Top Social Media Mistakes Therapists Make: Part 2

Wow. Such a great response to our post about top mistakes therapists make when using social media! That is inspiring, especially when one of our most popular posts is “Social Media is Worthless.” Did you miss Top Social Media Mistakes Therapists Make Part 1- read it here.

Today we are going to continue the conversation and explore some of the more technical mistakes therapists make when delving into social media.

Mistake #1: Therapists don’t look or play with the settings on social media

Many social media platforms want you to get in and “start playing” with social media as quickly as possible. That means that they will try to get you engaged, and they often skip taking you through advanced settings or preferences. As therapists explore using social media as part of their professional work, the settings are incredibly important to us!

How I learned that therapists don’t play with their social media settings

I’ve been consulting with therapists about how to market their private practices since I started my private practice in 2008. My blog for pre-licensed therapists helped people learn about me, and they started reaching out with private practice questions.

Since 95%+ of my referrals came from the Internet, the first thing I would check was the findability of their services and their online reputation. Often, I would find that therapists had started playing with social media (good) but didn’t understand the settings (bad) and their personal information was easily findable on Google. Within 5 minutes, we would have the issue resolved and the settings tweaked.

How to use social media settings effectively as a therapist

When you create a new account, or next time you log into your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. account- go take 5 minutes and click through and read each of your account settings. Pay special attention to anything related to “privacy” or “security” settings. While, you are in there- make sure your account actually has accurate business information. If your account links to an old website, the wrong phone number- what is the point?

Mistake #2: Giving social media your professional e-mail address

Social media is all about building community, which is AWESOME! As health experts, we know that connection is important for mental and physical health. Of course, we hope that social media leads to offline connection (and it does/can). Social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) try to connect people the same way we connect in real life. They look for people who know each other and introduce them in the online world so they can stay in touch. Unfortunately, this feature that is meant to make things “easier” for the general population- makes things tricky for therapists!

How I learned therapists don’t understand how, whey, and when to use (and not use) their professional e-mail address.

Intuitively, it makes sense if you are getting on social media for your business, that you should use your professional e-mail address. At the same time, therapists often don’t want to use social media to connect with current or past clients. We are using social media to connect with new referral sources and let new people know we exist.

However, if you add your professional e-mail address, if your past or current clients let social media into their address book (so they can easily find connections), the social media platform will suggest that they add you as a friend, add you as a LinkedIn connection, etc. Even if you don’t give social media access to your address book, you will be suggested- and you will be presented with all the tricky questions about what to do when clients try to connect. While every therapist should have a social media policy- even if they aren’t on social media, avoiding these situations makes our lives easier!

How to fix the issue of knowing when to use your professional e-mail address

In general, when exploring a new social media platform, consider using your personal e-mail address, or even getting a separate or “special” e-mail address just for social media. E-mail services like Gmail, Google Apps, and Hushmail all give you the opportunity to create “aliases.” You will still receive e-mail in the same place, but it won’t be connected in the same way.

Benefits of using a personal e-mail address is that you can connect with personal contacts who may be good referral sources, or who might just make this social media thing “more fun” in the beginning! As you determine how to use this particular platform for business, you can set-up a forward facing e-mail address that is your professional e-mail so that people see your professional contact information (not your personal).

Mistake #3: Therapists allowing Social Media Services to Access Their Address Book

Notice above, we talked about how social media tries to help you connect. One of the ways they do this it to offer to “find connections.” They ask you to sign in to your e-mail account so they can search through and tell you who is already on the social media service so you can easily connect. Unfortunately, if you don’t read the information carefully you can easily send out invitations to hundreds of contacts inadvertently, including clients!

How I learned that therapists often incorrectly let Social Media into their account(s):

I see panicked, confused, or angry questions on LinkedIn, Facebook Groups, etc. for therapists ALL. THE. TIME. In fact, in our Business School Bootcamp we had therapists going through the process do a little “pre-work.” We sent out short 5 minute videos with really specific homework.

One of our bootcampers decided to do extra credit! Whoops. Usually extra credit and playing in social media is AWESOME! In this case, our client let LinkedIn into her address book and then was really confused by the feedback that her spouse, friends, family, etc. were all getting LinkedIn requests.

How to not inadvertently let LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media send a message to all of your clients and contacts. 

