In saying this, I mean that many of the principles of networking are the same.
In the offline world, people tend to congregate in groups related to interests, hobbies, career and passions.
A mother’s group is full of new mothers, a sporting group contains people that enjoy that sport and a singles group contains people that are looking for a relationship.
When you move online, people congregate in a similar fashion, but in a virtual way.
People join groups on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. People follow blogs and websites related to their own interests and passions. And people spend time online reading, conversing and relating with others that are interested in similar activities and topics.
If you can get your head around that idea, this can help you feel much more comfortable about spending time online in places that will give your business more exposure to the types of clients you want to attract to your counselling business.
Evaluate what your ideal clients are doing online and where they are doing it
For example, let’s say you are a counsellor who specialises in working with new mothers that are about to transition into motherhood, or are experiencing difficulties after childbirth, such as postnatal depression.
As a first step, you need to evaluate where these new mothers are hanging out online.
Some possibilities include:
- following Facebook business pages related to motherhood and parenting
- scrapbooking images using the new social media network Pinterest
- following popular ‘mummy bloggers’ and commenting on these blogs
- joining online forums that provide support and advice about motherhood and parenting
This is just a beginning and you may come up with many more possibilities.
The reason you want to start this list is so you can begin to consider where you may also need to spend time online to have your business in front of prospective clients.
Develop an online strategy for increasing the visibility of your counselling business
Once you have developed a list of possibilities to explore online, you then need to jump in.
It’s only through participating in conversations in the same places where your ideal clients are, that you can begin to be more visible and been recognised.
The old adage that someone needs to see your business 5 (6,7,8…) times before they take an action applies online.
People in your community need to come across your business and become aware of the counselling services you provide for you to be front-of-mind for them.
It’s through the process of being seen AND contributing meaningfully to conversations that you can increase the likelihood that people will feel that they ‘know, like and trust’ you. It’s the know, like and trust factor that is so important for people to convert from readers or followers into being your client.
The issue counsellors have with visibility
I think there are a number of fears for this including:
- a fear that they are being unethical
- a fear that clients will try to engage with them online
- a fear that their peers will judge them
- a fear of being seen like a salesman or ‘self promoting’
- a fear that they will make mistakes and be reprimanded by their professional body
I know, because I once had this fear as well.
When I started blogging and engaging in social media, I was terrified of being seen and that my peers and clients would think badly of me. Some of my first blog posts were barely 350 words. I was like a little mouse, too scared to speak up and be seen.
What helped me overcome this block was thinking about the online world as an extension of the offline world.
In the offline world I:
- speak in groups about my passion for relationships and couples work
- have conversations with peers about professional development topics
- support and encourage my family, friends and colleagues
- share information and advice with those that are interested
Now have a look at that list above. Does that list sound reasonable to you?
When I considered that list, I realised that all the things I feel comfortable doing offline could also be done online.
So online I:
- share information, research, tips and advice related to my niche on social media
- blog about relationship issues to help serve my community and clients with helpful information
- join the conversations on blogs by adding valuable and helpful information
- write a newsletter that I send to my list about relationship issues
- support and encourage my colleagues in a public forum like Twitter
- join online groups on Facebook and LinkedIn where I participate in conversations about professional subject matters
See the difference? Well there actually isn’t much of one.
The point I’m making here is everything you currently do offline can also be done online in a professional and ethical manner.
The only difference I see is that it is in the virtual environment of the Internet and not as concrete as when you’re doing these things offline.
However, don’t think that they are any less powerful. If anything, you have enormous reach and influence to spread your information and messages to many more people than you would have in your own community.
This is the power of ‘viral marketing’. Viral marketing means that your information can be broadcast in a way where people share with people in an immediate way, with your reach increasing with every share and comment. This is the nature of the Internet and social media.
The reach that this provides you is quite hard to comprehend, however, it can have great outcomes for your counselling business.
Over to you…
If you’re not already interacting on the Internet, I invite you to step in the water and ‘get your toes wet’. Start to experiment with participating in conversations that interest you and that you have expertise and knowledge on.
Don’t hold back your wisdom. Share it freely, and don’t be scared to let people know who you are and what you offer in terms of your services offline.
You might surprise yourself and actually start to enjoy and look forward to building your online communities.
Let me know how you get on.
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