Many companies are incorporating social media into their marketing plans, with a fair amount of success. From Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter to blogs, social media platforms are giving companies both large and small the opportunity to build real relationships with the consumers they serve, or hope to serve.
And the interaction between you and your clients and potential clients encouraged by social media is where you can accomplish two important goals (among others): reinforce a client’s loyalty and extend your reach to those who would benefi t from massage therapy but might not be aware of the profession—or have misconceptions.
OK. All of these ideas sound good, but knowing something is a good idea is very different than putting the idea into practice. And, let’s be honest, some companies have staff members dedicated to social media campaigns, so building an effective presence can’t be a “build it and they will come” effort.
Useful content. One of the most useful ways to think about content on social media sites is as a way to showcase your expertise. Think about the consumers you currently work with or want to target, and then create updates that are relevant and show you thoroughly understand their needs. For example, if your practice comprises mostly pregnant women, use your social media efforts to educate followers on the benefi ts of massage therapy during pregnancy. Remember, you aren’t going to have a lot of space, so write something simple and link to other material, whether it’s recent research, or a case study or testimonial you have posted on your website. Don’t mistake showcasing your expertise, however, for solely promoting yourself. Whenever you can, bring other voices into the conversation.
Share your knowledge: So often, people fear that they’re giving away trade secrets when they share what they know with others. Along the same lines as showcasing your expertise, however, sharing your knowledge is a great way to build strong connections and trust with clients and potential clients. When possible, too, avoid putting a marketing spin on everything you share.
Try to write communications that consumers and potential consumers can honestly relate to, using everyday language instead of clichéd catchphrases loaded with buzzwords.
Etiquette: Social media sites have helped change how consumers want to be marketed to, or perhaps responded to consumer attitudes toward marketing. Whatever the case, your social media efforts can’t be all about making the sale—and they shouldn’t be all about you. Many experts today recommend spending more time promoting others (who have some connection to your profession), and less time writing about and linking to your own material. This effort shows visitors and followers that you’re not just interested in selling them something.
Feedback: When people take the time to comment on material you’ve posted, you need to take the time to respond. Seems simple, but there’s real power in just thanking someone for their comment. If you can provide additional information, all the better—particularly if it’s information that they can easily share with others. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in response to any comments you get, as doing so is a great way to both get to know your clients and start meaningful conversations that allow you to once again showcase your expertise.
Be a Source: One great way to let people know the benefi ts of massage therapy is to be a source for a story in a newspaper or magazine. Again, when you share your knowledge of the massage therapy profession in this way, you’re reinforcing the idea that you have expertise—a great way to build trust with potential clients. When you sign up for Help A Reporter Out, finding these opportunities is a little bit easier. Here’s how it works: Reporters looking for information for stories submit queries, which are then pushed out to potential sources. So, once you sign up, you’ll get inquiries sent to your email inbox, where you can decide if you want to answer or not. Remember, answering a query doesn't necessarily mean that you’ll be quoted (as other potential sources are also receiving the queries), but being proactive can help you get your name out there.
The great thing about Help A Reporter Out is that you can potentially serve as a source for a wide variety of news publications, from local to national. And, if you have an idea for a story, the website also allows you to make a pitch that member reporters might pick up.
Taking Care of You
Taking time for you. You’re in the business of taking care of other people, and many massage therapists pursued their career—in part because they enjoy helping others maintain their well-being. The risk, of course, is that in focusing your energy on taking care of other people, you lose track of taking good care of yourself. But if you don’t remain healthy, you won’t be able to help your clients.
Maintain boundaries. You maintain ethical boundaries with your clients, and most likely spell out these expectations in your intake form, as well as when you’re speaking with clients about massage therapy. These boundaries are, of course, an integral part of your practice.
You should consider, too, extending this idea of boundaries to your schedule so that the time you set aside for yourself remains free and clear. Particularly if you own your own practice, squeezing in that extra client or extending your hours to accommodate a client’s schedule can be tempting. But you need to protect your time and make sure you’re able to take care of yourself the same way you care for your clients. That’s not to say you can’t be flexible, but your clients need to understand you aren’t always available.
Vacation. Along the same lines as taking time for yourself is the idea that you should make room for vacations in your schedule. It’s easy to fall into the thinking that taking a week or a few days off isn’t possible, but your clients will be there when you get back—and getting away will help recharge your battery and reaffi rm your commitment to massage therapy and your clients.
