Several times over the holidays I tried to connect with psychotherapists and others from their listings on locator directories like Psychology Today. Sadly, I discovered that several links that should have gone to private practice websites went instead to Facebook business pages.
Let me hasten to say that I'm all in favor of having a Facebook business page for your practice. Big fan. Everyone with a business needs one. (I have at least 4, which might be too many! LOL)
An active social media presence is essential in 2018 for engaging with your niche, and getting authority and interactivity points for SEO. Facebook is an excellent platform -- when used well -- for driving potential clients to your blog and website.
But it can't substitute entirely for a real website.
The problem with using Facebook as your own website is that doing so breaks 3 of the cardinal rules for marketing on a small or non-existent budget on the internet. So what are those three rules, you ask?
The first rule of thumb in internet marketing is: Don't annoy potential clients.
The second rule is: Don't waste their time.
The third rule: Don't create barriers that are confusing.
Social media is a supplement, not the whole enchilada of a smart marketing plan.
Don't Annoy Potential Clients
This rule sounds obvious. But solopreneurs and novice business owners often break the annoyance rule by forgetting to put themselves in their potential clients shoes. Even if you're a Manolo Blahnik kinda gal, and your clients are more on the Birkenstock end of the spectrum, stepping into their perspective when marketing is essential.
Using a Facebook page as a real website risks you looking disorganized and uncaring about the needs of your niche. Potential clients don't want to wade through your bright and breezy social posts, cute dog pics, and latest recipes for last Thanksgiving's appetizers, on the chance of stumbling on what you specialize in, how you will help them, and where you are located.
Those details should be the first thing they see. The second things most clients want to know now is whether you take their insurance, offer package deals, or have some other incentive that will help them decide to hire you.
Don't Waste The Time of Your Potential Clients
So not only can poking around your Facebook page be annoying, from the other end, it also is disrespectful to clients who are in emotional, physical, or psychic pain. They are just trying to discover how working with you will help them. They want to see less about you and more mirroring of their struggles or tips that will help them right away.
A Facebook page usually gives all kinds of random and disconnected information, then makes potential clients sort through it with the skills of a CIA analyst to determine if you are the right professional for them. Few of your ideal clients will bother taking the time to put that much effort into getting help when your competitor gives them the info they want in one click to a real website.
Don't Create Confusing Barriers
People wanting mental health help, alternative healing, or spiritual guidance tend to search for practitioners when they are stressed out. They want and need to be able to access the answers they are seeking as immediately as the internet has trained us all (in the age of Immediate Gratification Disorder) is possible. If they encounter barriers to getting those answers, or if the process is confusing, you risk losing potential clients.
So, the biggest reason not to use your business page on Facebook as a substitute for a real website is that potential clients who don't have a Facebook account which is still possible, or who don't stay logged in 24/7 and have forgotten their password, won't be able to see your page immediately. Instead, they will be met with a sign in page -- which becomes an unnecessary obstacle to learning more about you and your therapy practice.
Using a link or button on a locator directory that says "website" sets the expectation of, you know, actually going to a website, not to social media. To arrive instead at a demand to create a Facebook account or login, can initially look like you or the potential client has made a mistake.
This might then provoke some cognitive dissonance, causing the client to wonder what's going on. Their anxiety at not getting it right, or depression that they never do anything right, will mediate against following through in order to reduce this emotional reactivity.
This is not the way to make a good impression and fill your client load.
Clients who meet obstacles on the way to hiring, usually take the path to another practitioner. Even a basic website that uses a modern template, or that is designed specifically for you is worth more than its weight in gold. It's the hub for all other marketing in today's private practice world.
If you'd like a customized website that will attract your ideal clients, read up here on how I can help.