Posting on social media should be part of your marketing plan.
But first, a disclaimer: No one is going to contact you for an appointment based on a single tweet.
Social media marketing doesn't work that way. You need to earn your reputation as an expert over time, by repeatedly posting content that is interesting or relevant to your audiences. Furthermore, you'll get and keep more followers when you link to other people's content rather than to your own.
How does posting links to other people's content help me get clients for my practice?
With almost 5 billion pages, the web is an enormous collection of content, much of it junk. As a licensed mental health professional, you can serve as a curator, bringing high-quality, research-based information to the attention of your audiences. This helps to build your platform as a knowledgeable expert who can be trusted.
If people find your posts on mental health topics helpful, they may "like" them or forward them to their own followers, thus extending your reach exponentially, to a worldwide audience. Although your clients will come from a local area, having a strong presence on social media helps to reinforce your professional credibility.
Thus, someone in your community who is looking for a mental health professional, may check you out online. If they see many links to quality content associated with your name, and it's a toss-up between you and a competitor with less of a web presence, they may select you, based on your cumulative postings.
Which social media platform is best?
Among the hundreds of social media platforms, there is no single "best" choice. It depends on whom you want to connect with. It's better to focus on one or two social media platforms and actively participate, than to try to collect as many followers as you can on as many social media accounts as you can. The most popular platforms include:
Linkedin - Useful for connecting with other professionals and with the business community. Fill out your profile as completely as possible, so that you can be found by someone who is searching for a professional with your credentials, experience, or interests. Next, explore some groups to join, via the “Interests” tab at the Linkedin website. To get the most out of Linkedin, participate in group discussions, so that your name becomes familiar to others in the group. You never know when someone will need a speaker or a referral for a mental health professional in your community.
Twitter - Most popular among people under age 50, Twitter is also widely used by journalists, many of whom may be looking for story leads or for professionals to interview. As with Linkedin and other social media accounts, you should include lots of detail in your Twitter account profile, so that people can learn more about you.
For marketing purposes, use Twitter to post links to interesting content online, especially content that reflects the areas for which you want to be known. For example, let's say you want to develop a reputation as an expert on relationships. Thus, you would post links to press releases or news articles describing current research on the topic. You might also post links to noteworthy blog posts or other online resources that can help people in their relationships.
In addition to posting tweets yourself, follow other experts and journalists, and retweet their postings. Since some of these influential people have opted to receive notifications when their tweets are re-tweeted, they may start paying attention to your tweets and follow you on Twitter.
Pinterest - A visual bookmarking site, used primarily by millennial females. If this demographic is your target audience, then you should consider developing a presence on Pinterest. Compared to Instagram, which is strictly photos, Pinterest “pins” do connect with your website, where people can learn more about you and your practice.
Youtube - Video is among the top results served up by search engines (not surprising, given that Youtube is owned by Google). It's easy to create a video greeting, post it to Youtube and stream it through your website. You can also make short videos to share tips or to do a demonstration such as deep breathing. For more ideas, check out the videos of other mental health clinicians at youtube.com.
Blogtalkradio - Great for creating audio, either by yourself or by interviewing another expert. It works via telephone, and you can invite your audience to call in as they would to a radio talk show. The call is recorded, and after you are done it is automatically stored in your account for on-demand listening. It is also indexed by Google and available as a podcast.
Facebook - If you use Facebook as your practice website, make sure that you have a Facebook page (formerly called a fan page or business page), which allows only “likes,” not friend requests (thus circumventing potential boundary issues with clients) and which does not give access to your private Facebook profile account.
On Facebook you can post a variety of content, including photos and videos, with more detail than you would on Twitter or Pinterest.
However, keep in mind that you have to abide by Facebook’s rules and you have no control over the way your content is presented. Furthermore, Facebook has sometimes arbitrarily and abruptly shut down people’s pages without notice. There is an appeal process, but in the meantime, the page is offline for days or weeks.
For more on the professional use of social media, including some ethics tips, flip through this slide presentation by psychologist, John Gavazzi, PsyD: