As a therapist, you shouldn’t give much of your attention to social media.
There’s three reasons.
First, social media opens you up to a lot of ethical problems. Dr. Keely Kolmes has done an excellent run-down of all of the potential pitfalls of social media for clinicians. Getting hauled before an ethics board because you accidentally tweeted personally identifiable information about a client is not anybody’s idea of a good time.
Second, social media just doesn’t work very well for therapy clinics. If you’re running a different kind of business, you can tweet coupons, you can engage with fans on Facebook, and you can encourage your followers to share your business with their friends. As an ethical therapist, you probably can’t do any of those things. Sure, you can post your own thoughts, but you’ll miss out on the “social” part of social media.
Third, if you’re going to get anything from social media, you need to put a lot of hours into it. A social media account with three posts and no followers is not going to help you. You need to invest the time to write a lot of content. You need to follow lots of other people, you need to participate in lots of discussions, and you need to aggressively encourage people to follow you.
In other words, you need to put in lots of hours — hours that you could be spending improving your website, studying new therapy techniques, or just practicing some self-care. If you ask me, it’s not a good use of time.
However, I don’t think you should ignore social media entirely. I’ve got a strategy for social media that will allow you to reap most of the benefits in not much time (just a few hours to get set up, and then an hour a month, tops.)
For my strategy, you’ll use Linkedin and Twitter, and ignore everything else.
Like it or hate it, LinkedIn is an essential tool for professional connections. And by professional connections, I mean “people who will help you find a job.”
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 a CE course. So even if you’re not planning on job hunting anytime soon, LinkedIn is still worth a visit.
My LinkedIn strategy is pretty straightforward.
1) Set up a killer profile
2) Check it once a year and update if needed
3) Connect with colleagues. (Don’t connect with clients!)
2) and 3) are pretty self-explanatory. But 1) takes a little explanation.
How To Make A Fantastic LinkedIn Profile
An excellent profile is not that difficult to make. Here’s what you need to do.
Step One: Get a professional photo
Just do it. There’s no excuse for a crummy photo
Step Two: Fill out your experience
The experience section of your LinkedIn is essentially a resume. There’s hundreds of resume guides online, so follow the advice in them and you’ll be fine. The important thing is to just do it — it looks bad if you have an empty experience section.
Step Three: Write a fantastic summary
This is where you’ll be spending most of your time with LinkedIn.
Your summary is the first thing people read, and it’s the only thing most of them will read.
So make it good.
Put it in first person. Everyone knows that you wrote it yourself so it’s weird if your summary says “Dr. Cruz is a psychotherapist specializing in blah blah blah”
Tell a story. Don’t give bullet points, and don’t just summarize your resume. Instead, give a sense of who you are. Talk about your specialties, your passions, your strengths.
Also, have an intended audience in mind. What kind of person do you most want to impress with your LinkedIn summary? Is it possible employers? Conference organizers? Colleagues? Keep that intended audience in mind as you write.
An easy way to make this work is to have a three paragraph format.
Your first paragraph should be just one sentence long. It should summarize the absolutely most essential information about you.
Your second paragraph tells the story of your work history. Key word here is STORY. Don’t tell every detail — just give the most important information.
Finally, your last paragraph should summarize your skills and strengths. This is your chance to talk about the things you’re really good at, and the areas where you’re passionate.
Optionally, you can conclude with a single sentence call to action.
Here’s what this looks like:
LinkedIn Summary Example
“I’m Doctor Smith, and I have been helping clients overcome anxiety for over a decade.
I currently lead the Acme anxiety clinic, where I manage a team of seven licensed clinicians, as well as one pre-doctoral intern. I also consult with the local city council on a public mental health outreach program that has reduced involuntary psychiatric holds by 30%.
I’m deeply passionate about the work that I do, and I thrive on the opportunity to help clients achieve freedom from their anxiety. I also love investing in the development of other clinicians, and cherish the opportunity to lead my colleagues at the Acme clinic.
I’m available to speak on best practices for anxiety treatment, and I encourage you to email me at email@example.com if interested.”
