Social Networking. These words are often bandied about, but what do they really mean? For some, maintaining a Facebook profile is a good way to keep in contact with friends and family who may be spread out across the country. For others, such as businesses, associations and schools, for example, social networking is a way to connect with consumers and clients who can benefit from the services or programs they offer. And connecting with people is a good thing.
But the real genius of social networking is that making connections with people you know can lead you to potential clients who learn about you because they trust the people you know. Let's put that another way: Your loyal clients have friends who look to them for recommendations when shopping for products and services. In turn, these friends have friends, and these friends have friends. Like the proverbial stone hitting the water, your name can ripple out to a variety of potential clients from your primary contacts.
The trick, however, is engaging in social networking in a way that is effective. Here are some ideas to help you use Facebook to your advantage.
One. Log in to Facebook and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you'll see a variety of links, one of which is "Advertising." Once you click through, you'll see a link at the top that says "Pages." Click on this link to get started.
Starting the page, you'll be asked to make some decisions about basic information, including choosing the category that best suits your business and giving your page a name. There isn't a specific business category for massage therapy, but don't worry about being exact.
You can still find an option that fits your practice, such as "Professional Service" or "Health and Beauty." Also, the name of the page should mirror the name of your practice. Once you've finished, click "Create Official Page."
Two. These next steps are where you can make the page distinctly your own. You'll notice that once you create the page there is a prompt for you to upload a photo.
Take some time to think about the presence you want to create on your Facebook page before choosing a photo, but don't get too bogged down in this decision as changing the photo isn't difficult. Do you have a logo you can use? Or, perhaps you have a picture of your practice you can share? When choosing a photo, remember that you want to reflect the professionalism of your practice, as well as the massage therapy profession.
Three. On the same page you're asked to upload a photo you can also add information about your practice. When you click on "Add information to this page," you can fill in the basic information about your practice. Try to make this section as detailed as possible by including your practice address and telephone number so clients and potential clients can easily find this information.
You may also want to include a one or two line mission statement that quickly outlines the goals and philosophy of your massage therapy practice, as well as the modalities you practice and hours of operation.
Also, if you have a presence on the Internet separate from your Facebook fan page, make sure to add this information. Include a link to your Website if you have one, as well as other online accounts, such as Twitter and YouTube. Again, you don't want to place links just to take up space, but you also want people who visit this page to be able to easily find information and connect with you in a variety of ways.
Four. One way to approach your Facebook page is as a resource for those people who become fans. When you embrace this strategy, making the page as engaging and rich as possible is a natural instinct. Your page will have a "Wall" tab by default, where you can share updates and your fans can comment.
However, that's just the beginning. You can also set up multiple tabs for additional information, including photo, video and events. The objective is to give people who visit your page multiple ways to interact with you and your practice, as well as information about the benefits of massage therapy.
There are also myriad applications available for you to use that have been developed by outside companies and avid users of Facebook. (For more information, see the Sidebar "Add to the Effectiveness of Your Facebook Page.")
Five. When you're finished, hit "Publish this Page." Now, your page is out in the world and you're ready to start gathering fans and sharing information about your practice and the benefits of massage therapy. At this time, too, you might take a few minutes to adjust the settings for your page. For example, you can control the default landing page for visitors who aren't yet fans of the page, as well as choose if you'd like your fans to be able to post comments to your wall and share photos.
Slow and Steady
Okay, you have a Facebook page, but what now? Unfortunately, this strategy isn’t a “build it and they will come” approach. But, there are some simple things you can do that, when combined with your other marketing efforts, can be effective.
First, think about who your loyal clients are and target your effort toward them. If you have an e-newsletter you send out, include some brief information about your new Facebook page along with a link so they can easily take immediate action. Also, consider inviting businesses related to your profession to become fans of your page. For example, if you work with a health care provider or a neighboring business, invite them to become a fan. You don’t want to make connections just to increase the number of fans you have, but you also don’t want to narrow your scope so much that you might miss good opportunities for exposure.
