If you work in the mental health field, you are a natural born communicator. Can we all agree that there is no counseling without a true command of language? After all, psychiatrists, counselors and social workers must all be well versed in BOTH, the spoken and written word to succeed within their chosen career fields.
Counseling sessions are based on active listening skills and the ability to successfully organize and summarize what the client shares. In addition, everything learned from each client session must be converted to accurate, comprehensive and concise progress notes. The data is often admissible in legal proceedings, so the mental health professional must be able to use an economy of words which express a multitude of thoughts and details. Let’s also just remind everyone that professionalism and field credibility also requires neatness, flawless spelling and grammar and attention to proper syntax.
So, where does Social Media enter in to a discussion about listening, thinking, talking, writing and detail orientation?
Social Media Represents the “New World” of Opportunity for Everyone
Social Media is an important form of communication these days. It is becoming a communication tool of choice for many mentally ill clients, especially when they wish to communicate – anonymously – with others to avoid positive identification and attached stigma. Mental Health professionals are increasingly spending their counseling time instructing their clients in the safe and productive use of Social Media, for this purpose. The chief goal is ALWAYS to protect the vulnerable from exploitation.
The mental health professional is also using Social Media as a way to gain additional professional knowledge as well as to network with others in his own field; including the many that live and work a great distance away.
There are also new opportunities for degree work and certification through online universities and professional organizations, respectively. There are moderated and open forums for career-related discussions on a variety of professional topics developed to advance the field of mental health care.
Plenty of collegial relations and friendships have been forged in the online world, often leading to one-to-one telephone conversations and live meetups. Face-to-face meeting have always been the goal of Social Media, which is designed as an enabler and not a replacement for physical human interaction.
Job information has been exchanged and employment interview offers are often tendered online. And, then there is the research that keeps the mental health care professional up to date on the changes taking places in his field from day to day. Some of the research and anecdotal contributions are the product of practioners, just like you and me, who choose the Internet as a place to publish our work and share it with the world. We no longer need to wait for third parties to publish what we write.
Forget the Yellow Pages. You Must be Active in Social Media to Succeed
There is another area in which the worlds of mental health care and Social Media often come together – marketing and outreach. Can any nonprofit or private business afford not to avail themselves of the benefits offered through Social Media? I think not. Why? Because, the collective Social Media audience is huge and diverse. We need the kind of visibility and name recognition that the Internet can lead us to.
Most everyone that we need to connect with is already online, with more and more people showing up daily. Facebook, alone, is already at or nearing 600 million users. Confidently, there is no one on earth that does not know – at least – a single person with a Facebook profile.
Marketing and outreaching others in Social Media need not take a huge amount of resources, either. In fact, the entire effort can be limited to just a few platforms and a limited amount of posts on a consistent basis. This is resource allocation, well positioned.
Are you LinkedIn?
All professionals in any field belong on LinkedIn. Create a profile with your credentials, contact information and over time, as many business references as you can gather. Take some time to join some professional groups and pose and answer career-related questions among the group members. There is a lot to learn from others and much one can share to prove his field expertise. It is such expertise that builds professional credibility and helping relations over time. Such relationships are invaluable when it comes to creating all sorts of professional opportunities including business partnerships, client referrals and employment offers. Do not discount the value of LinkedIn as a premier Social Networking platform for mental health care professionals.
Are you Facebooking?
Facebook is another place where the people we need and wish to “talk” to are a great deal of the time. Sure, it is a place where one must be especially careful not to embarrass himself among his friends or professional colleagues, but it is a place where using good posting discretion can balance the fun with the serious. The common denominator is “value.” Bring value to others and garner their respect and loyalty.
Facebook does have a business side, too. The Facebook business page offers a place to create and foster community, client and professional relations through providing value to some and offering an outlet for others to do the same. A few well placed posts about happenings in the mental health care field on your Facebook business page and a few more quality posts and comments on the pages of others you seek to have an audience with and you are on your way to growing a successful Facebook presence. Just remember that on Social Media, it’s not all about you. Value for others, FIRST. You have the right to pitch your own endeavors about 15% of the time. Do not try and sell in Social Media; work harder to impress. Being respected and liked will get you the opportunities you are looking for.
Have you Blogged, Today?
Blogging is also a great tool to become better known. Show you are an expert in something and share it wherever you can. One or two 400 – 500 word blog posts per week, can quickly establish a professional as an expert that others want to hear from regularly. Invite others to write for your blog, too. Guest bloggers are refreshing and help give the impression that your blog is important enough for others to take the time and contribute to. Their followers will come to read their posts and have a chance to read yours. Often newspaper and magazine writers read the blogs, so don’t be surprised when you receive offers to publish your contributions in their print and online publications. This is good for you and your business, because their readers are probably your own target audience.
When did you last Tweet?
Do you need to tweet? Twitter can be effective if you can develop a targeted and convertible following. Building such a dedicated following takes much work. You want to create a following of credible mental health care gurus; respected field publications; a pool of mainstream field nonprofits and for-profit; federal, state and local government leaders; supportive local businesses and potential client groups. Retweeting others and replying to their tweets is just as important as tweeting your own materials. Again, you must limit tooting your own horn to about 15% of your tweets. Tweet value and seek to connect with others. If you can build relations and take them off-line, you are succeeding.
Are you in Constant Contact with your Primary Audience?
Lastly, look into using an E-mail service such as Constant Contact to keep your audience up to date. Send out a monthly newsletter; issue announcements such as new hires and business expansions; announce your Social Media presence: and even create event invitations and holiday E-cards for your contacts. The more you can get your name in front of others, the better it is remembered. Just don’t overdo it. Strike a balance by using all of your Social Media tools, timely and appropriately.
This is a very exciting time for mental health care professionals. Their appropriate use of Social Media can do many wonderful things for them; their professions; their businesses and organizations; and the clients they serve.