Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… no doubt some of you will already be using some of these tools, and a myriad of others. Counselling, along with nearly any other industry, cannot avoid the changes that have happened in communications over the last decade.
Counsellors themselves are using social media both to boost their practice, and also in their personal lives. Social media is still a growing industry, and it’s definitely here to stay. Uptake in the counselling world has been a little slow compared to other industries, but to stay ahead of the curve it’s becoming very necessary.
When it comes to counselling and social media, wouldn’t it be great if there were some guidelines out there about which tools to use, and how to use them? Well, that’s where we’re jumping in! We’re going to look at some of the important social media trends in counselling, and how you can use various tools to help you with your practice.
Important tools for counselling and social media
Probably the most ubiquitous tool of the lot. If you’ve managed to get through life without having heard of Facebook yet, I salute you because you’re probably living in some super cool hippie commune where everyone drinks raw juices all day and listens to Jefferson Airplane on vinyl. Who am I kidding, even those people are using Facebook.
Yes, many of us use it in our personal lives to stay in touch with long lost school friends, or family halfway around the world. Or even your next-door neighbour if you’re as lazy as I am. But Facebook is a powerful tool for marketing and sharing your work. What you’ve been used to so far is actually only half of what Facebook has to offer – Facebook has a ‘personal’ component and a ‘Pages’ component.
Facebook Pages are the business equivalents of a profile. Only here, the focus is all on you and your practice, and people actually have to opt-in to follow what you’re saying. Rather than friends, you gain followers – people who want to hear the latest from you via your Facebook page.
This highly customisable platform can be edited to include pictures and images, contact details, maps to your practice, address details, summaries of your qualifications and work and much more.
Why should I use it?
Simple – Facebook has the highest proportion of people using it, with the highest proportion of time spent per person of any website in the world. It is overtaking other media in terms of where people get their news and entertainment.
In a nutshell, if you’re not on Facebook, you’ve got a massive gaping hole in your ability to reach people, such as potential clients. In addition, it allows for people to message you straight through the page, saving them the faff of emailing or calling you up. Whether you like it or not, you need a Facebook page.
Dos of Facebook
- Keep it updated – keep your information fresh, and don’t forget to change any contact details when needed.
- Share content of interest to users – this is the ultimate way to build up a community of interest, and to get your information spreading far and wide. Garner an interested community and it will reward you.
- Share images – Facebook loves images, and people love images. A picture speaks a thousand words, and these days more than ever, people won’t read a thousand words, but they will look at a picture.
- Advertise – Facebook advertising is gob-smackingly cheap and very effective. For just a few quid a day you can be sending highly targeted advertising to the people you want to reach on, what’s likely to be, their favourite piece of media.
Don’ts of Facebook
- Write your life’s story into a post – you’re competing against hundreds of a person’s friends and other interests to grab attention. Nothing will get them flicking past your updates faster than seeing a great wall of text. Keep it simple, and include eye-catching imagery where possible.
- Delete comments – one of the greatest fears people have when stepping into the world of social media marketing is for someone to come on and slate their work. Bad news: it’s almost inevitable. Good news: handle the situation well and it’ll benefit everyone involved, including yourself. Apologise, communicate, find a solution. But never, ever delete.
- Stray too far off track – people follow your page because you’re good at what you do, and they want to hear more from you. They’re interested. Don’t start losing the plot by posting funny cat videos or commenting on David Cameron’s haircut. Share the content that your readers want to read.
- Make it personal – one of the biggest struggles is in overcoming the mindset you’re used to if you’ve used Facebook in a personal capacity, and that’s talking from a professional standpoint. This doesn’t mean you have to be so formal it comes across as stiff, but remember that you’re not communicating with a bunch of mates but potential clients, and other therapists.
Connect with Brighton Therapy Partnership on Facebook
Probably the second most referred to social media tool on the planet is Twitter. Characterised by short, sharp bursts of chatter, primarily because of its infamous character limit on updates. You have just 140 characters to get your point across, so every letter counts.
Unlike Facebook, there’s only one type of account. This means your practice’s account is interspersed with people’s personal accounts and other organisations, and you can communicate with them directly.
It works via followers – there are no ‘friends’ in the Twitter universe. You can follow other accounts, and people can follow your account. When someone is being followed, their updates will appear in a feed to the follower.