Don't take it personally. Your clients might sometimes have unrealistic expectations of massage therapy, perhaps because they don’t fully understand how you work. For example, a client with carpal tunnel may come to you thinking one massage therapy session will make them feel better. You can’t take it personally when you don’t meet a client's unrealistic expectations of you and your practice.
Instead, take the opportunity to educate them on the cumulative benefits of massage therapy, and help them readjust what they expect and when they might see improvement.
Staying positive impacts longevity. We know that stress isn’t healthy, and can produce some very real physical responses that detract from our well-being. Now, however, physicians are starting to understand that how a person deals with stress can have an effect on longevity.
Longevity was once thought to be primarily about genetics—and still is, on some level. But more recently, doctors working with older patients are seeing they have something else in common: They don’t let the inevitable setbacks of life trip them up.
Called “adaptive competence,” some studies are fi nding that attitude does indeed matter when it comes to lifespan.“I define it loosely as the ability to bounce back from stress,” explains Dr. Mark Lachs in a story for NPR. “Many scientists view this solely as biological stress. But many of us who care for older patients see adaptive competence as psychologically critical as well.”
In fact, Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health and colleague of Lachs, studied the longevity of people in their 50s as a function of their perceptions about aging. Those participants who agreed with statements like “Things keep getting worse as I get older” and “As you get older you are less useful,” died an average of 7 ½ years sooner than their more positive counterparts—even after she controlled for their medical conditions.
Think about how you deal with stress, and if you see patterns of pessimism when faced with an obstacle, try to consciously shift your perspective. For example, would daily meditation help? Are you getting enough physical activity? Is your diet well-balanced? Staying positive isn’t always easy, but seeing the glass half-full can add years to your life—literally.
Your Practice Through Client's Eyes
Once in awhile, getting a look at your practice from a client’s perspective helps keep you in touch with both what you do well and what might benefit from some updates. Be as detailed as you possibly can, perhaps enlisting the help of a friend to walk through the entire process of becoming a new client.
What do they see when they walk up to your practice? Paying attention to the outside of your practice is as important as making sure the interior is warm and inviting. Is your signage clearly visible so clients and potential clients can easily see where you’re located? Are your walkways clear and free of any obstacles? Can your clients park easily when coming for an appointment? All of these things are going to impact a client’s visit, and though you don’t always have control of everything (like parking), make sure what you can change makes visiting you as stress free and easy as possible.
How do clients feel in your reception area? Did you sit in the furniture you purchased for your reception area so you know that it’s comfortable? How is the lighting—soft and comforting or harsh and fl uorescent? Do you have reading material available for clients who might have to briefl y wait for the start of their appointment? How’s the temperature, and is the restroom clearly marked? These areas are going to be the fi rst impression your client has of your practice—take the time to make it count.
What does your client experience in your treatment room? Experience your treatment room with all of your senses. Can your client hear any outside noise, or is your treatment room completely free of other distractions? Is the lighting sufficiently dim, or is candlelight enough? Do you use fragrances that aren’t too overpowering? Where will clients place their clothes when disrobing for the session, and is their privacy ensured? Are the linens clean? Have a look around your treatment room, lie down on your massage table, and get a real feel for how clients experience the space.
How's the massage? Of course, you can’t answer this question for yourself, but you can keep in mind a few things that will ensure you’re giving your clients the best experience you’re capable of. Remember to stay present, focusing your attention on the client and their needs. Also, remind clients they are in control, giving them the confidence they need to tell you if the pressure isn’t right or something in the environment is distracting to them. Feel your own confidence, too, knowing you are a capable massage therapist who can take care of their clients.
What happens after the session?Think about how you end the massage therapy session, from the smallest detail, like how you signal to the client the massage is over, to the larger picture, such as how convenient paying and rescheduling are. Do you leave a glass of water for your client when you leave the room to allow them to get dressed, or have one waiting for them when they come out of the room? Do clients feel rushed or do you assure them they can take their time getting themselves together? Small things like having a mirror available in the treatment room so clients can fix their hair before leaving can make a big impression, too.
One great way of getting an idea of what clients are thinking about your practice is to—ask them! Sounds simple enough, but many people don’t think to invite feedback from their clients. Consider making a comment card available where clients go to pay and rebook appointments.
The card doesn’t have to be long and detailed, just enough to give you a good idea of how satisfi ed a client is, as well as what they enjoyed most—and what they think might need improving—about the massage session. If you can, give clients incentive to fill these cards out, like entrance into a drawing for a complimentary product or percentage off their next session.