The latest advance in marketing your practiceQ: How can I use the Internet, along with social media, to gain more visibility for my private practice?
A: For private practitioners who know how to tap its riches, the Internet has become an abundant source of referrals. I know this firsthand, having gotten at least 50 referrals a month to my group practice from online sources for the past five years. In the old days—say around 2008—getting online referrals to your practice involved learning how to play the search-engine game and posting profiles on a few well-chosen therapist directories. However, the effectiveness of that strategy is now being compromised by three recent trends that have changed the face of Internet marketing, referred to collectively as the SoLoMo revolution—Social, Local, Mobile. Understanding them can help you take advantage of the opportunities they present to generate steady referrals. Best of all, much of what you need to get on board with SoLoMo is absolutely free.
In the past three years, social networking sites have overtaken search browsers as the most popular online activity, with four major services leading the charge. The leader of the pack, Facebook, passed Google in overall web popularity in 2010. User-generated content shared with friends has proven to be an addictive formula for more than 800 million people worldwide. An astonishing 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook each month. It has the longest average visit of any site on the Internet (22 minutes), and each Facebook user spends on average more than 15 hours a month on the site.
The second major social networking service is Twitter, the microblogging site where more than 200 million users post news, ideas, photos, and links every day for anyone to view. Despite its popularity, Twitter hasn’t proven to be a good source of referrals for private practice, since few people search for professional services on the site.
The third major social networking site, LinkedIn, has become the premier business-networking site online. It’s analogous to attending a professional conference with others who share your training, expertise, and work experience. In 2011, LinkedIn reached 100 million professional users worldwide. However, unless you’re offering services to other psychotherapists—training, consultation, or supervision—LinkedIn isn’t likely to be a steady source of revenue for your practice.
Coming late to the party as the fourth major social service is Google, which realized that it was losing the battle for online eyeballs to Facebook. In 2011, after several botched attempts in the social realm, Google launched a social network platform called Google Plus, which now boasts more than 100 million users. Google Plus has several interesting features: better privacy settings than Facebook and much longer postings than Twitter. It allows free video chats (“hangouts”) with up to nine people.