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 just to your own.
How does posting links to other people's content help me get clients for my practice?
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, trusted expert.
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 are more likely to 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 (your target audience). 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:
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 people who are searching for a professional with your credentials, experience, or interests.
To get the most out of Linkedin, post frequently on your timeline. Also, explore some groups to join, via the “Work” tab at the Linkedin website, and 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.
Most popular among people ages 25 to 49, skewing more heavily male than female, 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 that which reflects the areas you want to be known. For example, if you want to develop a reputation as an expert on relationships, 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 and Instagram
These are the most visual social media platforms, but each has a different purpose. Instagram is more about one's own photos, while Pinterest is used to curate and "pin" content that others have posted.
Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) is more of a destination in itself, where people enjoy looking at the images and videos (called "reels"). Pinterest's images are jumping-off points that connect to websites with additional information related to the image.
Pinterest is used primarily by millennial women. Instagram's audience is younger, most of them in the 25 to 34 age range. Depending on which demographic you want to reach, either or both of these social media platforms will work well for you, as long as you post frequently and stay engaged (especially with Instagram).
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 Youtube videos of other mental health clinicians.
While many other social media platforms (except Youtube) have leveled out in the number of users, TikTok, which launched in 2016, has had rapid growth in the past couple of years. Two thirds of its users are under 30. If this is your target audience, TikTok is worth trying. Keep in mind that the videos are much shorter than on Youtube, and that audiences on TikTok generally expect to be entertained as well as informed.
Facebook is still a major player in the social media landscape, despite its recent challenges by whistle blowers and by congress. Facebook spans young and older age ranges. On Facebook you can post a variety of content, including photos and videos, with more detail than you would on some of the other platforms.
If you use Facebook for promoting your practice, make sure that you have a Facebook 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.
Here's an infographic summarizing social media platforms and their purposes:
A few final tips:
- Keep your private social media accounts separate from those associated with your practice, and lock them down for maximum privacy. Each platform has instructions for how to do so. This won't completely protect your personal content from leaking to the public (as we've seen by the latest Facebook breach) so do think twice about what you post on your private accounts.
- In your informed consent, tell clients that you will not engage with them on social media, and explain why. For guidance on how to present this, see this article by Dr. Keely Kolmes, a pioneer in the professional use of social media.
- Post frequently. Engage with others: Join conversations; respond to other people's posts with a "like" and share their posts with your followers. These are social media, so be social!
- Be consistent in the types of content you post. The more you post on a given topic, the more you will be branded as an expert in that area.
More on social media statistics and usage
Pew Research periodically conducts surveys on social media use. The latest report of April 2021 compares demographics among across several social media platforms.
Statista also publishes internet and social media data.