Why You Don’t Need Social Media For Your Online Counselling Practice
In a digital age where social media seems to rule the roost, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that you don’t necessarily need it for your online counselling practice (or many service-based small businesses). That’s right! Unveiled Stories is here to debunk the myth and show you why you can thrive without that Twitter handle (or whatever Elon Musk is calling it now).
1. Quality Over Quantity
You are only one person (or maybe two, or someone you’ve paid if you’re lucky) with a finite amount of time and energy. While social media can be a powerful tool, and for some of us it’s a lot fun, it can also be a double-edged sword. You can spend countless hours creating content, chasing likes, and still not see significant return in terms of clients. Instead, focus on the quality of your service, your website, and word-of-mouth referrals. Contented clients will become your best advocates.
2. Time Well Spent
Managing social media accounts can be a time-consuming endeavour. Take a look at the marvellous Therapy Jeff. This is a guy who knows what he’s doing. He makes awesome super-short videos on TikTok and Instagram full of valuable content for his followers, of which he has millions. I’m not kidding- as of Sept 5th 2023 he has 894K followers on Instagram and 2.8M on TikTok. But let’s take a look at his paid content. From all of those millions of followers, only 1,263 people paid to access his premium content on Patreon. He then switched over to Passes for premium content a few months ago, and while I can’t see how many paid subscribers he has there, I can see he has 931 likes (which may or may not be paid). It costs only $4/month.
Now i’m not saying Therapy Jeff isn’t successful or fabulous. Seriously, check him out for ideas on how to engage with an audience. He makes fantastic content, and all the benefits that come from that success certainly add up (such as media gigs, public speaking, selling merch, 1000+ paid subscribers). But what I am saying is that the man is BUSY. Jeff makes new videos all the time (or perhaps his people do it for him at this stage). He stays relevant. He comes across as confident and clearly enjoys making this kind of content. Be honest with yourself:
Do you have the time, interest and inclination to put that much work into social media?
Therapy Jeff is one of the best at what he does, and even he’s only able to convert a small number of his followers into paying customers or clients. I assume that he does get many requests from potential clients (his books are closed, so i’m defo not saying he’s not doing well!) But again, i’d imagine the percentage of potential clients is a micro dot of his follower numbers.
And how does he come up with so much content? It all looks kind of exhausting to me.
Instead of spending hours crafting social media posts and engaging with followers, you can dedicate that time to blogging for your website, honing your counselling skills, attending workshops, or simply recharging to be a more effective counsellor.
3. Avoiding Online Trolls And Drama
Social media is a breeding ground for trolls and drama. Negative comments and online conflicts can be mentally draining and distracting. By steering clear of social media, you shield yourself from this unnecessary stress and focus on your clients’ well-being.
And trolls are gonna troll! Especially if you’re public in any way. You can make content that is so light and innocuous no one engages with it, or you can share some ideas, advice or an opinion and know someone out there is going to come for you. It’s not fun, and it’s hard to stop yourself from caring and getting tired by it all. If you’re too tired to do the things you DO need to build a successful business, then it’s not going to flourish.
4. Preserving Mental Health
Speaking of well-being, your mental health matters too. Constantly comparing yourself to other counsellors on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and burnout. Avoiding these platforms can help you maintain your mental and emotional balance.
You may already notice a feeling of ‘comparison’ creeping up if you followed the links to Therapy Jeff. If so, don’t even go there with Kati Morton, also a therapist and YouTube sensation. Yep, she’s amazing too. But so are you!!
Jeff and Kati got on board with online platforms pretty early on. They clearly know their stuff when it comes to relationships, mental health and talking to young people. But they also have particularly outgoing personalities, an interest in being public figures, some skills with the platforms they’ve chosen, and lucky timing. If it’s all a foreign language to you, as many things will be when entering the world of business and marketing, then social media is one you don’t really have to learn.
NB: I’m not including YouTube in the list of social media platforms you don’t need to use. It is true that you don’t need to use YouTube, but if you do it could benefit you more than the other platforms. This is because you can use SEO for YouTube, meaning you have a bit more control over how many people see it, as opposed to Instagram where Mark Zuckerberg decides. If your content on YouTube is very popular you may even get paid via ads that come up during your content (something you have no control over, even if you find them annoying or distasteful). Lastly, you can embed YouTube videos on your website, where potential counselling clients can get a good feel for you.
5. Leveraging Other Online Platforms
You don’t need social media to establish an online presence. Invest in a professional website where you can speak to your potential clients (in human talk, not professional babble), describe your services, blog, share your credentials, your professional photos, and of course your contact information. You have no control over the algorithms social media use, which are based on the financial gain of their creators. But you do have control over your website and your in-person presentation.
I cannot stress enough that you do need to be present SOMEWHERE online. Unless you’re part of the old-guard with years of word-of-mouth behind you (in paid work, not free services) you’re going to need to be found. Most people use Google these days to find a service, right? Think about your own behaviour. Would you trust your personal story to someone who you’d never heard of and who you couldn’t find online?