Make sense? If not, here’s a quick refresher:
- Write a great summary,
- Get a professional photo,
- Fill out your experience, and
- Update it every year or so.
Easy, right? Now, let’s tackle Twitter.
Now, on to Twitter.
LinkedIn mattered because of your opportunity to connect with colleagues. Twitter matters because of your opportunity to connect with clients.
Of course, you’re not going to communicate directly with clients on Twitter — remember your ethics! 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 don’t want to go overboard here. You want to remain professional even while you show personality. If in doubt, have a friend or colleague look through your posts before you send them. But if your Twitter account gives clients a sense of who you are, it might make them more likely to book an initial session with you.
Also, a word on ethics: Even though your clients might be reading your Twitter, you should not use Twitter to communicate with clients, and you shouldn’t follow your clients (even if they follow you first.) And of course, don’t discuss clients on Twitter, even if you remove identifying information. If you share a story about a client on Twitter, you run the risk that client will read it. As before, Dr. Keely Kolmes is a great resource here.
Connect With Colleagues On Twitter
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.
Plus, if you speak at a conference or workshop, you can put your Twitter in your professional bio. That’s an easy way to build followers and start to establish some credibility.
If you read other guides on Twitter, they’ll sometimes talk about becoming a “thought leader” on Twitter. This is mostly hogwash. Nobody is going to suddenly offer you a book deal because you’ve got 50 followers, or even 5,000. Use Twitter as a tool to connect with your existing colleagues, and don’t worry too much about being a “thought leader.”
Twitter In One Hour A Month
Ok, so how do you use Twitter without it wasting your time?
Simple. The answer is a nifty website called Buffer. Buffer allows you to write a bunch of Twitter posts at once, and then send them out over time. So you can write 12 posts, tell Buffer to send out one a week, and you’re set for three months. Your Twitter account stays active, but you don’t need to touch it. Best of all, Buffer is free and super easy to use.
What do you write your posts about? Well, I recommend a mix:
- Send out some links to helpful resources. For instance, you might tweet a link to a helpful book or article about coping with depression.
- Share an inspirational or encouraging quote
- Write your own inspirational or encouraging thoughts
- Share a link to a song you like
- Share a funny video
- Share some of your thoughts about being a therapist
Again, keep it professional — but show some of your personality, and try to be helpful. You’ll get the hang of it pretty soon. If you’re not sure what to write about, ask some friends, or look at what other therapists are doing.
Promoting Your Twitter Profile
I’ll be brief here. In order to promote your Twitter profile:
- Link to it from your Linkedin and your website
- Put it in your bio when you present at a conference
- Add it to your business cards
Is there more you can do? Sure — and if you want to build your follower list, there are tons of guides online that will teach you how to grow a following on Twitter. But it’s probably not worth your time.
In other words, here’s the official MarketingForTherapists.org Twitter plan:
- Stay professional, but let your personality shine through
- Use Buffer to schedule several weeks (or months) of posts in advance. Once it runs dry, write another batch.
- Get off Twitter and do something meaningful with your life!
Ok, what about everything else? What about Facebook or Pinterest or whatever newfangled social network is popular today?
My advice is simple: Ignore them. They’re just not worth your time. You can easily sink hours into building and updating social media profiles, and it’s doubtful if that time will bring you a single client. If you’re like most clinicians, you have no shortage of responsibilities demanding your time, and it’s foolish to squander hours chasing Facebook likes. So save the stress, and ignore everything but Twitter and LinkedIn.
Of course, if there is a good reason for you to ignore this advice, then go ahead! If your colleague has had great success with a Facebook page for her clinic, give it a try. If you read a great blog post about Pinterest marketing, feel free to explore.
But treat it as an experiment. Keep track the hours you are putting into this new social media platform, and be careful to record everything. (Ten minutes here and there adds up over time.) After your new platform has been running for a few weeks, look at your results and compare it to the hours you’ve invested. If you’ve put in five hours and gotten five likes, maybe your time is worth more than a like an hour. Also, remember that the only thing that ultimately matters is new clients – thousands of new likes that don’t lead to new referrals don’t actually help your business.