There are few things as mind boggling as managing social media when starting a private therapy practice. Like many private practitioners, you might have asked yourself whether all the time, energy, money and hype is actually worth it. The simple answer? It all comes down to your approach.
In this article, I’d like to explain that with the right approach, it’s possible to be active on social media, start building authentic connections and achieve the goals you’re hoping for. To help you get the most out of your social media efforts, I’ve divided this article into 5 simple steps.
- Step 1: Figure out which social media platforms are right for your private practice
- Step 2: Start creating high-quality content consistently
- Step 3: Increase engagement on your content
- Step 4: Grow your number of followers
- Step 5: Convert your followers into paying clients
It’s designed to be used sequentially, so it’s important you start with Step 1 and work your way through the process. No matter the approach, social media won’t grow your private practice overnight, but with the right amount of effort and patience it can be an incredibly helpful tool to attract and engage clients.
Step 1: Figure out which social media platforms are right for your private practice
The first step in starting your social media journey will be figuring out which platforms are right for your practice and which ones aren’t. There are a lot of different options out there nowadays and spending all your time trying to make the wrong one work for you can be a huge waste of time, so getting this step right from the beginning is quite important.
Tip #1: Get to know your audience well
The first and probably most important factor in choosing the right social media platform for you and your practice is understanding your audience. If you’ve conducted some client research before, you might already have a solid understanding of some of these aspects but even if you have, ask yourself some of these questions in regards to social media:
- Who exactly are you trying to target (incl. age, gender, location, and any other relevant demographics or interests)
- Where do these people hangout online? What social media platforms do they use?
- What kind of problems do you offer to solve for my clients?
- What social media platforms are they most likely to use to find solutions for these problems?
- If you look at your biggest competitors or other practices in your industry, which social media platforms do they use and where are they most successful?
Tip #2: Know exactly what your goals and skills are
Answering the above mentioned questions should already give you a pretty good idea of where you should be investing your time and where you shouldn’t. In addition, you’ll also want to take a look at exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish and what types of content you’re most likely to be good at creating.
When it comes to your goals, it’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve so that you can choose a platform that will actually help you achieve those goals. Some of the goals you might have for your social media could be:
- Increasing awareness for your practice
- Engaging with your community
- Engaging with fellow colleagues in your industry
- Distributing your content
- Attracting new clients to your website
- Supporting and interacting with your clients
Another really important factor in determining what social platform to use is the type of content you’ll be required to create. In general, most social media platforms are either text-based, picture-based or video-based. Although some platforms like Facebook or Instagram allow you to post a mix of all three types of content. In order to narrow it down, you’ll want to ask yourself:
- What kind of content do you want to be sharing?
- What kind of content do you like to create?
- What kind of content do you have the skills/tools necessary to create?
Tip #3: Align your goals, skills and audience with the right platform
Once you’ve settled on your social media goals, determined where your audience hangs out online and decided what type of content works best for you, you should have a solid understanding of the requirements your social media platform needs to fulfill. You can then simply go through all of the options and pick the platform that you think will best meet your needs.
To help you decide, we’ve created a great overview of the leading social media platforms and included any information that might help you determine if it’s the right platform for you. It includes demographic information, contextual use and the types of content required, so hopefully it should get you a lot closer to understanding what platform might be right for you.
Tip #4: Pick one or two platforms to start with and then go from there
If you’ve followed the above process, I hope you’ve been able to narrow all the platforms down to one or two options that you know will be perfect for your business. If so, great! I’d say you’re good to go and can move on to Step 2.
In some cases, especially if you’re trying to reach a fairly broad audience and are willing to create a bunch of different types of content, you might be having a more difficult time narrowing your options down to just one or two platforms.
In those cases, I would recommend choosing one platform that you think will give you the most reach and versatility and then establishing that as your home base, at least for starters. It’s important that you only start with one (or max. two) platforms so you don’t overwhelm yourself with the amount of content you’ll have to create.
Most users nowadays will expect different content on each platform (based on the context each platform is most popularly used in) and you don’t want to set yourself up to fail by either not delivering on that expectation or by posting sub-par content because you’re spreading yourself too thin. Once you’ve mastered your main platform(s), you can always take on more and expand to new platforms, without being too overwhelmed in the process.
Step 2: Start creating high-quality content consistently
Once you’ve decided which platforms you’ll have a go at, the real work begins! The first and really the only thing you should be worrying about when you’re starting a new social media account is creating high-quality content consistently. Think of your social media community as one of your friendships. If you don’t reach out and communicate regularly, your friendship will most likely suffer. The same rule applies to your social media activity.