Additionally, you should utilize other marketing materials you have to drive traffic to your Facebook page. Print the link on the business cards you hand out. Include a link on your practice’s Web site and spread the word through Twitter if you are using this social networking tool. Facebook also has a “Find us on Facebook” badge you can add to your online presence, making it easy for visitors to your Web site to click through and see your page. Again, you want to hit a target audience but shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box when promoting your Facebook page, either.
Remember, though, that progress is probably going to be slow. Don’t expect to set up a Facebook page and have 3,000 fans the next day, because that probably isn’t going to happen. When you keep putting a link out there and make your Facebook page a permanent fixture in your marketing plan, however, you should see results.
Make it Work
Building a fan base takes time, yes, but keeping your fans interested in your practice and massage therapy is imperative—both existing and potential fans. Creating a Facebook page and then abandoning the project is going to reflect poorly on you and your practice. So, prepare up front for what maintaining the page is going to take and plan your schedule accordingly. Can you realistically set aside an hour or two per week to post good information that will be useful to your fans? If not, do you have someone you can delegate this responsibility to?
Because of the flexibility offered by Facebook pages, you’ll have a wide variety of ways to keep fans informed and interested. If you learn a new modality, for example, you can make and post a YouTube video demonstrating the technique.
You can ask questions as part of your status update, giving you the opportunity to get a better idea of what your clients are looking for, as well as encourage discussion and build community among your fans. Include photos of you and your practice, if you want, or post links to research supporting the benefits of massage therapy and list events you’re hosting at your practice.
It’s true, you’ll have to spend some time maintaining the page, but when considering whether a Facebook page is right for your practice (and you should take time to seriously consider the pros and cons), remember the pay off: exposure that is free and authentic in that people who become your fans are, in most cases, loyal clients who believe in what you do.
To Facebook or Not to Facebook
Running headlong into new opportunities to market your practice is never a good idea, particularly when technology is involved. Creating a Facebook page that you don’t have the time or inclination to update on a regular basis isn’t going to benefit you or your clients, so take some time to think about the following questions.
1. What segment of my client base or potential client base in on Facebook? Here, you don’t have to know definitive numbers, and you shouldn’t dismiss clients who might not currently be on Facebook but may be in the future. However, you do need to be honest with yourself. If you know a majority of your clients don’t use this technology, then creating a page might not be the best use of your time and effort.
2. What value will my Facebook page provide my clients? Your page should give you the opportunity to interact with your clients and potential clients in different ways, and provide you a way of letting clients know why massage therapy is important and why you’re the right massage therapist for them. Think about planning material in advance of setting up the page. Do you work with folks who seek relief from pain? Make sure you have a few links to research concerning the reffect massage therapy can have on pain. Are your clients coming to you more and more for stress relief? Consider posting tips about reducing stress. The options are endless.
3. How will I keep clients interested in my page? Similar to creating value, knowing your client base is going to be key to keeping them interested. One consideration is making this page more than a way to advertise to clients and potential clients. Consumers today are overwhelmed with marketing messages, so give your clients a break when you can. Offer your expertise in short snippets by posting updates your fans can use to increase their well-being. Post information about modalities you practice that can help specific populations, such as people who suffer from lowback pain, for example. Clients who understand you care about them are going to be loyal.
4. How will I know if my Facebook page is succesful? Every plan, from business to marketing, needs to have some way for you to gauge success. Facebook recently put in place its own analytics for pages, which will tell you basic information about how the posts on your page are performing, including how many times each post has been displayed to all users, as well as a feedback percentage, which is based on how many comments each post receives.
There are other, more modest ways to get an idea of how effective the page is, as well. You might begin by asking new clients how they heard about you (a practice you should be employing regardless) and have a goal concerning Facebook page referrals. You might also consider a particular number of fans a success, or the amount of participation you see from fans on your Facebook page. Your measures of success don’t all have to be data-based, some can be anecdotal, but you do need to have some way of monitoring success in place before launching your page.