When I build websites for counselors, coaches, psychologists, social workers and others, it is often the case that they have not been in private practice very long. Or, they haven't been using internet marketing much. So there is a common thought that a website is one and social media is another.
And I typically say that one is incomplete if not ineffective without the other.
Websites and social media serve different functions, but go hand in hand. Social media is an appetizer. Websites are -- hopefully -- the enticing, delectable, and satisfying gourmet meal.
Of course, that analogy only works if the content of your social media posts and web pages is client attracting. (I'll discuss what makes content client attracting in another blog post)
So, what are the 3 main reasons for having social media icons on your website?
to encourage ideal client engagement
to increase the right traffic
to widen your reputation as a helpful resource
Ideal Client Engagement
Every post you make on social media can and should have meaning for your well defined ideal client, just like the niche specialty pages of your website are written to speak to ideal clients, as if they are already in your office.
It's a mistake to think of marketing as selling yourself, or gaining visibility for your services. That approach turns people off because it's more about you than about them.
To engage with your ideal client means to provide content -- posts, pages, graphics if using Pinterest and Facebook especially, and blogs -- that they can relate to as if it is about what they are feeling in that moment.
Engage with emotion first, save facts for later. Directing content to worries, frustrations, griefs, moods, conflicts, etc., will get the reader saying -- OMG, s/he knows exactly what I'm going through and needing right now!
And that, my friends, is what gets people to pick up the phone and call for an appointment.
The Right Traffic
When there is a flow between people reading your posts on social media and then coming to your website to check your fees or read a blog because they are thinking about getting the kind of service you provide, that's the right kind of traffic.
These are the people who are already thinking about therapy, maybe even are actively searching for the right therapist. Your job is to make their pathway easy in that decision process so that it leads to calling you.
It's also the right kind of traffic when people stumble on your website, then use your social media icons to share the discovery of your site with their social media friends, or to recommend you to a particular person.
Social media referrals are as valuable as referrals from those doctors you've been sending letters to.
The establishment of trust and rapport with the right kinds of clients for you starts, these days, online. And no, that doesn't mean giving free therapy via Twitter, or responding to current clients' personal questions on Facebook.
But it does mean having an online persona that is approachable, friendly, and helpful. It means offering sound information on psychological issues that is publically available -- but in your own words. It it putting your professional personality out there so that you become a likeable entity to the potential clients who are deciding who to call.
In other words, reputation building is all about increasing a favorable impression in a potential client's mind that they already feel like they know you a little bit, like you more than others, and trust that you'll able to help them with their problems.
*By the way, in case the terms are unfamiliar to you, here's a clue:
Which Social Media Platforms Should You Be On?
I'll write more about this later, but my biases in brief are these:
Facebook is best for direct ideal client engagement
Twitter doesn't work well for therapists
LinkedIn is best for referrals from other therapists
Google+ is still not well used by the public
YouTube is growing in importance
Pinterest is good if you are visually creative
That's my 2 cents, anyway. Your mileage may vary.