Social/Online Marketing for a Therapist
April 2, 2013 12:55 PM   Subscribe

My mom wants me to help her with her "online presence." How do you do that for a therapist?

My mother is a psychologist who specializes in individual, family, and sex therapy. She has Facebook and Twitter accounts that she doesn't do much with, and she has her own website.

She wants to redirect her practice toward working with more people in their twenties/thirties, which is younger than most of her current clients. She thinks an online presence might help with that, and she wants me to basically do social marketing for her.

She showed me the website of this therapist as an example of what she wants to do.

I currently have the passwords to her Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I haven't really done anything with them yet. I suggested to my mom that she ask her clients to write Yelp reviews for her, but she told me that most people have privacy concerns and don't want to write reviews with their name attached.

I'm not getting a lot of direction from my mom about what she wants, and I'm at a loss as to what I can actually do for her. I suspect there's not a lot I can do, but I would like to give it a shot.

What suggestions do you have on how to market a therapist online, keeping in mind most people are shy about revealing they go to therapy? How did you find your therapist?
posted by mokin to Work & Money (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is there any way that she can manage online scheduling? Even just being able/encouraged to email instead of calling to set up an appointment would be a bonus.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Search engine marketing is a big one, focused locally.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2013


Use the Twitter and Facebook for general advice and interpersonal tips that anyone could try applying to their lives.

I would say, though, that just having social media/web presence isn't going to generate new clients on its own. Word of mouth is the most productive, especially for personal services like this. The example she gives isn't really a "therapist" so much as a media figure (or at least an aspiring one) with a TED talk and published books. This is a person seeking a larger public profile, who wants to give keynotes and be quoted in Oprah. Is that the career profile your mom wants? Or does she just want more young clients?

It seems to me an old-fashioned print campaign (flyers and well-designed business cards, maybe alternative shapes/finishes) on college campuses or in bars, upscale restaurants, and fashion boutiques might work well for getting her practice name in front of potential clients. Also, health fairs, especially through business (large employers and hospitals put them on). You need the social media and website as conduits for people to check you out once they've already learned about you, but on their own I don't think they get people to become clients. However, they can support a practice with a public dimension. And if you find really interesting tidbits (book recommendations, "What would you do?" scenarios that elicit comments, puzzles, words of wisdom, gentle jokes) that could build up a pretty interesting feed.

The SEO advice is good. You want someone to be able to Google "couples therapist Nashville" or whatever and find her popping up right away.
posted by Miko at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding the idea you make sure she has a profile in Psychology Today's Find a Therapist database. It's a first stop for a lot of folks looking for therapists.
posted by mediareport at 1:04 PM on April 2, 2013


That example website isn't really for therapy so much as for books and speaking engagements. Does she have either of those things to advertise?

The online scheduling idea is an excellent one. The other big thing is making very clear what insurance she takes. My mom is a therapist and gets 90% of her business through either referrals from other professionals (psychiatrists, school counselors) or simply because she's in-network with most of the major insurance companies. She doesn't have a web presence at all, sees mostly young people, and is at the point of turning people away.

But having a professional-looking website with a professional headshot and all the relevant information is not a terrible idea. Beyond that, social media may be the wrong tree to bark up. Therapy is not really a good fit for the super-public arena of Twitter and Facebook.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:04 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am pretty open about seeing a therapist and my dad is a therapist, so I've helped some people find therapists. In my experience people mostly find therapists via word of mouth or are randomly assigned to one by insurance.

However, I do think a simple, one-page google-able website is a good idea. It should have the therapist's name, and contact info - phone number, email if that's an okay way to contact her, and address. It would be best to also state what forms of insurance she accepts and whether she offers sliding scale fees.

I would delete the Facebook and twitter pages, they are not necessary. And, if she has a personal Facebook page, it needs to be set to private.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am a people in their twenties/thirties. When I was in the market for a therapist and had no outside information, this is exactly what I did:

-Went to my insurance provider's website and searched for folks conveniently located to me. I made a list of about 5 people.

-Googled them. Noticed that pretty much everyone was up on Psychology Today.

-Changed tactics and used Psychology Today's search function to find someone near me specializing in what I was looking for, and made a list of about 5 folks.

-Googled them further to see if they had a website that didn't make me feel like barfing or had anything shady about them online.

-Narrowed list down to three people, called them to confirm they took my insurance, then went with whomever could offer me the first conveniently-timed appointment.

And that's how it worked. For me, it worked out perfectly.


So, for folks like me:

-make sure she's listed with all the insurance carriers she accepts
-make sure she's got a robust profile (WITH A PHOTO) on Psychology Today
-make sure her website has the kind of information that accurately depicts the kind of therapist she is (for me, I was staying away from anyone with "hang in there" motivational kitty kind of crap, but if she's a motivational kitty kind of person, that's the place to do it)
-have her contact information available and clearly presented
-make sure no one's out there on yelp or something saying bad stuff about her
-BE AVAILABLE and prompt in returning emails and phone calls
posted by phunniemee at 1:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am her target demographic. I'm ambivalent about the twitter and facebook account, though it might help get her name out there - as others mentioned, she can post generally useful links, book recommendations, etc.

