The landscape of social media marketing changes as quickly as the humans who use it, so it can be hard to keep up. If you’re a therapist and dipping your toes into social media marketing, one of the hardest things to understand is the difference in value between paid and unpaid social media posts.
Unpaid posts (also called “organic posts”) are posts that your business can make on social media without paying any money at all. In other words, these are the normal posts that any free social media account can make. Paid posts, on the other hand, are posts that you’ve paid to be promoted or specially targeted in some way.
Both types of posts play a different marketing role, so it can be difficult to choose which one to prioritize in your private practice’s social media strategy. So let’s break it down. Which type of social media post will market your practice better: paid or unpaid?
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The Importance of Unpaid Posts
Today’s consumers typically research companies and brands online to get a better sense for the company before deciding to spend their money there, or what John Marcinuk calls, “brand validation.”1 This is something you’ve even done yourself if you’ve ever looked up one of your favorite stores on Twitter or Googled a new physician before making an appointment.
And it’s what all of your potential clients are doing to you. That’s why it’s so critical to have an excellent website and a social media presence that communicates your brand and resonates with your ideal client.
Vetting our purchases ahead of time through brand validation has become a normal part of many people’s purchasing cycles.1 Potential customers (or in your case, potential clients) use what they find on Google and social media in part to help validate that the brand or company is real and respectable, and to decide if they want to purchase their products or services.
Making sure your name and business show up online in all the right places for potential clients to find is even more important for small businesses like your practice. If your business does not have a strong, well-branded website and presence on social media, including an account furnished with regular unpaid posts, you’re running the risk that a potential client will write you off as unprofessional and not able to meet their needs. This is especially true if your ideal client is under the age of 50.
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Having conversations on social media does a lot more than just foster relationships with individuals who are already interested in your services. Both creating and joining community conversations on social media increases the likelihood of pulling in more like-minded potential clients.2 By keeping to a general theme and character for your business’s social media account, you can make it a place where your potential clients know they can find content that appeals to them specifically.
For example, using hashtags can help loop your post into a larger conversation that people all over the Web are having about that same topic.2 You could expose your post to people talking about the same concerns and with the same interests as your existing potential clients, but who would’ve otherwise never been introduced to you and your practice.
This is beneficial in a multitude of ways. Not only are you providing value to your potential clients, but you’re continuing the conversation online and adding value to (potentially) tens of thousands of people in a way you would not have been otherwise able to.
The Importance of Paid Posts in Marketing Your Private Practice on Social Media
“Cut Through the Noise”
The truth is that the natural reach of unpaid posts has been declining on certain social media platforms over the past few years, in part due to the online marketing field becoming overcrowded as every business worth their salt has jumped online to make their voice heard.2 That means that unpaid posts get seen by less users than they used to a decade ago.
That’s where paid posts (or paid boosts for your unpaid posts) really come in handy. By budgeting a little money for your social media marketing, you can decide exactly who to target with your content, allowing your hard work to go a little further and reap more rewards. Many social media platforms (like Facebook) offer paid features like these that you can apply to otherwise unpaid, organic posts instead of creating a paid banner ad without roots in any existing social media account.
Paid posts allow you to skip the line a bit and get your posts in front of more eyeballs now, instead of waiting to build up a larger audience over time with only unpaid posts in order to see similar traffic.
Sell More Directly
One benefit you may not have considered about paid posts is since social media platforms are open with their users about whether or not a post is paid or “Promoted,” you don’t have to pretend you’re not a business trying to make a living. In other words, in paid social media posts you can be a bit more explicit about suggesting your services or a paid product.
Since unpaid posts are meant for building and fostering relationships with your community, it’s a good idea to steer them away from overt selling. With paid posts, however, everybody is on the same page about your intentions so different kinds of content are more acceptable there. You can feel freer to ask people to consider booking an appointment.
Give Things Away & Grow Your Email List
Huh? Give things away? Yes, that’s right.
Paying for traffic via social media allows you to reach a HUGE audience. And by giving something away of value in exchange for an email address, you are able to grow your email list, build connections to potential clients, and strengthen your authority as an expert. Then, when that individual is ready to seek help, you are front of mind and they contact you.
Internet Marketing 101 as applied for Therapists.
For example, let’s say you are an MFT in Boulder. You can run an advertisement on Facebook targeting women who are:
- Live in Boulder
- Between the ages of 30-65
You create an eBook called 3 Unique Date Night Ideas to Respark Your Passion. Let Brighter Vision setup a landing page for you to give that away, sync it with your Newsletter service, and point paid ads there and press “Go”. A few weeks later, you’ve spent $500, have 100 new, newsletter subscribers, and two have already become clients paying you $140/hour.
Your Ideal Social Media Strategy
You may have already guessed it, but the best social media strategy for you this year is a combination of both unpaid and paid posts. At times it seems that these two types of content couldn’t be more different – and that’s exactly why they work so well together.
Unpaid posts build your reputation and the strength of your brand over the long term, creating a trustworthy and personable online presence.
Paid posts cut the line and put you right in front of your ideal potential clients, but without unpaid posts and other expected content on your account page, your paid posts could appear gimmicky and salesy. If you’re only using paid ads and posts, your brand is likely to look more like a spam-bot just trying to get clicks than a trustworthy clinician who’s trying to help.
However, put unpaid and paid posts together and you get a super-powerful strategy that can supercharge your flagging social media account.
When you boost unpaid posts with paid features, you don’t have to worry if your great content is going to get all the views it deserves. Those same personable posts can connect with a whole new number of potential clients when you boost their targeting with paid features.
When you backup your paid posts with a thriving account of unpaid posts, you never have to worry about engagement numbers dropping because people don’t like what they see when they click-through to look at your account page. You’ll always have a friendly, distinct page for them to explore.
To truly get the most out of your social media marketing, it’s vital to use a combination strategy that employs both a regular schedule of unpaid posts, as well as budgeting for paid features.
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1. Marcinuk, John. “The Role Of Organic Social Media In A Paid Media World.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 June 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2017/06/23/the-role-of-organic-social-media-in-a-paid-media-world/#722334b965ba.
2. Gurd, James. “Understanding the Role of Organic vs Paid Social Media.” Smart Insights, Smart Insights, 24 Jan. 2019, www.smartinsights.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-strategy/understanding-role-organic-paid-social-media/.