I am very excited to share with you the wisdom of Tamara Suttle, mastermind behind the blog Private Practice from the Inside Out. Tamara is a licensed professional counselor out in Denver, CO who’s been practicing since 1991 and blogging since 2009. Needless to say…she’s got a lot of good information to share!
What I know about music therapists online is that there’s not nearly enough actively engaging with social media. And, the hunch I have is that, for some, this wild, wild world of social media feels a bit overwhelming…a tad too chaotic…and downright cold and impersonal. In other words, I wonder if some of you are just plain scared.
Since I’m a bit tech-phobic myself, I thought it might be useful to tell you what I have learned about some of the social media tools over the last two years.
Hanging Out Your Shingle
Having a website is a bit like hanging out your shingle. If your goal is to help your ideal clients find you online, then it’s not sufficient to have a directory listing with Psychology Today or a Facebook page declaring you are online. You need a really good website.
Kimberly and I are both fans of WordPress platforms. They are varied enough that your site doesn’t look exactly like the music therapist’s site who sat next to you in school. And they are flexible enough that they will grow with you as your practice grows.
Of course, having your own website is not enough to grow your music therapy practice. It’s just the hub from which effective online marketing takes place. I suspect many of you know this already…if you have a great website but no traffic to your website, your practice is still virtually dead (pun intended).
Not to worry, though! There are lots of ways to dip your toe into the social media waters. And any one of these tools is much simpler and wildly more productive in helping you build an online reputation than simply hanging out your shingle and waiting for the masses to find you.
The Old-Fashioned Way
Most of my geeky friends are too young to even acknowledge that online discussion lists and forums really were the first types of social media. I mention them for two reasons. One, I’m old enough to appreciate a nod to those who paved the way for modern day social media (and that’s exactly what they did). They introduced us to new rules for interacting online and they introduced us to a smaller world.
And, two, online discussion lists and forums continue to be an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise and resources to other. If you venture no further than this, consider joining the Music Therapy Listserv (you can find details on the American Music Therapy Association’s website) and at least one other list outside of your discipline (Here’s a list of online discussion lists for mental health professionals across disciplines.)
Once you master the basics of an online discussion list or two, you are ready for the power tools of social media…
Power Tools to Build Your Private Practice in Music Therapy
Blogs Rule for Engagement
Nothing helps you engage with the general public, referral sources, and even your own clients more than blogging. By posting relevant information, resources, and your own ideas, you build your professional reputation by establishing trust and credibility online. To build on that trust and credibility, you can comment on other people’s blogs and also choose to allow commenting on your blog – building a dialogue and transparency that furthers your own professional image. Nothing else online allows you to do this with such ease!
Once you master blogging and commenting on others’ blogs, you are ready for the speedway!
Twitter to Connect and Share Quickly
Twitter is one of those tools that I avoided like the plague…because I didn’t understand how useful it could be to me as a small business owner. It is fast! It is short (just 140 characters)! And, it is ridiculously unorganized!
After reading Twitter Power 2.0 by Joel Comm, I’ve finally figured it out! It’s not about telling the world what I had for breakfast. Who cares? It’s about connecting with others (both in and out of my profession) who can, in turn, connect me with others who can…connect me with others. Get it?
Twitter helps me feel not so isolated as a solo practitioner and…it helps me get the word out about projects and causes that are important to me and…it helps me find resources quickly that support my clients and me.
If you are needing to connect with other people and share information and resources quickly, Twitter ROCKS!
LinkedIn is Your Professional Network
I’ve only been on LinkedIn a few months and I’m still learning how to finesse it all. However, it is designed to be your professional network. I’m emphasizing this because I started out doing it all wrong by inviting (accidentally) everyone I know and their mother to connect with me on LinkedIn. By reading The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success by Wayne Freitbarth, I’ve since learned that in order to maximize the effectiveness of your LinkedIn network, you really do want to be selective in your invitations to connect. By doing so, you actually strengthen (and organize) your professional network.
LinkedIn has lots of discussion groups for you to join (so that you can build your online presence by participating in them); it also allows you to engage with like-minded professionals to expand your professional network.
Your Professional Page on Facebook
As a music therapist, your involvement with Facebook can be (but doesn’t have to be) a little dicey. (It’s why I’m not there yet.) Facebook’s policies on privacy settings continue to change and that has been an ongoing concern for many of us in the mental health professions.
Keely Kolmes, Psy.D. provides comprehensive suggestions for integrating Facebook into your marketing toolbox.
I can only add to it by encouraging you to take a proactive approach (as Kimberly has) in deciding ahead of time exactly what information is and isn’t appropriate for public viewing. I have heard Kimberly state on the Music Therapy Round Table podcast that she uses her professional Facebook wall (i.e. page) as a “resource page” posting links to a variety of information, resources, websites and blogs, including her own, that her professional Facebook “friends” may be interested in. Equally important, she saves the more personal and intimate details of her life to display on her personal Facebook wall (as opposed to her professional wall ) for only her close and selected friends and family to see.
And…About Getting Those Clients…?
So here’s the deal…in whatever ways you are venturing out online to help your clients find you…each one of these tools can help redirect potential clients and referral sources back to your great website…but only if you use them. I have found that I do best by learning to use these power tools one at a time.
Each time I add one, the traffic to my website increases exponentially. If you are like me…a bit tech-phobic and highly tech-challenged but motivated to dip your toe in the water…hold on to something…a colleague’s hand, one of the books I’ve recommended here, or Kimberly’s blog and email address…because as you learn to strategically use and integrate new elements of social media into marketing your music therapy services, you will grow your private practice, too!
About the Author: Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed. has established three successful private practices during the last 20 years in both Texas and Colorado as a licensed professional counselor and a certified clinical hypnotherapist. She is also the owner of Private Practice from the Inside Out, where she provides coaching / consulting services to mental health professionals who are interested in building strong and vibrant private practices.