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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4 Common Business Blunders of Newbie Private Practitioners

oops! mistake"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."

-Eleanor Roosevelt

When starting out in private practice, there's a lot to know. A lot. The learning curve can be painfully steep, particularly in ways for which we received no official training (finances, hiring practices, etc.). And no matter how knowledgeable or skilled a clinician is, he/she will inevitably take a few wrong steps. And that's okay!

We recently opened up a discussion on our Facebook page to get feedback about common business mistakes that therapists made when they were getting started in private practice. The responses were overwhelming; it seems many of you were eager to reflect on and share lessons that you learned the hard way! Though there were many answers given, a select few kept coming up that are worth addressing. Here are 4 common business mistakes to avoid when starting private practice:

4 Common Mistakes1) Taking Clients Who Are Not Ideal  

Building a clientele from scratch can be daunting, and if you're desperate for business, it might be tempting to take just anyone. But agreeing to see someone who is not your ideal client can be a miserable experience for both you as a therapist and the individual who is paying for professional services. Instead, politely refer to a therapist who is a better fit, continue to market yourself using the REST strategy, and wait for the right clients to come along.

2) Not Hiring a Good Accountant

Many in our group regretted that they hadn't taken on a CPA sooner to handle the finances, bookkeeping, and taxes (especially quarterly ones!). As so many in our Private Practice Toolbox group can attest, it's a worthy investment. One woman explained how she had initially set up her LLC incorrectly and later had to pay thousands of dollars to fix her mistake and get her business running smoothly again. Moral of the story: hiring a skilled accountant may be a bit expensive, but it's absolutely worth it!

3) Insufficient Infrastructure for Unexpected Growth  

For those new to the game, having an influx of clients might sound like a good thing, but the reality is quite different. Having too many clients can cause burnout, being short-staffed, and getting behind on administrative tasks. Don't be afraid to refer potential clients to trusted and reputable colleagues. Making sure your practice is secure and stable will make it so that you can handle the growth over time.

4) Not Understanding Insurance Companies         

Insurance panels are notorious for being confusing and complicated. Enlist a seasoned friend or mentor in your local area to help you navigate the process. Don't wait until you encounter a business emergency or financial crisis to understand all the ins and outs of insurance companies (such as understanding how client health benefits are different from behavioral health benefits). Become as versed and experienced in how to work with them as you possibly can so that you can avoid problems and get properly paid on time.

(I do hope that your goal is to eventually get off of insurance panels altogether and instead adopt a fee-for-service model. Click here to access my webinar about how to do so.)

What mistakes have YOU made that you would advise others against?

What did you learn from them?

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The Power of Online Presence: Facebook Brings Australian Parenting Expert Elly Taylor International Opportunities

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

Elly Taylor, AARC, is an Australian Relationship Counsellor, Parenthood Researcher and advocate for emotional health. She teaches parents and professionals about the eight stages of early parenthood following pregnancy so families can bed down solid foundations for psychological, emotional and relational growth. You can learn more about Elly’s work at www.ellytaylor.com.

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

With two teenagers at home, "Facebook" was a dirty word in our house a few years ago! Then, after my book Becoming Us was published here by Harper Collins in Australia, I met up with a very successful author friend who was giving me tips on marketing and how social media had made all the difference for her. I squirmed awkwardly in my seat and said something like “I really want my book to spread through word of mouth." She looked at me straight and said “Elly, these days that’s called social media.” So I reluctantly hopped on Facebook and found it completely overwhelming! Until I found there were groups. I love groups; part of my job is leading them. After a few months of participating in conversations in a couple of different groups about birthing, I received my first invitation to present my research in the United States... through a Facebook message!

Please describe what social platforms you currently use. 

I would use more if I could get off Facebook! I’m on LinkedIn and will be more active on there when I start my group for Family Focused Perinatal Professionals early next year. I’m also on Twitter, but don’t find it as warm and fuzzy as Facebook. I like seeing people’s kid pics. I did start a couple of Pinterest boards, but I’m worried I will get completely lost in there and weeks will pass and I’ll forget to eat…

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

Far too much at the moment! The plan for next year is to spend two days face-to-face with clients, one in my office and one via Skype for interstate and overseas clients. That leaves three days for writing and social media-ing. And the weekend to recover from my online hangover!

