Social media marketing is all the buzz these days. When I began building a practice there was no social media. In fact no internet. We did it the old-fashioned way by building relationships with referrers one person at a time. Social media has a far larger reach and is a very different way of connecting to potential clients and referrers.
Pros and cons
Social media marketing may be used for many good purposes in the world. For example, it has never been easier to send or receive content than these days. But as I have seen the rise of social media, I have attempted to evaluate its usefulness through a particular lens, a narrower lens:
How well does social media help us bring clients in the door of our business in a particular location?
And in my analysis, I believe social media has its place but there are definite pros and cons.
On the pro side, social media provides some of the best tools for creating what marketers call “pull marketing,” i.e., creating a loyal following of potential customers who have come to appreciate the things you are offering. (See more on this topic in this post: “Push and pull marketing for mental health“.) The goal is to create a connection via social media content that might turn your followers into customers when your followers’ needs reach a certain threshold. In fact, social media may offer the very best tools for creating brand loyalty prior to an actual visit to your practice.
Also on the pro side, social media is very inexpensive. In fact the financial investment is almost zero, though the time commitment can be very high. And for that reason, social media works best for those who like to create content, blogs, articles, interviews, etc. For that type of person, this is the best of vehicles. And I think it may well be worth the effort for everyone in business to at least give it a try for a period of time. See how natural a fit it is for you. If you enjoy making content, social media is the place to be.
And more recently, there are increasingly better tools for helping one increase one’s “local SEO.” For example, here is a post on how to “Improve local SEO with Google My Business.”
But on the con side, social media is relentless. It never rests. For some this becomes a burden. They feel the pressure to create content every week. Of course, there is no reason that one needs to engage with social media at that level. One might merely put out or forward content your followers might enjoy. Leave it at that. After all, something is better than nothing.
Also on the negative side is that social media is not particularly focused on your local region, the place where your business is. It is global though increasingly there are better tools for increasing local SEO. (See this wonderful guide to get you started: What is local SEO? SEO for beginners.) And while it may be immensely gratifying to have a wide following, it is more challenging to build a local presence.
Social media perhaps works best where there is a large concentration of people who might be interested in your services, i.e., more urban areas. Those who have the greatest success with social media are attempting to be noticed in the concentrated area where their business is located. Having a large population on your doorstep makes that a reasonable strategy.
It is about you
One more factor to consider when determining how much of your time to invest in a social media strategy is how much you want your brand to be about you. Clearly social media is useful for those building a brand as an individual. It is more challenging for a group or organization to benefit from social media branding. People attach most strongly to another person, far more than they do to an institution. Just on an individual level, I am much more likely to “like” an individual’s post than an institutional post. And I do not think I am unusual in that way.
So in my analysis, if we are thinking through the lens of getting people into one’s practice, then I put social media’s effectiveness along a continuum. At one end it will work really well if you are building a brand of one in areas with a large population base and you enjoy creating content. At the other end of the continuum, it will be less effective if your goal is to build an institutional brand in a less urban area and if you struggle with the creative process of creating content.
Also, read about other methods of marketing:
Marketing favorites that are not a big stretch
A marketing video on a practice-wide marketing system
Matching one’s leadership style to the environment
Social media builds practices: An interview with Dr Kelly Flanagan