There are numerous ways to leverage the best outcomes from whatever you do use. A well-written Psychology Today profile or a Google Ad for example. Utilise search engine optimisation (SEO) to ensure potential clients can find you easily (this is whole ‘nother blog post). If you’re not wasting time on social media, you will have more for the things that can actually help your ideal clients find you.
6. Client-Focused Approach
By not engaging in social media, you demonstrate a client-focused approach. Clients can be confident that your primary concern is their well-being rather than building an online persona. This authenticity can be a significant selling point. In fact, not only is it true that you don’t need social media for your online counselling practice, it may in some cases be detrimental. God forbid you make really bad social media content (it doesn’t have to be perfect- it’s better if it isn’t- but if it’s absolute chaos or supremely amateurish and lacks confidence, how are you going to inspire anyone to reach out to you?)
7. Cost-Effective Solutions
You might think it’s best to use social media because it’s free. But nothing is free where profit is concerned, honey. Your time is precious, and so is your money. Social media advertising can eat into your budget. Instead, explore cost-effective marketing strategies such as email newsletters, blog posts, or partnerships with local businesses. These methods can be just as effective in reaching your target audience.
Please do not waste money on Facebook ads. Unless you know someone locally who has DEFINITELY and directly benefited from these ads (not just in likes and follows) and can prove it, be very careful about where you spend your money.
Facebook and Instagram ads disappear when your paid time is finished. These ads are something you might leverage if you had thousands of followers already as part of a well-designed and strategic plan. Don’t look at Marie Forleo or Amy Porterfield and think ‘if it works for them’ or ‘hey, it’s only $20’. Put that money toward your website, a Google Ad, a session with a business mentor, business cards or an SEO course.
8. Freedom From Algorithm Shackles
These days, the usual social media suspects (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and increasingly TikTok) are extremely difficult to get seen on as a newcomer or a regular person. As users increase, the algorithm that decides what people see gets narrower and narrower.
These algorithms are supposedly showing you content that brings you the most value, but how does it know what is most valuable to you? Basically via things you’ve looked at before, and content under that banner that is already popular.
Imagine you’re into monster trucks. There are probably 50,000 profiles dedicated to monster trucks. The algorithm will decide which monster truck content to show you based on what it sees as ‘quality content’. There’s very little chance you’ll see the new monster truck profile with a handful of followers and content that isn’t as well-produced.
Here’s a question: how many people in Australia, the UK, Sweden or the USA (for example) are looking for a therapist on social media? How many people who might want or need a therapist are following them on social media? My guess is not too many. A lot of folks don’t like others to know they need help. And when they do, they use Google. What you will find, in general, is that most of your social media followers won’t end being your actual clients. Having a lot of engaged followers on social media can have other benefits (say, if you wanted to sell a course or simply increase your public profile) but one of them isn’t going to be heaps of clients.
Not to mention that the creators can change what the social media platform does at any moment or it can simply phase out in favour of a new and shiny (remember Instagram before Reels? Remember Instagram before Zuckerberg bought it? Remember MySpace? But I digress).
Social media algorithms can be unpredictable. Even with great content, your posts might not reach your desired audience. By sidestepping these algorithms, you have more control over how you connect with potential clients. You don’t need social media for your online counselling practice (or many small businesses) because the algorithms and design are completely out of your control.
9. Building Personal Connections
Instead of digital interactions, focus on building personal connections in your local community. Attend events, give workshops, reach out to local businesses and collaborate with other professionals in the field. By ‘other professionals’ I mean those in complimentary fields, not just other therapists. These face-to-face interactions can be more fulfilling and yield better results. This is especially useful if you’re building a local practice (not an online counselling practice). If you do this well, you can probably get away with only the most basic of websites.
10. Word Of Mouth Still Reigns
In the world of counselling, word of mouth remains a powerful force. Satisfied clients who have experienced your expertise firsthand are more likely to recommend you to others. Cultivate these organic referrals rather than chasing virtual likes.
I can say, hand-on-heart that this absolutely true for my online counselling practice. It takes time, and you can’t get away with doing ‘nothing’ online. But as you build up your client base and you do good work, those folks will refer you to their friends and colleagues, and those referrals will account for at least 50% of your client base. Again, think about your own behaviour. If you told a trusted friend you needed help, and she told you to reach out to a therapist she’d personally worked with, you might not even head to Google (let alone Instagram).
You don’t need social media for your online counselling practice
The idea that you must be on social media to run a successful online counselling practice is a myth. By avoiding the digital noise, you can concentrate on your core counselling skills, prioritise client trust, utilise other more effective methods of connecting with clients or referrals sources, and preserve your mental well-being. There are plenty of alternative ways to establish your practice and attract clients, and sometimes, less is more. So, don’t fret about not being a social media sensation. Focus on what truly matters—providing exceptional counselling services to those who seek your help.
If you found ‘Why You Don’t Need Social Media For Your Online Counselling Practice’ helpful, but you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, check out this blog post and video Buggering Off The Not-Good-Enoughs. If you’re looking for a business coach who has BEEN THERE, then please do get in touch with me directly. I’d love to help you build your dream small business/online counselling practice/wellness service.