In addition, Twitter makes it very simple to communicate directly with someone else by including the character ‘@’ followed by the user’s account name at the start of a tweet. Try it with us! Just start a tweet with @btontherapy.
Why should I use it?
Twitter, when used well, is incredibly effective. It allows its users to share real-time updates on a very frequent basis, and also allows you to gather the latest information from other users and organisations.
It’s one of the few social media tools that doesn’t have a distinct feeling of ‘us & them’ when it comes to people and organisations, and as such, many people are very welcoming of organisational Twitter accounts contacting them, whilst directly contacting people on other social networks and promoting your practice could be viewed as invasive.
Dos of Twitter
- Keep it chatty – as mentioned, Twitter has less of a divide between people and organisations, but that requires a certain etiquette. Users want you to be chatty, informal, and human-feeling. It should be easy… you are a human after all… but it takes a little bit of getting used to compared to the more formal atmosphere of other social networks.
- Share thoughts and opinions on topics, counselling or not – because of this informal vibe, it’s safe to put yourself out there a bit. Whilst this may seem risky at first, as some people might not like your views, Twitter is often the tool where a brand or company culture can be at its most palpable. Again, this is about being warm, friendly, but above all, human.
- Listen to others – Twitter is an incredible way to gather information on the industry. Following key accounts and sharers of news will keep you up to date. Why not start with @btontherapy to hear about our latest events and articles?
- Get stuck in – Twitter is a hubbub of different conversations on topics of the moment. Don’t be afraid to meet someone new and get involved. Sure, not everyone’s friendly, but discussion is a lot of fun and gets your name out there.
- Build lists – Twitter allows for users to build ‘lists’ segmenting who you’re following. This allows you to build groups around specific interests. Perhaps you could set up a list of CPD providers, and stick Brighton Therapy Partnership in there?
Don’ts of Twitter
- Be overly friendly – ok, we mentioned the informal chatty thing. But still keep some distance. Remember you’re representing yourself in a professional capacity.
- Spam – Twitter allows for very, very frequent interaction. There’s a difference between that, and being irritating by sharing the same thing repeatedly within the space of about 10 seconds.
- Neglect it – there’s a reason why big companies have an entire team manning their Twitter channel: because it is one of the more informal channels, people feel safer about sending messages and complaints to a company Twitter. Letting those sit there for days on end doesn’t look good and doesn’t help the person. If someone’s asked you a question, get back to them.
- Expect too much – because it offers a direct communication method to celebrities and major organisations, people often assume they can directly tweet Beyoncé and that she’ll pick it up. I’m afraid it ain’t that simple – celebs could be receiving literally hundreds of tweets per minute and the chance of your tweet even being read by them, let alone retweeted or replied to is incredibly small.
Less of a social network, more of a professionals network. LinkedIn works very similarly to Facebook, but with a much more professional vibe to it. Whilst the similarities far outweigh the differences, the culture and etiquette around LinkedIn cannot be overstated.
Whilst on Facebook we mentioned setting up a page, you’ll more likely use LinkedIn in a personal capacity, as it is directly linked to your qualifications and work experience.
LinkedIn initially has you setting up your page with all your education and work history, and any other interesting traits and qualifications you may have earned. This isn’t dissimilar to an online CV which everyone can view. Rather than ‘friending’ people onto your personal network, you ‘connect’ with them instead. The idea is to breakdown the ideology of this being social, but being about networking.
This means that you’ll be connecting not just with old school friends, as with Facebook, but colleagues and even your boss if applicable.
Why should I use it?
LinkedIn provides you with a tool to network online. Meet people within the counselling industry and hear updates from them and their practice.
LinkedIn is a terrific tool for staying current with the industry and events that are coming up in your industry. In addition, if you’re looking for a job, or if your practice is growing and you’d like to recruit some fellow counsellors to be part of it, then LinkedIn is one of the foremost methods of recruitment these days.
Dos of LinkedIn
- Get involved with groups – numerous groups exist on LinkedIn for any interest you can think of, and there are a heap of counselling and psychotherapy groups out there. These provide stimulating conversations on the nuances of practice, as well as share news and articles that are of interest.