Many people start posting to social media and they use a bunch of tactics to increase likes, comments, followers, etc. There is definitely a place for those (and we’ll cover all of the good ones later in this article) but those tactics alone won’t attract the type of audience you’re looking for and it definitely won’t keep them engaged for long enough to build a long-term relationship. If you’re hoping to grow a community of real and engaged followers, the key to success will lie in creating a foundation of high-quality content on a regular basis.
When I say high-quality content, I don’t mean that you have to go out and get the most expensive camera to shoot amazing photos/videos and hire expensive graphic designers to make every post look perfectly polished and professional (in fact, sometimes the simple, unpolished, and personal content can well outperform your bests efforts of trying to be “perfect”).
No, what I mean when I say high-quality content is content that is perceived as high-quality by your target audience. That could be because it’s informational, funny and entertaining, inspirational, motivational, relatable, etc. It doesn’t really matter how “good or bad” your content is objectively, as long as your audience thinks you’re creating good content. What matters is that you truly understand their needs and can create content that is relevant and valuable to them in any way.
Out of all the steps I will cover in this process, getting this one right will probably be the most challenging. It will present you with the longest learning curve and require the most trial and error. However, if you can figure out a routine that allows you to post truly valuable and engaging content that resonates with your audience, the rest of the steps in this process will almost take care of themselves.
Sounds great right? So let’s take a look at what can help you get there.
Tip #1: Pace yourself
One problem that I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with when they start posting to social media, is that they try to go from 0 to 100 too quickly. We all see successful people pushing out large amounts of content all the time and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that in order to be successful, we also have to post as much as we can and then we automatically sacrifice the quality of the content.
In reality however, the right amount of content is different for everyone and every channel. That’s why it’s important you have a really good understanding of your goals and your platform before you start creating content for it.
All in all, there is no “perfect” amount of content to post. How often you post will greatly depend on your strategy – are you only sharing highly-curated educational content or quick behind-the-scenes snapshots of your practice? Generally however, when it comes to the frequency of posting, you can adhere to these guidelines:
However, these are ideals that you should work up to over a period of time. If you’re just getting started, try aiming for once or maybe twice a week. Get in a routine until you feel confident and then slowly increase your content to whatever is most comfortable and effective for your personal situation.
Tip #2: Failing to plan is planning to fail
We’ve all heard the saying but that doesn’t make it any less true. If I could only give you one tip to help you get started with social media, I promise it would be this one.
Always, always, always plan out your content in advance and schedule it using a calendar of your choice. You can use a simple pen-and-paper schedule, a spreadsheet, Google Calendar or a sophisticated tool like CoSchedule or HootSuite. The basic idea is the same, no matter what you use to execute it.
Once a month, you’ll want to sit down without any distractions and map out what content you’re going to post when. My favourite strategy when it comes to planning out content for social media is creating monthly (or weekly) themes and then brainstorming content ideas around that theme.
If you’re a psychotherapist for example, you might want to theme one month around the topic of depression and then allocate each week in that month to talk about the different types of depression and their symptoms, the causes, treatment and prevention options as well as how people can help someone with depression.
The basic idea here is taking one large topic per month and then breaking it down into a bunch of bite-sized pieces of content that you spread out over the course of one month (or however long you choose). Which leads me nicely to tip #3.
Tip #3: Repurpose and “splinter” your content for social media
Another incredibly effective strategy to create lots of social media content with a fairly low amount of effort is repurposing your large pieces of content into smaller “splinters” and using those for several posts.
Let’s say you’re a physiotherapist and as part of your overall content marketing strategy, you’ve just written an amazing 5,000 word blog post about massage therapy. It includes an incredibly detailed breakdown of all the different types of massages available and who might benefit from each type of massage. Instead of just posting the link to the article on your social media once, why not take the information you’ve already collected and create one post for every type of massage.
Or, if you’re comfortable with it, you could take the outline of your article and turn it into a script for a video that you can share on your YouTube channel. Not only that, but if you’ve filmed a 10 min video talking about massage therapy and all the different types of massages available, you could go in and cut that video into shorter clips (they should still be coherent on their own of course) and share those to your other platforms as well.
Tip #4: Consider outsourcing if you can
I know that when it comes to creating content for social media, one of the main concerns for many of you is time. If you’re reading through all of this and thinking to yourself “Yeah, this sounds great and all but there’s no way I’d ever find the time in my week to do all of this”, then perhaps you might consider hiring someone to create and/or manage your social media content for you.
Upwork.com and Fiverr.com are great places to start if you’re looking for a freelancer. Many independent social media professionals won’t expect you to hire them for a full 40h work week. Instead, you could start off by having someone help out for 8 to 16 hours and see where that gets you.
