by Virginia ColinVirginia Colin

Social Media sites are the brave new world of online communicating. They include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and more.

For mediators, social media constitute a big set of opportunities to educate the public, talk with colleagues, and, if you want, share messages with friends. It’s free advertising. It’s a place where you can demonstrate your expertise, make your business easy to find, and give viewers a reason to visit your website and learn more about the services you offer.

In this article, I will focus on three social media platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. 

LinkedIn is the most formal and professional of the three. This is where people have serious conversations with colleagues. You can create a profile to describe yourself and your work and then join a few groups, such as APFM’s discussion group or the High Conflict Institute’s group. You can read and add comments to discussions posted there. You can also start new discussions.

Facebook is more casual. It was originally just a place for friends to share news and trivia from their lives with people they knew who were not at that moment in the same geographic location. Then Facebook let people start creating Facebook pages to represent their businesses. Now millions of people use Facebook for getting news about the businesses that interest them in addition to using it to stay in touch with friends. Millions.

Twitter is the least formal of these three social media platforms. Some people say that sending and viewing tweets is the online equivalent of going to a cocktail party. You might stumble upon some gems, but there is an awful lot of chatter. Nevertheless, some people have used Twitter effectively to make their expertise known, announce events, and/or make it easy for strangers to get to know, like, and trust them.

The statistics in this article are from 2014.* The numbers are much larger now.

LinkedIn

 LinkedIn logoWith LinkedIn you can:

  1. Publish your credentials, experience, and services online, free.
  2. Increase your visibility.
  3. Build a network of people you know.
  4. Learn from people you do not yet know (in discussions in LinkedIn groups).
  5. Look for job opportunities.
  6. See who viewed your LinkedIn profile and how many times you came up in a search.
  7. Enhance your online search engine results (which increases free advertising of your services).
  8. Ask your colleagues for advice in groups that you have joined, such as APFM’s group.

Facebook

Facebook logo Why might you decide to have a Facebook business page?

  1. About 2/3 of the people who use the internet at all use Facebook. More than half of them check it nearly every day. About 20% of them check it more than 4 times per day. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous in the world (behind China and India). It has more than one billion users (according to Wikipedia). 
  2. Most people from age 18 to age 55 use Facebook. 
  3. If your business is visible on Facebook, it is visible where many people who need family mediation services can easily discover it.
  4. Facebook activity IS free advertising.
  5. Facebook activity contributes to the visibility of your website if you use Facebook to share articles from your website. In other words, having an active Facebook page for your business increases the likelihood that your business will appear in organic search results when someone does an internet search for a family mediator.
  6. You can use some of your posts on Facebook to encourage people to visit your website, especially if you write a blog.
  7. Low cost, high visibility, paid advertising is also available on Facebook.
  8. It is not necessary ever to use Facebook for personal communications. You can use it solely for your professional family mediation business.

If you create a Facebook profile for yourself, you can post comments on APFM’S page, and on other Facebook pages. Do remember that anything that gets posted on Facebook may eventually be seen by almost anyone in the world. The privacy controls are not very good. Keep your comments professional. You can also post links on APFM’s Facebook page to articles that you have published on the internet.

The primary purpose of the APFM page is to educate the public about family mediation and family mediators. If you use Facebook, please Like the page, Share it, and once in a while leave a comment on APFM’s page. In the long run, this helps all of us in APFM.

If you do not use Facebook but do want a link to an article you wrote posted on APFM’s Facebook page, please send the link to me at [email protected]

I love having a Facebook business page  that lets me make links to good articles and other good resources available to anyone who is interested. I doubt that Facebook directly brings clients to me, but it reminds my friends and followers that I am available if someone they know needs family mediation services. It also makes my blog and my private practice more visible when someone does an Internet search for “family mediation” in my geographic area. 

Another option is to hire a social media professional to create and manage your Facebook page for you. Services from some very competent people are available at reasonable prices. Do be careful, however. Anyone who is managing your social media account should be able to speak in your voice when representing you. Some people charge unreasonable prices for social media support services.

Twitter

Twitter logoTwitter gives you quick information about what is happening right now. You have a maximum of 140 characters to put into a message. Each message is called a tweet.  You can “follow” individuals, groups, or organizations that interest you. When you follow someone, that means that tweets they post will appear in the stream of messages you see when you log in to your Twitter account.

You can include a picture or share an Internet link in a tweet. You can abbreviate links so that you include maximum information with a minimum number of characters. Short messages make it easy for your followers to retweet them, which carries your message to people you do not know but might be able to help.

APFM uses Twitter to comment quickly on things that have to do with family mediation and also follows APFM members to see what they are doing or talking about. 

On Twitter APFM is TheAPFM. The more followers TheAPFM has, the better it is for all APFM members. To help APFM notice a tweet you send, include @TheAPFM in it. 

If you want a thorough, step-by-step explanation about using Twitter, you can find it here.

Social Media Summary

Almost all mediators should create a basic LinkedIn profile. That’s just part of looking professional in today’s world and making it easy for someone to see your credentials.

Similarly, I recommend creating a Facebook business page if you want more work than you already get. A huge audience of prospective clients is right there. Why would you not converse with them? Do you remember good old-fashioned word-of-mouth “advertising”? Posting comments on social media is the modern way people spread news about products and services they use or like. It’s a place where people mention professionals they trust.

Whether using Twitter is a good idea for you is less clear. Twitter offers plenty of opportunities to converse with colleagues and prospective clients, but your comments can easily get lost in the rapidly moving stream of comments from others.

A word to the wise: When posting on any social media platform, including a photo or a very short video greatly increases the visibility of what you say.

If any of these social media platforms appeal to you, please connect with APFM there. You can find APFM on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. There will be a link to this article posted on all three platforms. APFM would love to have you post comments and questions in response to those links. Interaction on social media boosts visibility for both parties — both YOU and APFM.

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Formerly a research psychologist, Virginia L. Colin, Ph.D. has been providing family mediation services since 1999. She has written two books: Human Attachment (1996) and, with Rebecca Martin, The Guide to Low-Cost Divorce in Virginia (2014).  She is the Director of Colin Family Mediation Group.

*An earlier version of this article was published in the Spring 2014 issue of The Professional Family Mediator.

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