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

I try to write about the stuff that’s unspoken, and with expecting and new parents, there’s plenty to cover! I write about the ways parenthood changes life and love and how to work with the changes and support your partner to do the same so you both grow together through them. So many relationships come undone through lack of awareness. In this information age, that shouldn’t be happening.

I also have found in my research that so many aspects of our culture set new families up for failure, that there’s a huge information gap between therapy and birth professionals, and therefore such a massive gap between expectation and reality for parents. I’ll be starting my regular blog soon, one for professionals to cross-pollinate their expertise and one for parents so they get the benefits of that. I’d like to do what I can to help cross the divide.

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

I have two FB accounts, one in my professional name and one in my married name, which is private. I don’t share family stuff on my professional page, although I know many who do and I’m probably being over-cautious. I do share some stories from my own life my talk for the Parenting 2.0 conference in Dublin is a good example!), but I check with my hubby that he’s OK with that beforehand…or maybe just afterwards!

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

All my speaking invitations in the US and UK have come through social media contacts. My Facebook friends were also the ones who encouraged me to develop trainings based on the content in my book. I’ll be rolling out Becoming Us webinar trainings next year so that birth, health and therapy professionals have ideas, direction, and support to work with the expecting and new parents in their care.

What other ways has your strong online presence helped you?

Oh gosh, in lots of ways! If I have an idea I’m not sure about (logo, tag lines, etc), I’ll run it by my online friends. I’ve asked for feedback on my book and website and taken it all on board so when I finally launch my webinar series early next year, it’s been given a really thorough test run first.

A lovely birth professional friend referred to me as a “Parenthood Tour Guide” the other day, and then another one said she thought of me as “The Family Whisperer." I was so touched and thrilled! I love the support and validation I receive through Facebook groups; so many wonderful, engaged, enlightened souls who are all there to lift and help each other. I remember in the years before I got on social media, I was often lacking the support and collaboration I needed to get my work off the ground. I teared up just yesterday when a FB friend offered to be an administrator for a FB group I’m starting up next year and another offered to do a video testimonial for my book.

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

Trying not to get sucked into the Facebook vortex and get other stuff done, like actually develop the content! I get so carried away by seeing everyone's pictures and news and cute videos. I made the mistake of announced the Becoming Us training courses just the other day at the same time I was supposed to be picking up my daughter from school.

How have you overcome those challenges?

I keep telling myself I’m going to get an egg timer…

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

Start slowly, observe at first to see what others are doing while you get your bearings, take your time, and build your confidence. See what ignites your passion – that’s where your best writing will come from. See where the gaps are. When I first got on FB and joined a bunch of birth professional groups, I noticed that fathers (and partners) were often left out of the conversations completely. I feel strongly that from an adult attachment perspective, including and supporting dads/partners during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood has major long-term benefits for the whole family. That's where I began my journey, and it was worked out well so far!


Elly Taylor, AARC

Australian Relationship Counsellor, Parenthood Researcher Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/BecomingUs Website: www.ellytaylor.com LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ellytaylor

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5 Common Barriers to Building a Fee-For-Service Practice

Building a fee-for-service practice can be scary, especially if it means resigning from insurance panels and finding other ways to attract clients. Others may have already made the switch, but don't know how to successfully navigate the change. I have found some strategies to help ease the transition. Here are 5 common barriers to building a fee-for-service practice and ways to overcome them: 1) "I'm uncomfortable marketing myself"

I often hear therapists say that marketing themselves feels like bragging or tooting their own horn by self-promoting. In order to move past this barrier, it's helpful to reframe the way you think about marketing. Consider it instead as REST: Relationships, Educating, Serving, and Trust Building. You are building relationships with potential clients who might see your website or other media, you're serving your community by educating them about important topics related to your niche, and you're establishing rapport and building trust with those who encounter you through your (online) content (REST is essentially why you're in the profession in the first place, right?). If you can focus on these 4 things, you can (and will!) attract clients who will pay your full fee. While your "marketing" strategy (I'm not a fan of that word, by the way) REST strategy is meant to benefit you by helping your community become familiar with you and your services, it's really about those who you can potentially help through receiving services through your practice. Don't be shy in getting the word out about yourself; it's a way for you to use your professional skills to serve and educate your community.

