Website Design and Packages for Therapists

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How to Use Social Media Safely and Effectively as a Therapist

Some of the questions I am most often asked by therapists are "Should I use Twitter, Facebook etc?", "What risks do I face using social media as a professional?", "What benefits might I gain by using social media in my practice?"

Defining "social media" can be tricky, but it could be best defined, in my opinion, as any platform that enables human beings to freely share thoughts, experiences and concerns online and interactively.

Any professional looking to engage in social media platforms in their professional capacity should firstly be guided by the standards and guidelines prescribed or recommended by their governing or controlling professional body. Many publish comprehensive codes of conduct and certain rules regarding advertising and interaction with the public. 

However many organisations do not publish guidelines on the use of social media, and the therapist will have to be guided by their own standards and instincts.

The next aspect to consider is which social media would be best suited to you and your practice; these could be considered the 4 main platforms:

Facebook - Twitter - LinkedIn - Google Plus

Each have unique features, that means they can be used for differing purposes. It is however unlikely and not realistic to engage fully with all of these mediums and use all of their capabilities - who really has the time? Without going into any great detail on the pros and cons of each - here's an extremely brief overview...

Facebook for therapists

Great for pictures, sharing quotes, articles, making downloads available and engaging with a wide and varied audience who, on the whole, are used to using this and are comfortable in this space. Do not, under any circumstances, use your personal Facebook for your practice message! Create a separate "fan page" with your practice identity and invite people you think would be interested in your service to "like" the page. Once a page is "liked" your postings will show on that individual's timeline (part of the Facebook account).

This is very easy to do and can be done in minutes by following this link...

http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php

- Use Facebook to post interesting stories, new research, announcements of events and images related to your practice.

- Do not use Facebook to announce anything personal, discuss any case you may have whether anonymous or not and most certainly not to post pictures of your social life.

With careful use Facebook may be a free and easy way to communicate with potential clients.

Twitter for therapists

Great for "listening" to your market and contributing to questions and concerns people may have in a non-selling way. Basically you "follow" people and organisations of value and interest to your practice. In turn you collect "followers" - you receive short posts (140 characters or less) from those you follow and your followers are exposed to your tweets. Your followers may then share this amongst their followers or follow a link to your website or an item of interest. By following certain groups of interest to your practice you may come across conversations you may be able to contribute to and point people in the direction of the right information or resources. This is effectively a "give to get" strategy and can be very effective in engaging with potential clients.

Here's all the info you will need to get started on that...

https://support.twitter.com/articles/100990-how-to-sign-up-on-twitter#

Word of warning however: While your favourite film star or sports team may be of interest to you, they may not be of interest to those who follow you, and nor will your followers be interested in blow-by-blow accounts of your day - keep it short, informative and interesting. And of course - keep your business and your personal profiles entirely separate.

LinkedIn for therapists

Excellent way to link up with other professionals, join interesting groups and contribute to peer discussions. LinkedIn is in a way Facebook for business and professionals. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, where pretty much anyone can follow you, your "followers" or connections on LinkedIn have to be accepted by you or invited by you. You can join groups of professional interest here and get involved in discussions with professionals world-wide.

Here's how you get started on LinkedIn...

http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=what_is_linkedin&

Less need for caution here as you are in a professional environment and less likely to be exposed to cyber risks. Same principles as always apply - keep it businesslike!

Google Plus for therapists

A fairly new but rapidly growing way of connecting with various groups of people from our friends at the all-powerful Google. The basic idea is that you group your contacts in "circles" - some may be friends, others business associates, others people of interest. You then choose to share details about you with whatever "circle" you deem appropriate. The exciting part about Google Plus is that you can video chat with multiple people at the same time, so if you needed to have a discussion with professionals in say, Glasgow, London and Cardiff at the same time you can easily do that here. Another aspect is that your "circle" is advised when you recommend a particular service or website via Google Plus - a bit like how referrals used to work in the not too distant past. In the future this will likely have a direct effect on where websites end up on Google search.

Here's a bit more on how this all works...

http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/

The same rules of common sense and security should be applied here. On a personal note, I think this will be the way we share things in the very near future and although it's still fairly new I do suggest it's better to be in with Google than outside looking in.

A final word

As you have no doubt gathered, the whole world of social media constantly changes and adapts. What is certain however is that pretty much everyone uses at least one of the above at various times. So it makes sense to be involved and perhaps to start slowly with one platform, get to know to it and then see how it goes after 3 months or so.

In his excellent book "The New Rules of Marketing & PR", David Meerman Scott imagines social media as being an area within a city where people gather to chat and socialise, share ideas and networks. In each area there are many locations - each catering to the needs of the patrons frequenting these places. (http://www.davidmeermanscott.com/books/the-new-rules-of-marketing-and-pr/)

As a new entrant at one of these social gatherings you should act like you would in "real" life - be friendly, engaging and share. Listen a lot to what people say, get used to the way things are said and how people communicate. Within no time you will come across a conversation you will feel comfortable contributing to. Being helpful and sharing resources will lead to your network expanding and may in time lead to new business.

Please feel free to contact me at any time if you would like to discuss making a start with social media.

Written by : Mark Bate