and national and local charities and organisations. We regularly share the brilliant posts by blogger Eleanor Segall of Be Ur Own Light blog (on Twitter as @urlightblog); The Blurt Foundation (@BlurtAlerts ) and The Counsellors Cafe (@CounsellorsCafe).
We also share content about our practice: our online CPD events calendar for therapists and our therapist directory so people can find out about their training, experience and rates. We also promote special offers on room hire for therapists looking for a convenient London space in which to start or grow their practice.
2. Is it confidential?
Confidentiality is a vital part of the counselling relationship, and ‘will our therapy sessions remain private?’ is a perfectly valid question for clients to ask you. Likewise, it’s understandable that, as a therapist, you may have reservations about sharing details about your practice online. You might also have concerns about breaking client confidentiality or feel uncomfortable using social media to promote your services when there’s an abundance of articles out there discussing the negative impact of social media on society.
Just as there’s no one size fits all approach to therapy for clients, this is true of how therapists use social media. Think about what feels right for you. Although it’s not mandatory, some therapists prefer to have a social media policy to explain how they’ll conduct themselves online. The Online Therapy Institute shares valuable guidance in its Ethical Framework for the Use of Social Media by Mental Health Professionals . Once drafted, you can share your policy in the Notes section of your Facebook page and on your website.
A common misconception is that your Facebook personal profile and your Facebook business page are one and the same – they’re not. Everyone who joins Facebook has to create a personal profile, and you can both invite and accept invitations from people you know and become Facebook friends. You can set your Privacy Settings so your posts can only be seen by your friends.
A Facebook business page is the business equivalent of a profile. The focus is not on you and your personal life; instead, it’s a place for you to post about your practice, who you can help, your therapy services, fees, training and experience.
Facebook does require you to provide your personal profile details when setting up a business page, but this information isn’t shared on your business page; it’s merely to help Facebook prevent people and bots creating fake pages.
Once you’ve set up your business page, people can opt to Like it. When they give you a Page Like they automatically start following you, meaning they’re more likely to see your posts in their newsfeed.
Facebook has gradually changed its algorithm so that people are most likely to see posts by family and friends. This means it’s harder for business posts to get noticed in people’s newsfeeds. In fact, only about 2% of everything you post on your Facebook page is likely to be seen by your page followers. So, if you’re using Facebook to find new clients, it’s advisable to allocate some marketing budget each month to Facebook advertising. (Don’t miss next month’s post in which we’ll share our top tips on setting up the perfect Facebook page and achieving Facebook Ads success). That said, you might wish to check out this article by social media expert, Neil Patel on growing your Facebook page without paying to advertise.
3. I think it might help but how do I get started?
Deciding to see a therapist, finding one that feels ‘right’ and attending the first therapy session can feel daunting for clients. The same can be said for therapists when considering using social media to market their practice. Our social media starter tips for therapists might help:
Sounds obvious, but people don’t join Facebook to be sold to, and that includes clients. It’s absolutely fine to showcase your services and credentials on your social channels – for example, you can pin a post or tweet to the top of your page mentioning how you help clients and include a link to your website. You can also use posts and tweets to showcase your experience and drive traffic to your latest website blog post.
But this isn’t the only content you should share. A good rule to follow on social media is the 80/20 rule whereby only 20% of your social media posts should promote your brand. The other content should aim to educate, inform and, as therapists, we share information we hope shows the normality of difficult feelings and the different ways people have explored issues. We also like to entertain – we sometimes share a #FridayFun post or tweet or a #TuesdayThoughts infographic.
By sharing content that prospective clients are interested in (ie. not just therapy-related content) you will attract more likes and follows. You’ll start to build online relationships with people whose content you share, and they’ll be more likely to share your content in return.
It’s important to post regularly – particularly if you’re paying to promote posts because the Facebook algorithm favours ads that come from an active Facebook page. It’s a good idea to test how often it’s best to post on your page but we share between 3-7 Facebook posts per week at times we believe our followers are online (using Facebook Insights data as a guide). On Twitter, we get good results from publishing 3-4 tweets each day, plus retweets, but see what works best for your practice.
A picture paints a thousand words
According to content scheduling tool, Buffer, ‘tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images’. Likewise, Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without pictures. Most of the content scheduling tools pull through images when you share blog posts and articles, but if not you can use free stock shot sites. We like Pexels and Unsplash. You also use a free design tool such as Canva to create your own images.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that social media is about being social! Don’t just schedule and publish posts and tweets and go. Make sure you check for new comments or replies daily and respond as soon as you can. If you receive comments and questions from previous or current clients about personal issues, you can direct them to your social media policy.
Has this post inspired you to try social media as a way to market your private practice? Let us know in the comments.
And don’t forget to come back next month to read our top tips on how to create a brilliant Facebook page and run successful Facebook Ads!