3 Benefits of Building a Social Media Following

3 Reasons(1)

A sizable social media following demonstrates that you are a reliable and respected source.

Once you've set up your social media platforms of choice (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), building a group of dedicated followers takes time. Though it may be discouraging to initially only have a few "likes" on your page, consistently creating and curating content and growing your following is a valuable strategy that can pay off. One of the objectives of expanding your readership (gaining more followers on social media) is raising your visibility in the community and attracting more clients. But beyond this, having a loyal audience can help bring you additional professional opportunities. Here's how:

Writing for reputable sites and outlets is one way to secure multiple income streams for yourself. In my own life and career, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a regular contributor for Psych Central and Answers and also to frequently write for other publications. And the reason that I'm able to have these kinds of additional professional experiences is because of my social media following!

Social Proof of Relevance

When I approach a site, I can better convince them to allow me to write for them if I can demonstrate that I have a substantial readership. For example, I point to my 11,500+ Twitter followers and 2,400 followers on Instagram as evidence that I have an audience that cares about the things I say. When I write for a well-known website, I then share that article to my own followers, which increases traffic for both the site and for myself. This symbiotic relationship is possible because I've first built my own social media audience.   

Demonstrates Your Expertise

In addition to showing the numbers, having a body of work you can draw from is critical when seeking to expand your professional opportunities. If you only have a few posts on your blog, you haven't yet established yourself as a credible writer. But by regularly creating and repurposing material, you have existing content to prove yourself as a trusted source. Also, your blog and other articles is what you are sharing via your social media platforms. The only way your followers will remain loyal readers is if you are consistently providing them with relevant material.

Attract Professional Opportunities

One unexpected result of building a social media following is that professional opportunities that I want are coming to me. Because I have a large body of online work, an engaged social media following, people who are seeking someone with my expertise can easily find me online. I've also heard several amazing stories of colleagues who have had publishers read out to them and offer a book contract because of their online presence and social media following.

Having a dedicated and engaged social media following is an excellent strategy to securing professional opportunities separate from clinical hours. Your online material can be "liked," re-shared, and re-pinned, and you can show the number of followers you have as evidence that you are a reliable source of information in your field.

What are YOU doing to build your social media following?

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3 Things Potential Clients Really Want to Know

We've spent thousands and thousands of dollars on graduate education, continuing education, advanced clinical trainings and years in practicum and under supervision. We have invested a lot in our credentials, and all of the impressive acronyms behind our names. PhD, LCSW, LMFT, RPT, CSAC, LPC  -- and the list goes on.

In my twenty plus years of practice, I have realized that what we value as clinicians is not necessarily the same thing as what those who are considering our services value. In fact, there are some principle criteria that we as clinicians need to meet in order for an individual to choose us as his/her therapist. Of course, there are exceptions. There are clients who are savvy to the ins and outs of mental health credentials, trainings, and certifications and are seeking help from someone in a specific discipline or with specific training. However, as a general rule, potential clients want to  answer "yes" to these 3 questions before they select you as their clinician.

1) Do I like you?  

A sometimes overlooked step of gaining new clients is your approachability. You can have advanced degrees and training, but if someone does not feel drawn to you initially, it's very unlikely he/she will choose you. And remember that not everyone will necessarily favor your particular style, and that's ok! Just as you are looking for an ideal client, he/she is looking for an ideal therapist.

One way potential clients may determine if they like you is by what they see of your online presence. What can someone learn about your personality from your photo(s) and you online content? How do you present yourself? All these can play a significant role in whether or not someone takes the next step in seeking your services.

2) Can I trust you?  

Trust is a critical aspect of the therapy process, and people may want to get an idea of how trustworthy they perceive you to be before becoming a paying client (we don't share our innermost struggles with just anyone). Are you someone who can be trusted with another's vulnerabilities and pain? Would potential clients feel comfortable confiding in you? Do they feel like you are someone who would value and care about them? Do they believe that you are a competent provider?

