Once upon a time doulas were able to find new clients with nothing more than a brochure – websites were a rarity rather than a requirement and there was no such thing as Facebook. Fast forward a decade or so to 2013 and having a website is almost routine, along with a host of other social media tools to support your doula practice.
As a Birth Business Doula, I often hear doulas express a sense of complete and total overwhelm with the choices available for building an online presence. Here my thoughts on the optimal online tools for doulas, with a basic overview of the benefits of each for your practice:
A website is now almost an essential for any doula practice. Even with a great word of mouth referral, clients expect to be able to read more online before contacting you. An effective website will help clients get the basic information they need (cost, services, philosophy, background and training) as well as a strong sense of whether or not you would be a good fit for their needs. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should ideally use colors, imagery, and language that effectively represent the heart of your doula practice.
While a blog is a wonderful complement to your website, only choose this tool only if you plan on using it and enjoy writing. If not, you are likely to end up with a blog in which the most recent article is a year old, leaving potential doula clients to wonder if you are still in practice. Your blog should ideally be fully integrated into your website and include at least one post per month if not weekly or more. Keep it simple by limiting post length, including guest posts, and creating a list of blog post themes as inspiration strikes.
In recent years we’ve seen facebook grow as the predominant social media form used by doulas. While some doulas use their personal profile pages to connect with both friends and clients, it is optimal to have your own business page. Unfortunately facebook’s effectiveness has decreased recently with lower visibility of postings to your audience. If you choose to use facebook for your doula practice you should be posting at least several times per week and aiming for plenty of comments, likes and shares.
Newer on the scene is Google+, growing quickly with an intriguing blend of functions that are very well matched to the social media needs of your birth practice such as online hangouts and private forums with client. As well, a business page or local places page will help you show up in local search results and feature online reviews from (hopefully happy) clients.
Newest on the scene, but perhaps the most fun of all, Pinterest allows you to create a virtual bulletin board sharing resources with clients. For example, you could create boards with themes such as Eco-Nursery Ideas, Quotes about Parenthood, Birth Photography, Recipes for New Parents, Handmade Toys – anything you think your ideal clients would find inspiring or useful. By including a link to your Pinterest page you are giving potential clients a unique way to get a better sense of your style and values.
Yelp, LinkedIn & Twitter
Yelp and LinkedIn profiles are relatively easy to set up and will help you show up online in local search results as well as gather online reviews. Thankfully these are both social media tools that do not require a high level of engagement for you. I generally don’t recommend Twitter as tool for doulas. While it can help you connect with other professionals in the community, it tends to be more effective for those with products and services with a broader regional or national scope.
Even with the growth of the online realm, it is still possible to have a successful practice the traditional with nothing more than a simple brochure – word of mouth remains one of our most powerful marketing tools. In most cases, however, if you want to see your birth practice thrive – you need to invest in having a strong online presence in the form of a quality website and effective use of social media. Still, you don’t have to “do it all.” The most successful marketing strategy will always be based on a blend of your strengths (tech savvy? networking? writing?), the nature of tech use in your community, and the time you invest in your chosen tools.
By Sarah Juliusson of the Website Doula
As a Website Doula and seasoned doula & childbirth educator, I offer website design and support to birth and postpartum doulas. https://thewebsitedoula.com. Visit me on facebook, Pinterest & Google+.