The New Zealand Association of Counsellors Facebook page was launched in mid-September. This is an initiative designed to help student, provisional and full members of NZAC share resources and have discussions that may benefit the counselling community in New Zealand.
In honour of this great initiative, I thought it would be useful to describe how to create and optimize a Facebook page for your counselling practice. As many of us will know, Facebook is a great way to engage current and potential clients with interesting, informative and useful content.
What Is Facebook?
Although it probably needs no introduction, Facebook is the largest social media website on Earth. It currently supports over 1.5 billion active users every month-and this number is steadily growing. If Facebook was a country, it would be the largest country in the world.
As such, it is obvious that there is massive potential to engage potential clients through Facebook. In this article I describe 6 simple tips to creating a great Facebook profile for your counselling practice.
Tip 1: Provide as much information as possible in your Facebook page
All Facebook business pages have space for a lot of information about your counselling practice. This information includes your location, your counselling hours, a description of your approach and modalities, the services you offer, the cost of these services and much more.
While it is tempting to skip some of these fields, you will be surprised how often potential clients seek this information out. We all know that choosing to see a counsellor is a difficult decision for many people. Adding as much information to your Facebook page as possible can help give anxious clients a sense of ease.
Filling in your page as completely as possible particularly applies to sections of your Facebook profile where you can include videos or photos relating to your practice. A warm inviting welcome video or well-shot images of your counselling room can put potential clients at ease quickly. Even if you are tempted to skip these aspects of your Facebook page, don’t! It can make all the difference to others.
Tip 2: Have Engaging Cover and Profile Photos
All Facebook business pages begin with a large cover image and a profile photo. These images set the tone for your entire Facebook page and it is important that they are carefully thought about.
For example, a counsellor specializing in anxiety or depression relief may include soothing images of nature or positive images of hope in her cover image. Soothing or hopeful images are likely to draw potential clients to the page and have them start to think that change may be possible for them.
If you are a sole practitioner it is important to include a professional photo of yourself for your portrait image. As the decision to enter counselling is not an easy one, many clients want to feel like they know, like and trust the counsellor before engaging her services. A warm, smiling professional photo can contribute immensely to this process. A poorly taken photo will often put clients off.
Tip 3: Create a Memorable Username For Your Page
Once a Facebook page has received more than 25 “likes”, page owners can choose their own username for their page. This username then becomes the URL (or website address) that people can use to access the Facebook page.
For example, after it has received 25 likes a counselling practice named “Hope Counselling” could choose their own username (such as “hopecounselling”) for their Facebook page. If this username is not already taken, this would then become their username. Their page would then be hosted at www.facebook.com/hopecounselling.
A simple and memorable username and URL makes it far easier for clients to access your counselling practice on Facebook. For people who haven’t set their own usernames Facebook will allocate you a username (and URL). This username (and URL) will often include long lists of meaningless symbols or numbers. If a client is trying to find you, it is far easier for them to type in a username (or URL) that they can remember.
Engaging usernames are also more professional for other marketing purposes-for example to include on marketing pamphlets or to serve as links from your website to your Facebook page.
Tip 4: Include a Call To Action (and maybe a Booking Widget) in your profile
Facebook has recently given people the opportunity to include a “Call To Action” immediately under the cover image on business Facebook pages.
This call to action usually consists of a blue button. Counsellors can choose from a number of pre-made button wordings, including “Book Now”, “Contact Us”, “Learn More” and so forth.
If you want clients to contact you directly it is very useful to set your button up well-with appropriate links or landing pages. For those using online bookings systems (such as Timely or Cliniko) these systems include options to embed a booking widget directly onto your Facebook page. This widgets acts exactly the same as the online booking system your website and enables clients to book a session with you without even leaving Facebook.
Tip 5: Produce Relevant, Interesting and Engaging Content for your Facebook Page
Once you have your Facebook page set up it is important to keep it updated with relevant, interesting and engaging content for potential clients.
For most counsellors this content will be sourced from other people and may include blog posts that you want to share, inspirational videos or feel good stories or information about workshops and upcoming events. The more useful a Facebook page is the more often people will come back to it.
Other counsellors use Facebook as a place to post their own blog posts or other content they have created. As your content is shared by Facebook to people who like your page, these people will be reminded of you. They may also be prompted to contact you for further information or counselling sessions.
As producing engaging content is time-consuming, many counsellors mix their own content with content of others. A useful ratio that I use is to create around 25% of the content on my Facebook pages myself. For the remaining 75% I try to include a mix of informational content (blogs, videos etc) and entertaining, funny or inspiring stories from others. It is important to remember that most people go to Facebook to be entertained-so sharing relevant funny or odd content is often very appropriate!
Tip 6: Include “Like Me” Links to your Facebook Page on other Media
Your Facebook page is useless if no-one sees it, so it is important to give people as much opportunity as possible to know about it and follow you.
Perhaps the simplest way to do this is to have “Like Me” buttons or icons on your website that link to your Facebook page. You may also want to link to your Facebook page from other content you are producing (such as pamphlets or on slides for talks). However you do it, the more people you encourage to visit your Facebook page the more chance you will create a large groups of followers.
With this being said, made sure you check your own Facebook page to see if it can be improved in any way. Have you provided full information about your counselling practice? Is your Facebook page (and especially the cover and profile images) visually attractive? Is your Facebook username (and URL) memorable? Have you installed a call to action budget or widget? Are you updating your content regularly? And how are you driving traffic to your Facebook page?