When it comes to building trust with potential clients, once again a strong online presence can go a long way. By viewing the content you post on your blog and/or social media platforms, they can get a sense of your level of credibility and trustworthiness, and you can begin the process of fostering trust even before a client's first session.

3) Can you help me?

You as a therapist are there to serve, and individuals interested in you want to know that you have the skills to help them. Understandably, potential clients will be willing to emotionally and financially invest in therapy only if they believe it will truly benefit them. Can you use your training and experience to help them problem solve or develop coping skills? Does your professional expertise match their therapeutic needs? The answers to these questions influence whether or not someone will choose you.

An individual may not be able to fully know if you can help him/her until therapy actually begins. However, your online presence can still play a factor in introducing yourself, your approach, and your therapy style him/her. For example, media interviews can help potential clients see you as not just a provider, but as an expert in your speciality area. This type of exposure allows others to see your level of skill and competence (read here for more about how media interviews can benefit your practice).

How can you present yourself so that potential clients-

  • like you
  • trust you
  • know you can help them


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Extra! Extra! Using a Newsletter to Build Your Private Practice

newsletter If there is anything you've taken from reading posts on Private Practice Toolbox, it likely has to do with the importance of having a strong online presence to educate and serve your community. There's a lot to consider: social media, blogging, podcasting, SEO, etc. But there's another aspect of building your practice that we haven't quite covered yet: newsletters.

Newsletters are a tool you may consider implementing for your practice. A newsletter is a letter you send out to your clients and readers updating them on what's happening with your practice (it's a good idea to send them out monthly; you don't want to overwhelm your audience with too much from you, but you also don't want them to forget about you). They can be an effective way to connect with your readers and offer some insight on topics related to your specialty, inform them of any upcoming events or seminars, and just overall keep in touch.

Newsletter or Blog Post?

If you're continually producing fresh content, there's often a question of where to place it. Does it work better for a newsletter or for a blog post? While there will be some overlap between the two, there are significant differences between what type of content is best for what medium. Anyone can read your blog or site, but your newsletter is much more tailored and specific, and only people who have subscribed will receive it. These are local users who have shown that they have a specific interest in what you have to say. So while your blog is perhaps more for the purpose of acquiring new clients, a newsletter is best fitted for engaging with current clients.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you have information to share that you feel would be valuable for both potential and existing clients, sometimes a slight adjustment in wording or format between mediums can make your content fit both a blog post and a newsletter.

Building Your List

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to attract and engage with clients and is the means through which you'll facilitate your newsletter. This is where you create a list of contacts to communicate with via email. But acquiring a list takes time and effort. Some therapists choose to gather emails at speaking events and conferences. Others may ask for permission to leave a sign-up sheet at physicians' offices or other public settings. Also, providing an opt-in on your website or blog is another way to generate contacts for your list. If you are taking the time to create content for newsletters, you want enough readers to make it worth your while, and building your email list is key.

Programs for Email Newsletters:

Although some do choose to send hard copies of their newsletters, most opt to use emails (hard copies quickly get expensive, and dealing with home addresses can be very inconvenient). But in order to be more efficient and professional, you'll want to use another email program than simply Gmail or Yahoo. Some well-known systems for email lists include Mailchimp and Constant Contact. These both have free trial periods and then have varying prices depending on your number of subscribers and the volume of emails you send out. Thankfully, email marketing programs for your newsletters are not very costly investments; Mailchimp allows users to send unlimited emails to 500 subscribers for only $10 per month. Take time to experiment with the different features and automations of these programs, and they can be an invaluable part of your newsletter campaign.

Newsletters are yet another way to reach out to your community and get the word out about your private practice. Consider the time investment necessary, the potential results (acquiring new clients, having more individuals come to your events, gaining more blog readers, etc.), and the costs, and then decide whether they would be a useful tool for your therapy practice.

What are YOUR experiences with newsletters?

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The Power of Online Presence: Blogger Dawn Friedman uses her Advanced SEO Skills to Rank High in Google

540496_160644944100475_625876816_n Discover how some very successful mental health professionals use blogging, social media, and other technologies as powerful tools for their therapy practices.