If you’ve never hired someone to help you with your marketing and you feel slightly intimidated by it, don’t worry. You can check out this section of our complete Healthcare Marketing guide where I talk all about how to outsource your marketing work successfully.
Tip #5: Document, don’t create
One of the world’s leading marketing/business gurus Gary Vaynerchuck sums up his motto for creating lots and lots of social media content effectively in this one simple phrase: document, don’t create.
The common issue underlying this motto is that many people and businesses active on social media today try to portray this highly-curated reality of themselves that takes a lot of resources to create and often comes across as impersonal and unrelatable.
There is absolutely a place in every social media strategy for creating highly-curated content that is created to be educational or entertaining. However, this type of content can become a problem if you’re sacrificing your consistency because you don’t have enough time to create a lot of it.
What Gary suggests instead is simply documenting your life. This type of strategy might not work for everyone and it can definitely be used as an addition to other types of content instead of being the only strategy but if you’re really struggling to create enough content because you’re putting too much pressure on yourself or you don’t have enough time, then perhaps consider simply documenting what you do in your practice whenever you get the chance.
Giving your audience a personal look behind-the-scenes of your practice and allowing them to get to know you (and/or your team) on a more relatable, approachable level can make the difference between a social media strategy that genuinely builds relationships with users and one that is merely there for show.
Step 3: Increase engagement on your content
Once you feel like you’ve figured out how to keep on track of a consistent content schedule for your social channels, you should be able to turn to using some of these tactics to try to increase the engagement on your posts. If you need a quick recap on how to measure your engagement in the first place plus some helpful tools to measure it effectively, check out this article here.
Tip #1: Observe what content works for your audience
If you’ve been creating content consistently for a decent period of time, you should be able to take a look at your analytics and see what kind of posts seem to work well for your audience.
What posts get a lot of likes and comments? Does your audience love inspirational quotes and educational facts/statistics about your profession or perhaps do they prefer your personal posts in which you authentically share the behind-the-scenes of your job and life? What works for one audience, might be completely wrong for another so keeping an eye on what type of content works well can really help you increase your engagement quickly.
This doesn’t have to be limited to your own content either. Take a look at the content of your colleagues, friends in the industry, competitors, anyone who is actively communicating with your target audience. Then try to figure out if you can see any patterns in what kind of content works really well and attracts a lot of engagement from their audience.
You’ll never want to copy anybody’s content but it can be helpful to learn what type of posts are popular among your audience so you can adapt them to work with your personal social media strategy as well.
Tip #2: Learn how the algorithm works and use it to your advantage
One of the most difficult things about increasing engagement is that so much of your social media performance is controlled by the platform’s algorithm. Knowing how an algorithm works and what you can do to make the algorithm favour your content over someone else’s can be a key element in creating high engagement.
Mastering these algorithms can be a bit of a science unfortunately. And not only that, depending on which social media platform you choose to use, the algorithm will work slightly differently. So if you’re new to social media and all of this sounds very unfamiliar, I’d highly recommend reading more about what algorithms are, why they exist and how they work in this great article here.
While there are no hard and fast rules as to what will make you more successful when it comes to algorithms (especially not across all platforms), there is one general guideline that has seemingly proven to work for most people across all social platforms:
The more engagement your post gets early on, the more the algorithm will favour it and therefore show it to your audience which will then lead to more engagement down the line. So if you’re looking to increase your engagement overall, one of the best ways to do it is to try to get as much engagement right after posting as possible.
The following three tips will help you do just that.
Tip #3: Figure out when your audience is most active
This should be pretty self-explanatory but let’s imagine a scenario in which you’re trying to grow an audience of children and teenagers in order to encourage them to come to psychotherapy. When do you think you’ll get more engagement, at 9am when the vast majority of your audience will be in school or at 7pm when they’re at home and scrolling on their phone after having finished their homework?
You get the idea. If you want your audience to actively engage with your content, ideally you’ll want to post at a time when they are actually active.
If you have no idea what time would work best for you, I’d recommend three things that should help you get closer to understanding your optimal posting time pretty quickly:
- Look at general “best time to post” data available for each social platform for general guidance
- Make an educated guess as to what time might work based on common sense (see the school example above)
- Try posting similar posts at different times for a few weeks and observe when you get the best results
Tip #4: Ask for it
This is pretty basic life advice but it rings true nonetheless. If you don’t ask for what you want, you’re much less likely to get it. There is a reason why almost every YouTube video begins or ends with “If you liked this video, please don’t forget to like, subscribe and leave a comment below telling me what you’d like to see in the future!”.
