Last week Caleb shared some compelling reasons why he does not use social media. He makes some very good points that are worth your time to read and consider. I’m on the other side of the fence on this issue and want to share a few reasons for why I think it’s good idea to integrate this into your practice.
I think social media is our modern day campfire. In primitive cultures, people gather around the fire and tell stories. Social media is increasingly the place people attend to tell their stories, get wisdom, and seek advice for dealing with issues they are facing.
Social media provides opportunities to engage the local community. I can learn of volunteer possibilities, social events, and other ideas that might allow you me to network and meet people in the community. This is a profession sustained by building relationships, and social media is avenue to find and cultivate relationships.
If you ask anyone who is in a private practice, they will tell you that the business is built on referrals. Counseling is not a professional service suitable for a billboard on the side of an interstate, or for paid radio spots. Can you have success with these traditional and mainstream methods? Sure, but those require lots of resources that most folks don’t have when they are just getting started. Social media is fairly easy use, free, and accessible to all socioeconomic groups.
Here are three ways that I use social media to supplement my ongoing relationship building.
1. When I meet someone new, I will typically try to find and follow them on twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This provides another layer of connection that can give both of us a different kind of access to each other. I publicly thank them for meeting with me (example on twitter: “Great to meet @CalebMitchell today. He works with people who struggle with eating disorders. Need help in that area? He’s your guy.”). This does two things. First, I become part of his marketing efforts for his own business. People are usually grateful when you speak well of them. Secondly, this lets him know I was listening and engaged in our time together. This simple “tweet” is a quick way to gain an ally and begin a potential referrer.
2. I write a blog and will publish my posts on the various social networks. I also read others blogs and will use my social networks to promote helpful articles I found insightful. I do this to help my clients and those that follow me, but also (similar to the first point above) to build rapport with other professionals by promoting their content. Cross promotion is a great way to build your brand (I’ll write more about brand building at a later time).
3. I’m an introvert, and social media is a non-exhausting way for me to meet and interact with new people. Because counseling is highly relational, I’m limited in the amount of energy I have to invest in new relationships outside of the office. This wasn’t the case when I was first starting my practice, but the busier I have become means the less energy I have for meeting new people. Even if you’re not an introvert, I still think this is a valid reason for using social media.
Let me end with one final point. Social media is a great addition to your overall marketing strategy, but don’t make it your only strategy. My suggestion is to consider what you’ve read above along with Caleb’s article from last week, and build your own practices and goals for social media. Twitter and Facebook might not be for you, and that’s ok. Make your practices your own, use these ideas and thoughts to guide you in that process.