Getting Started with Social Media for Public Health Consultants

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Today’s guest post is written by Kristy Schirmer BHlthSc, MPH, Director and Principal Consultant at Zockmelon Health Promotion and Social Media Consulting.

When you run your own business not only do you need to have the skills to do your core work, you are suddenly expected to be the Chief of Everything - Finance, Business Development, and of course Marketing.

Under the umbrella of marketing, sits social media and all the work that comes with managing your channels. With all the content, and all the platforms it can sometimes feel like your laundry pile - it’s never done.

You may also be encountering the full suite of unsolicited advice, for example: “Young people aren’t using Facebook anymore”, “LinkedIn is just for job seekers”, or “You need to post 5 times a day on Twitter”

I get it. It’s very overwhelming and often contradictory.

Here are my top tips for getting started on social media with your public health consulting business.

1. Get crystal clear on your reasons for using social media

Get really clear on what you want to use social media for. What are your reasons for wanting to engage with your chosen audience? What are your long-term goals for using social media? Are you looking to directly generate leads? Or are you thinking more long term and growing your professional credibility over time? Or perhaps you’re looking for partners, referrers or joint ventures rather than clients directly?

2. Think carefully about your audience

Think about your audience and where they hang out. Your public health consulting business is likely contracting to governments, non-profits or educational institutions. You then operate as a business-to-business (B2B) service. Sure, many of your clients might personally hang out on Facebook or Instagram, but professionally they are on LinkedIn, and many researchers use Twitter.

3. The golden rule of social media

The golden rule of social media is be social!

You can’t use your platforms to constantly push out information about yourself and your business. You need to have two-way conversations, and you need to provide content that is valuable to your audience. How will your followers be engaged and what’s in it for them (what is the hook?). What value will you provide and what problems will you solve with your content? What kind of content will best resonate and be shareable (e.g. infographics, videos, long articles?).

4. Grow your OWN brand

Think about what you want to be known for, both your key services and what is the experience of working with you. What can your clients expect when they contract you? For example, are you meticulous with excellent attention to detail and focused on data and research? Perhaps your social media posts will also be detailed and thorough. Are you an excellent writer who can convey key messages succinctly? Perhaps your tweets will be helpful summaries of key articles. Are you a big personality who commands a room through fun and lively training experiences? Perhaps you’ll share fun and creative videos.

We are all unique, and your brand positioning should reflect the true experience of working with you. Your tone and voice on social media should sound like your voice in real life so the right clients will want to work with you and aren’t surprised when they meet you in real life that you’re exactly like it seems on social media.

5. Play to your strengths

If you have a sharp wit and succinct writing skills then consider Twitter as a platform. If you aren’t shy and can talk with ease, then perhaps use Facebook or Twitter to share live video content. If your writing sparks conversations that are relevant to the industry, perhaps you can blog on LinkedIn or your own website. If you are a great storyteller but don’t like cameras, then maybe you could host your own podcast.

6. Consider your capacity 

For the average solopreneur consultant, it’s simply not reasonable to manage a LinkedIn company page, personal LinkedIn page, Twitter account, Facebook business page, Instagram account, website and e-newsletter. You can’t do all the things. At the very least I suggest that you do need a personal LinkedIn profile. If you do nothing else, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Then just take it one account at a time, choosing wisely and playing to your strengths and where your audience is likely to be found.

7. Grab the handles

Regardless of whether you are going to use a particular platform, I strongly suggest that you acquire the handles meaning you register an account on that platform and essentially squat there until (or if) you decide to use it. Consistency with handles always looks better on social media.

For example:

DO

Twitter: @peterclarkpublichealth

Facebook: /peterclarkpublichealth

Website: peterclarkpublichealth(dot)com

AVOID

Twitter: @petercpubhlth

Facebook: /petercph1

Website: peterclarkpublichealth(dot)com

8. Run your own race

Every public health consultant can run their own race when it comes to social media. Take for example the following two consultants:

Consultant 1 - Peter

Peter’s business focuses on training health educators on behaviour change techniques, and he works with organisations who employ nurses and health educators. Peter mainly provides training but also consults on project planning and evaluation of health interventions.

He loves to create graphics and quotes, but also shares literature on interventions. 

He focuses on sharing original content on Facebook and Instagram. A lot of his Facebook posts are shared by organisations he’s worked with, and he’s noticed that sometimes a prospective client will follow and share some of his work before contacting him for a quote.

He shares his professional perspective on new research on his personal LinkedIn page, and he positions himself as a thought leader in this way. He posts at least fortnightly. At this stage he doesn’t use Twitter but has secured his preferred handle, and his Twitter profile redirects anyone looking for him there back to the Facebook page for his business.

Consultant 2 - Helena

Helena is well known for her community consultation and policy writing skills. She wants to grow more of her business in community consultation rather than policy writing in the future, but she is keen to partner with other policy writers with the view of forming partnerships and joint ventures in the future. She is very lively and outgoing, and comfortable speaking to camera. She uses Twitter to engage with networks of community engagement consultants, and regularly goes ‘live’ on Twitter to speak her mind. She’ll then write up some of her thoughts as blog posts, which form the cornerstone content of her quarterly e-newsletters. She uses LinkedIn to share write ups of her blog posts, as well as publishing these on her own website.

Comment below! I’d love to hear from readers:

  • What social media platforms have you chosen and why?

  • Are these platforms working for you or are they hard work?

About Kristy:

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Kristy Schirmer BHlthSc, MPH is a public health and social media consultant who runs Zockmelon Health Promotion and Social Media Consulting. Kristy helps clients in public health and health promotion with content ideas, managing social media risks and opportunities, and giving them the confidence to use social media effectively through custom workshops and the Health Promotion Social Media School. She is based in Adelaide, Australia.

You can keep in touch with Kristy on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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