Phrases like this have become so commonplace on social media that if not done properly, they can quickly lose their meaning. Most social media users today are pretty aware that their engagement in the form of a like, comment or follow is worth a lot to a content creator. So if you’re going to ask for engagement, you should make sure that you’ve provided real value first.
The basic idea being that every interaction on social media is a value exchange. If you help your audience out with content, they’ll be more willing to help you out with engagement in return. Plus if your content is actually valuable, people will generally want to engage naturally without you even having to ask.
Bonus tip: If all else fails or you’re just getting started, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sending your post to all your colleagues, family and friends to ask them if they could like and comment in the next 15 minutes. We’ve all been there and sometimes you just gotta do, what you gotta do!
Tip #5: Always reply to your audience
This is a rule that you should follow without fail – whether you have 50 followers or 50,000.
When you’re trying to get a lot of engagement, responding to people who comment or share your content can be incredibly helpful. For one, if three people comment in the first 10 minutes, you can easily double your amount of comments to six, simply by replying to each comment. However, more importantly, it will signal to your audience that you are responsive and open to engaging so people will be much more likely to comment on your posts.
Aside from increasing the amount of engagement you get, replying to your audience when they take the time to leave a thoughtful comment or share your post with their followers, should be a habit that you get into from the very beginning.
Like I mentioned before, your social media connections are like real friendships. Their success will (almost completely) depend on how much effort you put into establishing them and keeping them alive. No matter how good your content is, if you don’t take the time to authentically engage with your audience, they probably won’t either. So all the time that you’ve put into creating it would likely end up wasted.
Step 4: Grow your number of followers
Once you’ve started creating content consistently and your existing followers are engaging with your content, you’re likely to wonder how you can start increasing the amount of people who follow your account. It’s one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to social media so let’s take a look.
Tip #1: Focus on your content and engagement, not on your followers
This might seem rather counter-intuitive, being that I’ve put this tip in the “how to grow your number of followers” section, but hear me out.
Try not to think about the amount of followers you have and instead, spend more time thinking about the quality of your content and the amount of engagement you’re getting (Step 2 and 3). Both of these variables will be the most important predictors of growth for your account. If you stick the course and remain patient, publishing continuous high-quality content will eventually lead to good engagement. That good engagement will lead to your content being seen by new people which will then lead to more people following you.
But this process can only work if you have high-quality content that is relevant enough to your audience that they’ll want to engage with it. So instead of worrying about followers, your time is much better spent on trying to improve your content and engage with your audience as much as possible.
If you do feel like you have optimized your content as best you can and you have some extra time or money to invest in growing your channel, then here are a few additional tips that you can easily follow to get your content in front of new users without compromising the quality of your content.
Tip #2: Use Hashtags and any other functionalities that make your content discoverable
One of the simplest and easiest ways to get more exposure for your content is using the functionalities that most big social media platforms have created for exactly that purpose.
If you’re trying to grow an audience based around interests, topics or themes then using related hashtags should be an absolute no-brainer. Hashtags are basically “containers” that group all the content that has been published with that hashtag together so that people can browse through it in one place. If you’ve done some research into your audience on your chosen platform, you might have discovered some trends and patterns when it comes to popular hashtags that are often used. It’s always a great idea to include these and any other relevant hashtags as often as it makes sense to ensure that you remain part of the conversation on relevant topics.
Another great tool to help you grow followers in specific locations is using the location tag option. Similar to a hashtag, if you tag your posts to whatever location you’re in – other users that are interested in this location can browse through a location tag and perhaps stumble across your account that way. Sometimes these people will be your perfect ideal client, most of the time they probably won’t. But regardless, increasing your exposure this way is an easy and low-effort way to increase awareness for your practice in your area, which can be super helpful when it comes to word-of-mouth.
Tip #3: Engage with your audience and other accounts in your niche
A big part of successfully growing your following will be actively going out and getting yourself seen by as many people as possible. What would that look like?
Don’t only engage with your audience on your own posts but make sure you always keep an eye on what is being said about you on other accounts as well. Follow any hashtags that are related to your business or industry. If you see people posting about something that involves you, make sure you take the time to respond accordingly. Similarly, if people tag you in their posts, you’ll want to respond to them as well.
Moving conversations about your business over to other users’ accounts will ensure that all of their followers will see you too and perhaps be curious enough to want to find out who you are and what you do.
This goes for other accounts in your industry or niche as well. If you know that there are accounts that share the same target audience with you, then regularly commenting on their posts can be a great way to increase your exposure among that audience.