2) "I'm afraid of the ethical issues surrounding social media"

Those new to the world of social media may be wary to fully embrace it because of the potential ethical problems that may arise. Potential for unethical dual relationships, confidentiality concerns, and lack of knowledge are common fears. But these fears (and others) can be overcome: having an official social media policy included with your intake packet, avoiding directly soliciting your additional products or services to existing clients, being familiar with privacy settings online, and overall just using your ethics training and common sense will help you be prepared to face these potential issues.

Click here to read a more comprehensive article about overcoming fears associated with social media.

3) "I'm not good with technology"

The internet gives us incredible opportunities to communicate and reach an audience that is unprecedented in size. However, for those unfamiliar with all the ins and outs, it can also be intimidating, overwhelming, and frustrating to start. Mari A. Lee, an LMFT who specializes in sex addiction recovery, understands this feeling all too well. She describes being scared and resistant to learning new technologies. But she was able to overcome her "technophobia" by starting with manageable goals, finding a patient and persistent mentor, asking lots of questions, and setting aside time to devote to learning and practicing new tech skills. Her success in building an online presence paid off big time; she's currently a best-selling author! "If I can figure out how to blog, attend and facilitate webinars, host online trainings, navigate my Facebook business page, and so forth, anyone can... If this 52 year-old former tech scaredy cat can do it, so can you!" Mari explains (read more about her experience here). 

Understanding and applying the language of technology does not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself, as there's certainly some trial-and error learning here. Remember that everyone starts somewhere. And just like Mari, look for a mentor to guide you and bounce ideas and questions off of. You've proven yourself to be an apt and competent learner by becoming a licensed therapist; have the courage to learn another skill set as well.

4) "I can't do media appearances or speaking engagements because I hate seeing and hearing myself"

Therapists tend to get shy about media interviews. It's one thing to sit in front of a client and offer counsel in a one-on-one session, but speaking in front of large audiences can bring out anxiety in even the most confident clinicians. But remember how much you know; you are a trained and experienced expert. The aesthetic and "performance" aspect of media appearances will come with time. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable and relaxed you'll be. And if by chance you do feel like you bombed a television interview or radio podcast, learn from it and try to move on. It's not the end of the world if you make a mistake!

Read here for more tips on how to look good and sound professional in your media appearance.

5) "If I'm a great clinician, my work will speak for itself"

Some therapists plan to rely on their hard-earned reputation as an excellent mental health professional to be their main source of client referral. They then focus solely on refining their clinical skills, as they don't see the need to engage with their community beyond private sessions. While referrals can be an effective strategy to build your clientele, depending on others in the field to refer to you should not be the only way you attract people to your services. The harsh truth is that there are a lot of excellent therapists who fail in developing a successful private practice. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it takes time and experience to gain a loyal following and individuals who actively seek you out.

You may find that by being persistent in building trust in you and your services over time will be the major benefit to the growth of your practice. Because we have worked hard to establish ourselves as trusted professionals by embracing social media and building our online presence, my practice, Wasatch Family Therapy, receives most of our referrals from Google searches. This is something I feel very grateful for, and it's largely due to the fact that I stopped participating on managed care panels and consequently had to work within the community to build trust directly with potential clients.

Embracing a private pay practice model brings more than a few questions, unknowns, and worries. But by using these strategies, you can overcome barriers and build a thriving practice.

Besides the obstacles presented in this article, another major reason why clinicians may be wary of switching to private pay involves how they think their clients will be affected. I address (and debunk!) these fears here.

Click here to view my webinar and learn more strategies and tips about breaking up with managed care!