Dawn Friedman, MSEd LPC, is a clinical counselor specializing in issues surrounding family building, including infertility, adoption, pregnancy, and parenting. An early adopter of technology, Dawn started a blog that became the basis of her strong online presence and has helped her grow a thriving practice. Read about her story here:

When and how did you first start putting time and effort into maintaining a strong online presence?

Back in 2001, I started a personal blog that I continued for about ten years. In that time, blogging went from a fairly introverted way to journal to a massive (and competitive) industry. Because I had started early, I got to see the field of blogging really take off and learn it as it happened. So when I turned to blogging for a private practice I hadn't opened yet (about a year before I planned to launch), I already had a strong understanding of how blogging and other social media work. 

Starting my professional blog a year before my practice opened gave me time to play around with the design (in WordPress) and think about how to lay it all out. It also gave me the space to find my blogging voice. I wasn't sure how to switch from personal writing to more careful disclosure as a therapist, and it took some time and bumbling around to figure out how to be friendly, open, and myself without giving away so much information that it might overwhelm a potential client. I started out way too impersonal and over time let myself loosen up and have more fun with what I wrote. The advantage, too, of starting a year in advance is that having a living, breathing web site that was already getting some traffic made it much easier to start showing up in local searches once I was ready to launch. The blog was already going, and I just needed to focus on creating the pages that described my services, hosted my paperwork, etc.

Please describe what social platforms you currently use.

I used to do social media consulting on the side back in my personal blogging days. What I told clients was to go and claim your online real estate, which means grab the Twitter handles, the Instagram names, etc. Even if you're not going to use them, you don't want someone else to have them. So technically, I have most of the social platforms, but I don't use them all. Many of them you can keep alive passively (WordPress blogs will automatically post to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Facebook if you're using JetPack). Once you have all your accounts lined up, you can figure out which ones make the most sense for you to put more work into.

For me, I put the greatest effort into my blog and website.  I've worked very hard on my search engine optimization (SEO) and am on the front page for most of the local searches that I've targeted. The second place where I put in effort is on my Facebook page. I have a professional page and a personal account. My personal account is on lockdown with the privacy settings but I assume anything posted on the internet could potentially show up on a client's screen, so I bear that in mind when I'm posting. That said, I've found that Facebook is the social media site that will drive the most traffic -- especially local traffic, which is what I want -- to my site. I have my blog automatically post new updates to my professional page, and then I share from my page to my personal account. Since doing this, I've seen an increase in traffic, and more people have liked my page. So overall, I do invest some time into Facebook, but I'd rather spend more energy on my blog. It's a very personal choice, and there's no right way for everybody.

About how much time do you devote to your online presence? How do you balance it with your other work responsibilities?

Back in my journaling days, I would blog daily. Now, if I can post six to eight times a month, I'm pretty happy. I'd like to post more because I really enjoy it, but I just get too busy. Other than putting out new content, I also spend a few hours each month updating my site, playing around with my theme, changing out my front page picture, and looking at my stats to see where I can consolidate pages or tighten up my menu. I keep an eye on the number of hits the different pages get. For example, I realized that the part of my site that people clicked the least amount was "Services," so I turned it into a menu header. This led to an increase in clicks directly to services people are interested in. I also am always tweaking and adding things that might help my search engine optimization, which I think is a lot of fun because it's like a game!

What kinds of things do you use to inspire your content creation; what do you write about?

I usually write about things that tend to come up a lot in sessions. For example, many of the children I see struggle with anxiety, and I get quite a few questions about that subject too, so I wrote a three-part series on child anxiety. I also write about books I've read -- counseling related or not -- share fun music videos, and highlight local events that my potential and current clients might be interested in.

I will add that sharing local resources helps me in several ways: It gives me a writing topic, it allows me to share good information with readers who will welcome it, it lets me to network to get that resource up on my blog, and it improves my local SEO. I mean, it's fun to get readers from all over the world but unless you live within driving distance to my office, you're unlikely to become a client or refer me to someone you know. Sharing local events makes it clear that I want to be a resource for my community here in town, and it's also much more likely to be shared by locals on Twitter or Facebook. Win/win!