- Connect with people in a work capacity – it’s a little hard to shift gears if you’re a Facebook user from simply adding friends, to adding those you’ve met in a work capacity. Whilst it may be frowned upon to add someone you sat across the table from in a meeting on Facebook, to do so on LinkedIn is common practice and is perfectly acceptable.
- Keep it professional – whilst Twitter was much about being human and informal, LinkedIn is by comparison very formal. Keep yourself presentable at all times, from your profile picture to your status updates. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun, but maintain the professional appearance online… even if you’re actually sat at the computer in your pyjamas nursing a hangover.
Don’ts of LinkedIn
- Make it personal – this is about your worklife first and foremost, don’t forget that! That’s not to say you can’t share the odd opinion or weigh in on an issue (indeed, discussion can be personal and forthcoming in the aforementioned groups) but you should certainly refrain from posting about what you had for breakfast.
- View people’s profiles willy-nilly (they’ll know) – unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can browse other people’s profiles anonymously with them being none the wiser, LinkedIn informs its users if their profile has been browsed. So don’t go looking through your old crush’s work history – they will know.
- Add everyone under the sun – we mentioned that LinkedIn is a networking tool, and it’s therefore fine to connect with others whom you’ve worked with, even if only briefly. However, that’s not an excuse to add everyone in your organisation, just because you’ve walked past them in the corridor. If you’re running your own private practice, there’s a temptation to network with as many counsellors in your area as possible, but it’s best to do this in real life first.
We won’t cover LinkedIn pages in this post, although these are very similar to Facebook pages. They offer less functionality than personal profiles, as they cannot participate in groups. However, as your practice or organisation grows, it can be a useful way to help others stay in the loop with what you’re up to without having to connect with your personal profile. If you’re just starting out, we recommend the personal profile first.
Connect with Brighton Therapy Partnership on LinkedIn
We’re going to keep this section on Google+ short and sweet. Why? Quite honestly, Google+ is a bit of a dead scene. Google’s attempt to enter the industry of social media hasn’t been a total failure, but it’s far from the resounding success it could have been or indeed they make it out to be.
Is it worth bothering? Yes, it’s still useful. There are some great group discussions going on in the counselling and psychotherapy industry. In addition, Google Hangouts acts like an integrated version of Skype – it’s great for holding meetings with fellow counsellors, sharing ideas etc. In addition, if you have a Google Email account, many of you will have inadvertently signed up for Google+ too. You likely already have an account.
It’s very easy to spruce up your page a little, add a few images, and look presentable on there. You never know what opportunities it may bring, and it’s not likely that Google will admit defeat and let it die out.
In addition, if you host a website, Google+ links directly to your site and improves your visibility in Google Search – just one of the many ways that Google is trying to push organisations into using G+.
For now, add Brighton Therapy Partnership on Google+ and gain your first connection
Social media and mental health
Before wrapping up, we wanted to weigh in on the issue of social media and mental health. Many mental health professionals, including counsellors, have bypassed social media entirely based on claims that social media can lead to poor mental health.
Whilst this is a consideration, the evidence is not concrete and it is perhaps naive to take it as so. This article on social media and mental health (excuse the headline!) sums this up nicely.
In addition, approximately 50% of the UK is using social media. This figure is skewed demographically, so if you are working with young people, you can safely up that to nearly 100%. As counsellors our job requires empathy and understanding. Trialling social media for yourself is an excellent way to help with this empathy.
A few final pointers
- These tools are the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to social media, including Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Reddit, and more. There’s not a vast amount the therapy world can do to fit into these though, thus for now we’re leaving it at these 4. We may add to this post over time though, so take a look back from time to time.
- Throughout use of all these tools, remember not to break any confidentiality agreements with clients, and we recommend keeping any contact with clients private.
- None of these, in our opinion, beat having a good website and traditional contact details such as email and telephone. They should always come first.
- However, don’t ignore the might of social media. It’s continuing to grow exponentially, and with the mobile generation it’s almost unavoidable as people are browsing new media more and more from devices that fit in their pocket.
- In addition to this, counselling is one of the few industries that is still a little behind with uptake of social media. It’s almost guaranteed to happen though. Be ahead of the curve by adopting these tools now.
- Finally, don’t forget to add us on all these platforms and we want to hear from you! Let us know how you’re getting on.
For more from Brighton Therapy Partnership, follow us on the social media tools mentioned. We look forward to seeing you at our events in the near future.