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3 Ethical Fears of Being a Therapist Online and How to Resolve Them

fear: ethics

Every therapist knows that ethics is a critical component of working with clients. Once you add social media into the mix, things can get even more complicated. I’ve noticed that unfortunately, some in the profession are resistant to embracing technology and building an online presence related to their practice because of fear of the potential ethical problems. It’s true that there are risks involved in going online, but we don’t need to be run by this fear; the risks can be managed, and, as we’ve talked about so many times before, the benefits are staggering.

Here are 3 Ethical Fears of Being a Therapist Online, and How to Resolve Them:

1) A Client Breaking Professional Boundaries

If you’re findable on the internet, naturally you’re easier to contact as well. And while we find that most clients respect boundaries with their therapist, some may choose to disregard common rules of protocol, especially when a professional’s online presence facilitates their ability to do so.

Mari A. Lee, an LMFT who specializes in sex addiction recovery, prevents this by having her clients sign a social media form as part of the intake packet. “I do not allow clients to post to my business Facebook page or private message me,” she explains. “I do not accept friend requests or professional links from therapy clients on LinkedIn.” Mari describes how the few times that a client has attempted to add her, she simply redirects them back to her policy. By doing, she has never encountered an incident of professional boundaries being crossed (read more about Mari’s experience here).

Overall, being clear about what is and is not acceptable for your clients with regards to social media will all but prevent problems from occurring. Develop a social media policy for your practice, include it in your initial client paperwork, and have it available on your website (read more about developing a social media policy here). While you must be firm about your boundaries, try to communicate your expectations in a way that is not alienating or harsh. A client reading your content online is a good thing, so you don’t necessarily need to discourage all forms of social media engagement; it is direct contact that is prohibited.

2) The Risky Possibility of Dual Relationships

We all know that therapists in private practice should be cautious when entering dual relationships with clients and be mindful of  the potential risk of exploitation or harm to the client. This caution extends to online dual relationships as well. If you as a therapist have an online presence and engage in multiple professional activities (publishing, consulting, etc.), you might be worried that a client could feel pressured to purchase additional services or products from you. Whereas before you were a person that your client saw in an isolated setting, you are now an established figure that he/she can read about or follow anytime on the internet.

This fear really is unfounded. It’s okay for someone to find you online and understand that you are selling something in addition to seeing clients. As long as you’re not soliciting these things during a private session, you don’t need to try and hide the fact that you do other things. Your ethics courses taught you what need to know about avoiding these kinds of interactions.

If you think there might be a legitimate possibility that your outside professional activities encroach on the ethical integrity of your counseling, consider the following: Dr. William Doverspike, a licensed psychologist and president of the Georgia Psychological Association, proposes a very simple ethics test when contemplating dual relationships. Ask yourself these 5 questions to determine whether or not your online activities are ethically sound in relation to your clinical practice:

Is there a chance of:

  1. loss of effectiveness of the professional?
  2. loss of objectivity of the professional?
  3. loss of competence of the professional?
  4. risk of exploitation of the client?
  5. risk of harm of the client?

If you can answer an honest no to all of these questions, you’re just fine in pursuing your other activities.

3) Posting TMI

Most of us have witnessed someone who gets too personal on Facebook or on other social media outlets. These platforms can be great for sharing information and photos and keeping in touch with one another, but sometimes people go too far.

Being cautious with social media activities becomes even more important for a therapist with an online presence. Where does your personal life begin and your work life end? Would your relationship with your client be jeopardized by something you posted about your own life? Is it possible for something to be appropriate for your personal page but not for your business page? Keep in mind that social media platform privacy settings are constantly shifting and that there is no guarantee that some information posted on personal profiles may still be accessible.

I trust that my friends reading this right now aren’t the type who post blatantly inappropriate or disrespectful material, but it can still be challenging to find that line. Here is the rule that I’ve created for myself that has worked well for me: if I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anyone in the world viewing it, I won’t post it at all. It’s that simple.

Once again, this potential ethical problem is easy to avert. Use common sense, your ethics training, a social media policy, and your best judgment. Overall, just trust yourself as to what to post; you are a professional after all!

The point of this post is that you don’t need to be run by fear when it comes to social media engagement. I encourage you to embrace the technological world and let it benefit both you and your clients.



I wrote an in-depth article about social media ethics. Click here to read it.

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