Back when I did social media consulting, I'd tell people to share the kinds of things you might find yourself talking about at a dinner party. What interesting, fun anecdotes do you have? What thought provoking things have you come across? Even though things like SEO and header tags are important, sometimes you have to put aside the worry and just write. Find your voice first, and your blog will benefit you even if you don't do all that social media stuff "right." Trust me on this. If people like what you write, they will share it, and that will help your traffic. Also, people who click to you from a directory or a Google search will have the opportunity to get to know you, which will increase the chance that the people who call you will be a good fit for your practice.

Just write!

How do you best balance personal and professional in your online activities? Please give examples.

This was a tricky thing to figure out, and it's something that I still reflect on regularly since I think ethics demand that we always be thoughtful and aware about what we share and how that might impact our clients. I do know that I tend to be more comfortable with disclosure than some therapists, and I think that's a matter of personal style. On the other hand, I've seen therapists share way, way more than I'd be willing to do (And I say this having lots of published essays out there that will give any client with Google the opportunity to learn my kids' names, my political beliefs and my personal philosophies on a whole bunch of things). 

Generally, I've decided that I will share anything on my blog that I might share in a session. For example, I might write about a parenting challenge I've faced personally to illustrate a developmental phase presenting in a client's family because that's something we might talk about together in my office (Note: I always get my kids' permission before posting stories about them). When I want to write about something that might make a client even slightly worry that I'm talking about him/her, I'll write about a fictional character. In the series on anxiety, instead of using a fake Jane Doe, (which might lead a client to think I'm writing about his or her child) I wrote about Goldilocks. This allows me to illustrate ideas without threatening anyone's therapeutic relationship. I've written about Harriet the Spy and Ramona Quimby, too, to talk about kids. Other therapists might like using characters on television shows or movies. Using fictional characters not only protects clients from thinking they're seeing themselves in what you write, it's also a fun way to call out cultural touchstones that speak to you.

What is some tangible evidence that your online presence has grown your business?

I've had many clients come to see me because of something they've read on my blog. Someone will share something I wrote on Facebook, and another person will see it, click through, and see that I'm a therapist and then call me. I've also had people go looking for a therapist and stop to read my blog first. Sometimes people tell me that they've read my blog for several weeks or months before making that leap. Having that updating, ongoing resource made it easier for them to feel safe making the call. Some clients say that they want to see me even though I don't take their insurance because they like what I said about a particular topic or feel like they would be comfortable with me. In other words, they want to see me, not just whatever therapist answers the phone first.

Also my blog and attention to SEO has kept me on the front page of local Google searches for my target market. That's huge and has definitely been a tremendous help in my practice building. It's not just potential clients, either. Referral sources use Google, too.

Besides attracting clients, what other ways has your strong online presence helped you?

My blog has helped me secure speaking and writing gigs. I've stepped way, way back on my professional writing since working on my practice, but both my personal blog and professional blog have brought editors to me. Networking is also easier when you have a great web site. It's fun to meet someone for coffee and have them say, "I already know this about you..." It makes starting those conversations easier.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered creating and maintaining your online presence?

There were some technical challenges I had when I first started my professional blog. I was using the URL I had used for my personal blog so that I wouldn't lose out on traffic. I had to change the URL and needed a 301 redirect to maintain that traffic. This is one of those things that sounds scary and complicated, but is actually pretty easy. There's a great explanation of how to do this on Wordpress if you're ever in need.

Beyond that, it's easy to become overwhelmed or to think you need to use every bell and whistle available. I tend to try out new things for a little while, then drop them if they're not useful. Part of this is that I just like learning this stuff, but I do have to watch my time constraints. It's way more fun to me to create a great, shareable image on Canva than it is to write up my case notes, so sometimes I reward myself with online tweaking when I'm all caught up on paperwork.