Things that are important to me - a clean, modern website. As much information as possible on the site! Her bio. FAQs about the whole process - therapy 101 if she's trying to attract clients new to therapy. Insurance and other payment information. Her areas of interest. And an online appointment tool would be amazing. I hate to call anyone and I'm not a particularly anxious person generally.
posted by cessair at 1:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you do update her website, make a standing appointment to review it every so often and update it. The one thing that makes me not trust a business is if they have stuff on their site advertising "Upcoming Events!!" that are a year old.
posted by CathyG at 1:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I started trying to find therapists by searching on my insurance company's website for in-network therapists. Then I googled their names. Most of them had no web presence at all. I effectively narrowed my list to those that did have some web presence -- a website of their own, or a profile page on a group practice website.

I used their web presence to try to get a sense of their approach, and their particular areas of expertise, experience, and interest. The most informative items to me would be blog posts and/or articles written by the therapist. I found almost no therapists with active blogs, but I did find a couple with websites where they wrote a bit about their expertise and approaches, which was helpful. I also checked their websites for information about location, scheduling, cost, and insurance.

Web research is a much more comfortable way for me to do "preliminary interviews" with potential therapists, rather than calling each one on the phone and asking a bunch of basic questions. I think most people my age (30) and younger would feel the same way.

From my experience looking for therapists online, I would say any kind of website at all will put your mom ahead of the pack. At minimum, she should put up a website with a short bio with her education and experience, some basic information about scheduling, costs, and insurance, and some basic, introductory information about the kinds of issues she specializes in and the approaches she usually takes.

At best, she'd keep a regularly updated blog about issues pertaining to the kinds of therapy she does. Facebook or Twitter accounts would be useful mainly to drive traffic to her blog -- do a status update or tweet whenever she writes a new post, or to give a quick link to some other interesting blog post or article about therapy. However, the blog content and FB/Twitter links to other interesting content would need to come from her, and she'd need to add new content regularly. You could help her set up a blog, but she'd need to post to it.
posted by snowmentality at 1:24 PM on April 2, 2013


This New York Times article offers some ideas on how some therapists are positioning themselves.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:33 PM on April 2, 2013


I'm in my 20s. I picked my therapist because he had a blog where he discussed his therapeutic interest/research--which included a graphic of this and a discussion about helping teenagers accept their own geeky interests and weather bullying. He also made it clear on his site that he's comfortable with communicating via email for scheduling and such--which, as someone with phone anxiety, but is perfectly comfortable with the internet, is great.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:38 PM on April 2, 2013


Chiming in with support for making it clear she can be contacted by email, and then answering emails promptly. I found my last therapist by word of mouth, but the reason I was able to actually be a client was because I didn't have to stress out about talking to her on the phone before up an appointment. Having to use the phone is a huge barrier to participation for me.

I'm not in the target demographic, but I also would prefer web research as a pre-preliminary interview, even if I have a recommendation from a friend.

This is my previous therapist's web site. The one additional thing I would like to see is an actual dollar amount under fees. When I was first looking for a therapist, I had no idea what to expect in terms of fees--not even a ballpark amount. Even if your mom has sliding scale or variable fees, just saying something like that plus a dollar range would be helpful. Basically, I want a lot of the questions that are going to be uncomfortable for me to ask answered in advance.

Social media seems unnecessary and even weird to me. I don't want to run into my therapist on Facebook (and apparently younger demographics are fleeing it anyway?).
posted by looli at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2013


The best thing you can probably do for her is make sure that more people can find her, and easily contact her. So:
1) Make sure she's optimized for organic search. (ie. Many different keywords for her services, including ones that are slightly innacurate or that are terms only a layperson would use; her qualifications, her location, her services, any relevant payment/insurance info, common mispellings of her name.)
2) Make it easy for people to get basic information, and to easily find out more. So in addition to the essentials (services, availabity, payment info, her approach) make it to phone or email her, and possibly to schedule an appointment online.

I do a fair amount of digital strategy work in the healthcare space, and social media can be something to approach carefully. People don't want to discuss their mental health in public, but they do like to read about mental health. If your mom likes to 'create content' (ie. write blog posts or articles), social media is a great tool to publicise it.
posted by Kololo at 2:17 PM on April 2, 2013


Aside from online directories where her info is probably already available, she should make sure that she's available and her information is up-to-date on Zocdoc or the local equivalent. I would recommend AGAINST her using social media too, as discussed above.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:13 PM on April 2, 2013


I used to do marketing for a dental office, and blogging made a big difference in terms of how much we showed up in search engines. We'd write posts that had very search-friendly terms in the title, like the name of the city we were in and particular dental procedures. Blogging can get to be a bit of a slog, so we'd post a lot of links to relevant articles on other sites and Youtube videos about dental stuff.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:55 PM on April 2, 2013


Regardless of whether she wants a brochure site or a real blog, I'd recommend using Wordpress. It will make it possible for her to do minor edits herself, at minimum, so you'll get fewer calls to update her site when her information gets stale.
posted by instamatic at 4:29 PM on April 2, 2013


Definitely a website as mentioned above. I think social media is less important than a simple informational website.
posted by radioamy at 7:57 PM on April 2, 2013


If she is not able to offer online scheduling, consider at least offering up-to-date availability information and appoint-confirmations by email. This will be easy if she is already tracking her appointments in Google Calendar. First, she must set up all of her appointments as "private," then embed the calendar into her website. This will allow her web visitors to see when she is busy and when she is available.
posted by samthemander at 9:44 PM on April 2, 2013


Dr Keely Kolmes has some excellent articles and presentations for clinicians looking to use social media.
posted by judith at 12:26 AM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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