Tip #4: Consider boosting your posts to increase your reach
What does “boosting” mean? In short, boosting refers to paying for your post to be promoted to a) your followers or b) a target audience of your choice. If your posts aren’t organically showing to any of your followers or you’d like to get your posts in front of new users, then almost every social platform will let you pay to promote your posts to these audiences as a “sponsored post”.
If you have the funds available to boost your posts, it’s very easy to grow your account quickly. I’ve seen many businesses and brands grow their followings like this and it can be an incredibly effective strategy, if it’s done correctly.
However, regardless of sounding like a broken record at this point, please keep this in mind:
Unless you know you’ll be able to keep up a consistent posting schedule with high-quality content and you know what content works best to engage your audience and easily build relationships with them, you would lose these followers as quickly as you gained them and all the money you invested would have been wasted. So I’d really recommend not to invest any money into this in the beginning.
After a few months or so, when you’ve gotten a good feel of everything, you can start by putting a small amount of practice budgeting behind a few posts to see what kind of results you get. If you’re interested in learning more about this, then check out this guide on how exactly you can boost your social media posts (for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).
Step 5: Convert your social media followers into private practice clients
Last but not least, there’s only one more question to be answered. You’re creating great content and you’re attracting a lot of new followers that are engaging with you – but how do you get these people to actually become a paying client in your practice?
Tip #1: Have the right mindset
First, it’s important that you approach this step with the right mindset. In the first step, we covered a bunch of different goals that you might be trying to achieve including more brand awareness, community engagement, content distribution, attracting new clients as well as interacting with current clients. Social media can be a great tool to achieve all of these goals and that definitely includes attracting new clients to your practice.
It is definitely possible to use social media to attract followers that eventually will become paying clients, but it can be a slow and tricky process (as you’ll learn in Tip #2). So if you’re about to start your social media journey and your short-term goal is to attract new clients quickly, then I’d highly encourage you to perhaps take a look at a different marketing strategy such as Google Ads or SEO, since those can be much more effective (you can check out our full overview of all marketing strategies that might be useful here).
Tip #2: Push people to your website (following the “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” principle)
One of the tactics that can help convince your followers to become clients in your practice is providing posts with call-to-actions and links that encourage them to go to your website.
In the marketing world, websites are generally viewed as having much more “conversion power”, meaning that users are much more likely to convert into a client from a website than they are from a social media post because there is more information available and it’s generally perceived as more trustworthy.
However, when you’re asking your followers for a specific action or behaviour, it’s important to remember that people don’t follow you because they want to be sold to, they follow you because you provide valuable content to them.
Gary Vaynerchuck, the marketing guru mentioned early, created another memorable motto that very easily incorporates this mindset into a principle to follow called “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”. If you’re unfamiliar with these boxing terms, it basically translates to “Give, Give, Give, Ask”.
The idea here is that you should be sharing a large amount of content that provides value to your audience (probably more like “Give (20x), Ask”) before you can share one piece that asks your followers for a specific action.
So you can absolutely ask and encourage your followers to check out your private practice website every now and then, but it should never be the main focus of your social media content and you’ll really want to make sure that you balance this out with enough content that also provides value.
Tip #3: Consider retargeting your followers with a direct call-to-action ad
Lastly, if you’re hoping to use social media in a more direct-response type of way, meaning you don’t want to just create content and wait for your followers to decide they need your service, you could also invest some money into a call-to-action social media ad campaign that targets those followers who have checked out your website but have not signed up for a consultation or booked any service.
This is a fairly advanced tactic called retargeting and generally falls into the realm of paid advertising more than it does into the realm of social media management but regardless, it’s definitely an option that you could consider if you’re looking to increase the amount of followers who convert into paying clients.
Setting this up will require pretty in-depth knowledge of paid advertising targeting tools (such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads or Google Ads) as well as website and tracking code so unless you’re eager to learn a lot about these topics (which is definitely possible!), I’d recommend perhaps reaching out to someone who is skilled in this field and could simply set it up for you.
To sum up what I’ve covered in today’s article about social media management as a private practitioner, let me recap this five step process briefly:
- Figure out what social media platform is right for your private practice by looking at your goals, your audience and the knowledge/skills you have in terms of content creation
- Spend most of your time focusing on creating high-quality content that is valuable and relevant to your target audience (in whatever way that may be)
- Then focus on learning what type of content creates the most engagement among your audience and figure out how to optimise your content accordingly
- Once you’re creating content consistently and understand exactly what brings a lot of engagement, try to shift your focus to increasing the reach of your posts by attracting new followers
- Ask your followers to check out your website and encourage them to become paying clients, in moderation. Always make sure you keep the right balance between content that provides value to your audience and content that tries to extract value from your audience.