Also it's tempting to save things. Like save that great metaphor for my next talk, or save that terrific example for writing I might publish elsewhere. I've since learned that the more I give, the more I have to give. Memoirist Annie Dillard said:

"One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

It's true. The more you write, the more you share, the more you will create. To hold back is a little bit like never adding weights to your lifting routine because you want to save it for when you're stronger. It's the exact opposite really.

What tips or resources can you recommend to help therapists who are new to the online world of blogging, social media, SEO, etc.?

I really like Amy Lynn Andrews for her series on starting a blog. I send her information to people all of the time. It's clear, it's easy to implement, and it works. I also like her newsletter for staying up to date on different tools that might be useful. She's not specific to counseling, but I always learn something, and even though she's super beginner-friendly, she also points to other resources for when you're ready to dig deeper into social media and SEO.

Dawn Friedman MSEd LPCphoto-225x300



4 Ways to Repurpose Existing Content for Blog Posts

Repurpose content for blog postYou already have content for hundreds of blog posts. You just don't recognize it yet. Therapists who are new to blogging sometimes have a difficult time finding material to write about.  So where to begin?  Actually, it’s much easier than you might expect.

An excellent strategy to finding material to write about is to simply repurpose and repackage existing content. That means that you remake something that’s already been created, either by you or someone else.  This of course does NOT mean that you simply regurgitate what has already been written, but instead you thoughtfully craft existing material to serve a new purpose and audience.  There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, here!

So let’s about specific ways to repurpose existing content for your blog posts.

1) Transform Your Existing Content

One of the most effective ways (and easiest, too!) to find something to blog about is to use content that you yourself have already created.  For me, I look to podcasts or webinars I’ve done, articles I’ve published, or other media projects I’ve been involved with as inspiration for my blog.  Sometimes I take just a sentence or two from one of these things and elaborate on it for a blog post.  To give an example, I often say that “Conversational is the new professional” to describe how therapists can use social media to interact with clients.  This phrase alone could spark a great blog post about new methods of communication between professionals and customers.  So look back on content you’ve created to find something great to write about.  Easy as pie!

2) What Other Experts Say

If you haven’t yet landed those media interviews, published articles, or speaking engagements, don’t worry!  You still have a lot of topics to write about.  As a professional of any kind knows, it’s critical to continue to read and study about one’s field to stay current and relevant concerning best practices.  Consider that new and interesting research findings can become fodder for a blog post. Summarize the findings, add your perspective on the topic, link to the research article, and voila!

Additionally, consider embedding a YouTube video from another professional that is relevant to your idea client's needs. Write a couple of paragraphs about why this video speaks to you or how it applies to your ideal client. Remember to link to the original video and the expert's website.

3) Notice Trends in Your Practice

Also, don’t overlook the specific issues you see as a therapist.  Reflect on trends you observe in your practice and use those for content for your blog.  For example, maybe you’ve noticed that many of your recent clients struggle with communicating with their spouses about finances.  Draw upon your professional expertise (and possibly do a bit of research as well) to provide advice related to those situations.  And there you have another great blog post.

4) Community Talks & Presentations

I recently spoke to a group of mental health professionals on building an online presence. I asked them how many of them had Powerpoint presentations they have used for community events or school projects. All of the participants raised their hands. Take your community presentation content and divide it up into smaller sections for blog posts or blog post series. For example, say you have a presentation on warning signs that goes through the diagnostic criteria for common mental health disorders: mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. You could take each of the larger categories and use those for a blog post series such as the following:

Mood Disorders 101: Warning signs to watch for (1 of 5)

Mood Disorders: What's the difference between mild and major depression? (2 of 5)

Mood Disorders: When a loved one threatens suicidal (3 of 5)...You get the idea.

Another way to use community presentations as blog content is to audio or video record your presentations. You can easily edit your audio or video and post sections of it as mp3 or video on your professional blog.

Once you get going on your professional blog, you’ll likely find that you have an abundance of material to write about. Take something already created, put an original twist on it, and then make it your own.  So get to thinking about something you’ve written, read, or seen in your practice, and then write a rocking post about it!

I'd love to hear your ideas for repurposing existing content. Please share your ideas and creative ideas in the comments below.