FacebookTo complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Expert Advice,” by Mark Volkmann, in the May 2014 issue.

Small-business owners who want to compete for the time, attention and business of their clients must be active on social media.

Facebook remains the most popular medium for interacting with clients and promoting business, although many massage therapists use LinkedIn and Google+ to connect with peers and engage in valuable discussions about the industry.

“I consider Facebook a valuable networking tool,” says massage therapist and bodyworker Lu Mueller-Kaul of Orlando, Florida.

She believes Facebook is a great place for referrals and recommends not limiting Facebook to only real friendships.

“For actually getting new clients, Facebook is the most important tool, if handled correctly,” Mueller-Kaul adds.

Handling social networking correctly is, indeed, key—and this is particularly true of Facebook, since so many clients and potential clients are there.

Three ways to optimize your Facebook presence:

1. Have a business page separate from your personal Facebook page

Having a business page allows you more administrative opportunities with your posts, such as using Facebook Insights to measure activity and engagement on posts; advertise your practice; and get details about who is interacting on your page, and when. It’s also a great way to ensure your personal pictures and opinions are not shared with clients.

“Massage therapists just getting into the social media arena need to understand there is a huge difference between a professional page and a personal page,” says massage therapist Jennifer Stelzer, of Portland, Oregon.

2. Analyze, learn and adapt.

There are many tools to measure performance on social media, ranging from free to expensive. One of the best justifications for having a Facebook business page separate from a personal page is the ability to use this Insights feature in order to understand the behavior of your followers.

With just a click, you’ll be able to see detailed information about demographics of people who like your page; specific information, such as the number of likes and shares, related to each post; how many followers are on Facebook throughout the day; and page reach over time.

The Insights tool is easy to understand and makes it clear which types of posts your audience is responding to and when to post for greatest impact.

3. Post content people can use and share—not just promotions

Mueller-Kaul notes that she is most effective on social media with only gentle reminders now and then about services and promotions.

“I think social media works better when I’m not posting offers or articles saying what I can do for people,” she says. “If I try to answer questions, promote others and am generally entertaining and friendly, they’ll remember me and will think of me when my skills are needed.”

Stelzer, says she uses social media to help promote her business at least 75 percent of the time, and agrees it’s important not to “force feed” a business to one’s audience.

“I post a lot of fun, healthy and photo[-related] content, and then once a week or so advertise my specials,” she says. “The idea is to get my name out there positively, which in turn brings in business.”

 It’s worth it

Massage therapist Rochelle Ganoe says social media helped Massage Professionals of Jackson Hole (Wyoming) gain exposure.

“It can be a daunting task, and you have to be willing to spend considerable time in your social media effort,” said Ganoe, co-owner with husband Hamish, noting they hired a social media coach to get started. “All the time on social media has been worth it from an exposure standpoint.”

With all the good that Facebook can do for interacting with clients, massage therapists can also find it helpful for getting creative ideas from fellow massage therapists.

“I love connecting with other therapists to learn from them and see what is trending in the massage community,” says Ganoe. “I also love to see the creative ways people share their posts.”

Mark Volkmann is the founder of Massage Warehouse and the current CEO of MassageBook (www.massagebook.com), where he builds amazingly simple to use but powerful software tools that help practice owners attract paying clients and manage their businesses.