Any reputable social media platform is NOT going to try to mislead you. However, it can be easy to just click through when we are excited about doing something new! So, take a quick breath, slow down a bit and be SUPER careful if you are doing anything address book related. There are times to use it, and it can be helpful to get connected, but if you are nervous, unsure, etc. this would be a feature to SKIP!

Mistake #4: Trying to do/learn/be everything, everywhere, all at once

When I train therapists or other business owners on social media, they are often shocked to realize that there are hundreds of social media platforms. Remember, social media is any service that allows us to create online communities.

When you are using social media as a way to connect for business purposes, often people read blogs, listen to podcasts, and attend trainings to learn the process. Each of these trainings often tells you all of the benefits of why you MUST use a certain platform to grow your business. So, it is easy for therapists to go to a training, get a bit fired up to try something new, and then attend another training telling them to do something else. Each of these social media activities becomes a “check this off the list” activity.

How I learned that therapists practice the feast or famine method social media strategy: 

I’ve met therapist after therapist who tell me “I started a ____________ account and a _____ account and a ________ account but then it just became too overwhelming, so I stopped. Social media exploration can be exciting, but it is also easy to get “sucked down the rabbit hole.” For most therapists, sustaining several social media accounts isn’t sustainable, at least not in the beginning.

How to avoid social media overwhelm as a therapist in private practice

Slow down. I know it sounds crazy coming from a private practice marketing expert who LOVES social media, but slow down and be intentional. How much time do you really have to spend on social media? Where are your ideal clients most likely to be? Where do you enjoy meeting people online? Start there. Get your “social media legs” and get comfortable with that platform before moving on and adding in something new. In other words, don’t try to run a marathon if you’ve never run a 5k. (And yes, I did do a 14 mile mud-run without ever doing a 5k race). While you can do it- it can be a recipe for hating running and getting injured! 

Mistake #4: Therapists don't use social media tools to simplify social media

Did you know that people who use social media effectively aren’t necessarily sitting in front of their computer all day? I know some are, but I’m not. I don’t want to be. Before I had Facebook as a mobile app on my Smartphone I was lucky to log-in once per day. I really didn’t understand how people could be “there” so much. It wasn’t until I got an app and could do a quick perusal and post in about 30 seconds that I “got it.”

How do I know therapists don’t use the best social media tools?

When I train therapists how to market a private practice using social media, I always highlight a few cool tools. Often I see this huge sense of relief when they realize that they really can manage their social media in 5-15 minutes a day using some free tools online.

How to use apps to manage your social media as a therapist:

Just about every social media service out there: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, has an “app” to make it easy to manage it from your smartphone. Be careful about allowing “push” notifications. If you are like me, you don’t want your phone blipping at you every few minutes to log in, try this, etc.

One of my favorite social media management apps for text-based updates is It allows me to set-up a “drip” of posts. That means I can log in every few days and type several short messages, or links to blogs I’ve written, and let them drip out during the day. This keeps me “active” on social media without me having to be “on.” I know other people who love Hootsuite, I’ve always found it a bit overwhelming visually. Check out a few cool tools, ask around, find out what others are using, play, and notice what makes the process easier for you!

Well here we are again… Another four pages on social media mistakes therapists make. We are thinking about putting together a basic social media 101 for therapists e-course, like our website 101 course. An e-course would allow us to present more videos tutorials... We've honestly kind of shied away from recording videos because things in social media change so rapidly- but it is such an important area- we are torn! (Maybe you can convince us one way or the other below!) 

Post in the comments below if you’d be up for that. We definitely include social media for therapists in our Business School Bootcamp, so click here to get on the interest list for that program if you aren’t already! 

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Miranda Palmer

I have successfully built a cash pay psychotherapy practice from scratch on a shoestring budget. I have also failed a licensed exam by 1 point (only to have the licensing board send me a later months later saying I passed), started an online study group to ease my own isolation and have now reached thousands of therapists across the country, helped other therapists market their psychotherapy practices, and helped awesome business owners move from close to closing their doors, to being profitable in less than 6 weeks. I've failed at launching online programs. I've had wild success at launching online programs. I've made mistakes in private practice I've taught others how to avoid my mistakes. You can do this. You were called to this work. Now- go do it! Find some help or inspiration as you need it- but do the work!