If you spend many hours running your practice or sessions with clients, the last thing you want to think about is more work. The truth is, however, you need to have a presence online today to be easily found by new clients. That’s people’s primary source of reference for services and products. To ignore this is to ignore how businesses thrive today, so it’s really worth building yourself a presence in as many ways as possible. This article will focus on the social side of your online presence.
Expanding your reach into social networks online is an excellent way to make yourself known as it gives you the opportunity to reach out to people in informal ways to build connections, create interest around yourself, and spread the word about the things you do and care about.
Entering different social media channels is a bit like walking into different rooms where everyone is speaking louder than usual to be heard, and voices merge into each other. What you notice and fixate on can vary vastly between individuals, and your task as a practitioner when you venture into this world, is to speak directly to the heart of your targeted clients and prospects, but also to peers and potential collaborators you want to network with. Different social media channels have different rules and tactics that work best for them, but also tactics that apply to all of them.
This article will introduce you to the uses and potentials of each major platform, and if you want to know the details of how best to navigate yourself within them, you can read our more in-depth guides about each. If you’re already very familiar with some or all of them, I suggest you move on to the articles written about each.
What can Twitter provide? It gives you a place for you to share information (e.g. links to blog posts, new research, articles), express your views on things, have informal conversations with people, and follow peers’ news and updates. All of this is communicated with 140-character messages called tweets. Conversations are fast-paced and the experience resembles that of a perpetual cocktail party.
It’s an excellent place to share any content you want exposed online, such as blog posts, professional profiles, testimonials, news you care about, photo updates, events you’re attending or hosting, offers, your website, and so on.
The success of your Twitter activities is often measured in terms of how many followers you have, however this does not automatically bring you leads or valuable connections. You are better off having few, but meaningful, followers you interact with regularly or who engage in your tweets, than to have thousands of followers who don’t engage in your discussions at all. You need to put time and effort into interacting with people personally to make your communication worthwhile and to bring yourself valuable connections.
Your Twitter presence depends largely on retweets, favourites and hashtags. For example, and particularly when you’re just starting out on Twitter, you can use hashtags (e.g. #CBT, #psychologist, #london) to make yourself known to anyone searching for that hashtag. It’s the modern way to ‘tag’ or categorise your comments so people who are looking for the topics you tweet about can find you. To ‘favourite’ a tweet is to acknowledge, approve or bookmark a tweet, and the more ‘favourites’ (manifested as a star you can click on below the tweet) a tweet has, the more people appear to like it. Retweeting another person’s tweet means sharing the exact same tweet on your own timeline because you endorse it or want to spread the word about it. The more people retweet your tweets, the more people will see you in their Twitter feeds.
Twitter is quick, crowded and for some, too superficial. But it really is one of the best places to network with people and interact casually with those you want to reach out to. Success on this platform, however, really depends on your commitment to it. If you don’t have a consistent and regular habit of using it, you can lose followers and interest, so you really should aim keep it part of your regular work schedule to squeeze in some tweets here and there.
What can Facebook provide? It’s a massively popular social network that gives you a place to have more in-depth discussions around things you care about. You can create a personal profile/account or a professional one, and a page for your business - you can even create public and secret groups for any purpose you want. It’s a great place to share photos, show what you do, connect with like-minded people and have a good overview of the type of people interested in your work and services.
There are different layers of privacy settings, so you can lead a very private existence on Facebook or a very public one, according to preference, context and use. People’s options to ‘like’ and share each others’ posts are the drivers of viral success on Facebook, and the more shares you can encourage, the more people will see your brand and name.
People on Facebook (which include most people these days) will often look up businesses on Facebook to read more about them and judge if they’re worth contacting. Without a Facebook page for your practice, you will be invisible for those people who rely on Facebook to learn about your type of business. Recently, there have been mixed opinions about whether it’s necessary to have a business page there, and some have even shut down their page completely to focus on other social media channels. But to maximise the likelihood of being found by as many people as possible, it’s crucial to have a page on Facebook, at the very least to confirm your existence.
What can Google+ provide? It’s a social platform that allows you to share information with certain groups of people. It consists of social “circles” you choose to be part of, and you can select who to share what with depending on which audience you’re addressing. You can follow each other to get updates, which could be links to blog posts, event info, and so on.
Google+ is also a good place for video chats, also called “Hangouts”. Hence some professionals use this platform with their clients online if that’s what they prefer for remote video chats. You have to have a Gmail account to use Google+, but if you don’t, you can sign up for one here. If you create a business page on Google+ and link it to a phone number and address to get it verified, your business will show in Google’s search results and map. Needless to say, that’s quite important if you operate your business at a specific address and want to be found in general.
What can LinkedIn provide? It gives you a place to network professionally with peers, potential collaborators and clients. You can share your news, blog posts, professional profiles and website here, and often, it’s THE place where employers headhunt new employees. Your LinkedIn profile is like an extensive CV where you can list your experience, jobs, volunteering causes, skills, photo, publications, and so on. It even provides a space for you to post articles so other members of LinkedIn can read your thoughts and get a good idea about your interests and expertise.
LinkedIn is a great place for long, meaningful discussions about things in your niche area if you join one of their many professional group forums. You’re likely to find many groups you can be part of specialising in the things you specialise in. If you’re curious about something pertaining your business, you can post questions and start your own discussions. Engaging in these is often a great way to show off your knowledge in a networking context.
Many professionals already have a LinkedIn profile, so if you haven’t already got one, or you just haven’t used it for a while, just search for people you want to connect with and send them an invitation to connect. The larger your network, the more likely it is you will be shared and noticed in new connections’ timelines.
Generally about social media
A mistake we’ve seen time and again from people who are just starting out with social media is that they’re aiming to be perfect, and they’re afraid to do the wrong things. To share exactly the right things, at the right times, using the “right” language and words is to hinder your own progress. Sure, there are plenty of basic rules you’re well off following, but success comes only after experimentation and gaining experience. Plus, the way you write in a professional context or the way you want to be heard in face-to-face discussions are often different to how you best communicate on social media. You simply need to try it for a while to develop your own effective ‘voice’.
Twitter, in particular, requires a lot of experimentation for you to reach a balance between personal satisfaction about the the content you write and the effectiveness of your communication. For example, if you always maintain a formal tone on Twitter and don’t dare to loosen up and write in more casual language sometimes, you can alienate yourself from a lot of followers who only react to ‘human’ speak, not formal-sounding messages. See what works with your particular target audience, and do less of what doesn’t give you any response from people. Social media success is an ongoing, live experiment only you can go through. You can listen to lots of advice from different people, and your success depends on taking it all in, judging what’s right for you, and going ahead to try what you think is appropriate in your situation. But don’t get stuck. Use as a guidance what tends to evoke positive and meaningful reactions in others, and keep doing those things consistently.
Another piece of advice is: it’s tempting to buy followers or likes when you’re just getting started but the truth is, automatically gained followers are rarely going to engage much in your posts or use your services. There are plenty other ways you can steadily gain valuable followers and likes without diving into your wallet - read more on this in our other social media articles.