Previously, I explored the question of whether using social media is worth your time and effort for marketing your therapy or holistic practice.
If you do decide to use social media as part of your plan for increasing exposure of your private practice and attracting clients, you might feel overwhelmed about which platforms you should be utilizing, as there are now so many.
In order to help you decide, below is a summary of the most common social media platforms and some of the pros and cons of each.
Facebook was founded in February, 2004. It has grown immensely since that time. As of January, 2014 it has 1.23 billion active users (not total members), which makes it the most popular social media site.
One of Facebook’s biggest strengths is its large active user base. Almost everyone and their grandma are on social media it seems. This means that there is a large pool of potential clients on the site. Users also spend a lot of time on Facebook. Approximately 50% of users login every day, and the average time they spend on Facebook per visit is 18 minutes.
Facebook is all about relationships, which makes it easy to engage and communicate with people you already know and to build relationships with new followers. It’s fairly straightforward to get a page up and running, and to post content-whether it’s your own, or content created by others that would be of interest to your target audience. Facebook also offers excellent measurement tools, which makes it easy for you to analyze the performance of your page.
While Facebook is a potential marketing tool for therapists, it takes time to use it to effectively, and there is a learning curve in mastering it’s advanced features.
Due to Facebook’s algorithm, there’s no guarantee that your content will be seen by everyone who likes your page. In fact, up until recently you could only expect about 16% of your fans to see your posts, and this number has since gone down for some. You’ll have to post frequently and have a strategy in place to maximize the number of fans who see your posts, which includes getting people to Like, Share or Comment on them.
One of the most challenging aspects of Facebook is that you have to stay on top of the constant changes it makes to its platform. It can be time consuming to keep up with the ongoing changes.
Twitter got its start in March of 2006. As of February, 2014, it has over 241 million active users. It’s gotten popular for it’s short posts, consisting of a maximum of 140 characters.
Starting a Twitter account is easy and doesn’t require any advanced technical ability. It can be an excellent tool that you can use to drive traffic to your website by tweeting your own content, if you have a blog. Like Facebook, you can also tweet others interesting and relevant content that is likely to be of interest to your target audience.
Twitter does not have an algorithm like Facebook does, which can mean more of your followers may see your tweets. You can also target your conversations easily by adding hashtags (#) to your tweets, which makes them searchable in Twitter’s search feature. Using hashtags can potentially increase your exposure as well as your followers.
Your ability to reach your target audience may be more limited than Facebook because Twitter doesn’t have as many users. Also, while more of your posts can potentially be seen because Twitter does not control who sees your post, the sheer volume of tweets can cause people to overlook your tweets.
The 140-character limit also means that you must make your tweet compelling in fewer words if you want it to be noticed.
Pinterest was started in August, 2010. Currently, Pinterest has more than 70 million active users. Pinterest has grown quickly, and experts expect it to grow even more in the coming months.
Visual images are now a huge part of the Internet, and this is part of the reason Pinterest is so popular. People love to view the images, and when they attract one’s attention, people will click through to your website. This means if you are posting your own content, it is important that you use a compelling image along with your blog post.
Pinterest has proven to be an excellent referral source for many businesses. It drives more traffic to websites than Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit combined.
Over 80% of users are women, and since women are the ones most likely to seek out therapy or healing for themselves and their families, Pinterest could be a useful platform for you. I’ve yet to see many counselors and holistic professionals use Pinterest, but I do see potential there.
Because Pinterest relies on pinning and repinning images, there are copyright issues to consider. It’s important that you credit the original source whenever you pin or repin an image, unless you have been given permission otherwise.
Pinterest isn’t as directly business-focused as some of the other social media sites because it doesn’t allow direct promotions, although that doesn’t stop you from posting images that lead back to content on your therapy website. It can also be limiting for anyone who prefers text content as opposed to visual images.
Pinterest is still relatively new, and while some businesses are profiting from using it, it’s future remains to be seen.
Google+ started in June, 2011, and many Google fans have regarded it as “Google’s answer to Facebook.” There are currently over 540 million active users. However, it has over a billion registered users due to the fact that anyone who has a Gmail or YouTube account automatically has a Google+ account even if they don’t use it.
Google+ has become a popular social media site for many professionals because it’s easy to set up, simple to navigate, and many people love it’s the “circles” feature whereby you can organize people you follow into various lists. It also has a clean, easy to use interface and doesn’t control the posts your followers will see like Facebook does.
Generally speaking, I find the posts to be of a higher quality than many of those on Facebook. Many people in the tech industry, as well as entrepreneurs utilize Google+ frequently. In fact, many of these people have shunned Facebook, believing that Google+ is a superior platform.
Google+ has some cool features like Google Hangouts, which is a high quality video chatting platform that can be used for many things, including giving presentations.
One huge benefit of Google+ is that anything you post is indexed in Google’s search engine. While getting “tweets”, “shares”, “likes” and “comments” on your posts on other social media channels can boost your search engine rankings, only the posts you make on Google+ are indexed in Google. This means you can potentially drive more traffic to your website via search engines by posting on Google+.
You will find that the number of people you can reach through Google+ may be limited because many in your target audience are not using the platform.
Google+’s growth has been slow, likely because many people are happy on Facebook. This is not surprising as Facebook is where most people’s friends are. There is, therefore, little motivation for many to use Google+.
I tend to agree with a lot Google+ users that Google+ is a superior platform to Facebook in many ways. However, if your target audience isn’t there, you might think twice about using it, unless you want to use it for helping with your search engine rankings.
LinkedIn started in May, 2003. Its primary use is to promote professional networking. Since it began LinkedIn has grown to 277 million active users, and about 35% of all users say they use it every day.
LinkedIn provides you with a networking platform to use with other counseling professionals. While a lot of therapists and health care practitioners have signed up for LinkedIn, few are using it to it’s full potential.
LinkedIn now allows you to create a customized business page for your practice and has numerous features you may want to use. These include professional groups that you may join on a variety of topics, or you can start a group yourself.
You can also post content on LinkedIn much like you do on Twitter or Facebook. If you have a blog, you can set it up so that your blog posts will be automatically pulled into LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a feature called “Endorsements” which makes it easy for those who know you to quickly endorse your work, helping to boost your credibility.
If you want to grow your practice through networking with other professionals, LinkedIn can be a great help, providing you use if effectively.
Because LinkedIn is more about networking with other professionals, it offers you limited interaction with potential clients.
One of the biggest cons of LinkedIn is that many users use it to SPAM others, by sending bulk promotional emails through the platform. Many complain about this feature, but it is still used indiscriminately by many who don’t understand the etiquette (and in some countries, laws) of email marketing, which essentially do not allow for the sending of unsolicited, bulk emails.
As with all social media platforms, there is a learning curve to LinkedIn, and you’d be wise to study how to use if effectively if you choose to use it as a tool to grow your counseling practice.
Other Social Media Platforms
While the above social media websites are some of the most popular, there are others that may be worth your while to consider. If you want to create videos, which can be highly beneficial for marketing online, you might think about using YouTube. Instagram (now owned by Facebook), another image-focused social media platform has also become very popular. Slide Share is another cool platform for sharing slide presentations. There are several others that exist that may be appropriate for your audience as well.
So, Which Social Media Platforms Should You Use?
As I mentioned above, the answer to this question is not easy. Having said that, I would probably start with Facebook since it is the most popular network. After you get into the swing of things there, you might add one or two other networks.
Are you using social media to market your practice now?
Which ones do you like best, and which ones are performing best for you?
I’d love to hear your comments below.