Social Media and Drug Addiction Treatment – Professionals & Addicts

Since the advent of social media (as we know it today) which began probably back in 1997 with the online web event grandmaster chess player Garry Kasparov vs. IBM’s Deep Blue Super Computer (yes we did have live chat and bulletin boards back in those days) however it has not been until the past 3-4 years has it become a daily “thing” and almost a regular part of our lives. I do think that we are all spending more time online instead of in front of the TV, which is probably a really good thing.
Social media is *free* and it sure seems like the masses of eyeballs are there and it probably should not be ignored. If you are a CEO, executive director or a therapist or person of influence you might want to consider sharing your insights and thoughts and connecting with others, social media does a couple of things for you:

1) It shows you are approachable (people do business with people they know like and trust)
2) It can show you as a thought leader
3) It shows some of the folks you are connected to

We are living in a networked economy. It is really easy to track down people and check them out from a due diligence standpoint, both the good stuff and bad stuff (black PR) can come up. So as people and centers refer clients to us they want to be able to connect to us, social media makes this extremely accessible. The downside is that it is time consuming and typically does not pay huge dividends. If there are some addiction treatment professionals getting admissions using social media they are pretty quiet about it and they should keep quiet too. It is like fishing, if you find a good spot you don’t want to get on the radio and tell all the other boats that “THIS IS THE HOT SPOT COME ON OVER!”

So let’s cover some “fishing holes”

There are two kinds of social media fishing holes for drug addiction treatment:
1) Where the professionals hang out
2) Where the addicts hang out

Five places where I know the professionals hang out are:
1) Twitter
2) Linked In
3) Youtube
4) Blogs
5) Facebook

I particularly like Twitter and have set up a few different Twitter Profiles with one of them Impairment dealing only with posts concerning drug addiction treatment and everything related. As far as Twitter is concerned the more influence you wield is often measured by the number of your “followers.” So if you want to find more followers start by following more people. Check out some of the people I’m following and follow them. If you see others that are interesting check out who they are following and follow them. Spend a couple of hours to do this to get started, you will find that people will follow you back especially if you are following like minded folks in the addiction treatment field. Just make sure that your profile links back to your treatment center site or other professional profile.

Linked In

This is undoubtedly the most powerful of professional networks. Start connecting with others, expand your network. You also want to go to the Linked In Groups and type in addiction treatment and join a couple of the popular Linked In groups. Make sure you allow the group to send you updates on a daily basis. You will see others asking questions. Answer some of the questions if you feel qualified to do so, add value….this is “social media.” Also go over to the Answers section of Linked In and find a couple of categories where you have experience and answer some questions, even if it was in a different field from what you are in now. Give back and add value.

YouTube

I love videos and provide online video syndication services as well as video production. But where this can get really interesting is when the users type into Google and type in Drug Addiction Treatment in LA and there is a little video search result on page one of Google Web results. I believe that if a user has a choice between a video and a text link they will pick a video. If you like the video this one or any other you might want to comment on it because it will give you a link to your profile and to your profile will be a link back to your site. Type drug addiction treatment into YouTube and see what comes up, if you like the video “subscribe” to it. YouTube will send you weekly updates of the videos you subscribe to.

Blogs

So what is so “social” in media about blogs? Blogs are great places to hang out. As a matter of fact I read a couple of hundred blogs weekly. I use Google Reader to do this. If you like a blog post on Drug Addiction Treatment or even a article about Drugs and Alcohol (See the NYT they have a section for this) make sure you leave a comment and in your profile make sure you have a link going back to your site! This will connect you to more people, professionals and sometimes addicts. Sometimes those blog links coming back to your site can help boost your SEO rankings provided the web page is important to Google and there is not a “No Follow” tag in the code.

Facebook

In this recently published article in Adweek, “ViTrue a social media firm has determined that, on average, a fan base (on Facebook) of 1 million translates into at least $3.6 million in equivalent media over a year.” While in addiction treatment we are not likely to see these kinds of numbers there is always value in reaching potential customers or referral partners. Building lists is one of the single most important disciplines that we all can do. We then need to segment the lists by interests and other attributes to best leverage the relationships. Social Media is a great way to help build your list(s).

Where the Drug Addicted Addicts?

I have found three sites and each has something unique to offer the addicts. Once thing I have noticed is that I do not see the addicts publically portraying themselves as addicts on Twitter or MySpace or Facebook and certainly not Linked In.

1. SoberRecovery.com
2. Heroin-Detox.com
3. Treatment-Centers.net

Sober Recovery.com has some of the most active forums in the drug addiction treatment space. The sheer volume in here is impressive and they have forum topics including Books and Movies to Mental Health to Quitting Smoking. You will find hundreds of thousands of posts here, it does not get more “social” than that.

Heroin-Detox.com is a much smaller community however they are extremely focused. In reading a few of their posts in this forum I find them to be better written than most. So here is a great example of heroin and social media and addicts helping each other in their journey.

Treatment-Centers.Net probably has the best social media component of all of the sites I visited. Not only do they have forums and blogs they have real time chat rooms enabled as well as a directory where addicts and families and participate in commenting on their experiences with the particular addiction treatment facilities. You can also upload and “Tag” your videos on this site which is a huge advantage. The value of adding your videos here is that the potential for them to “rank” is very good especially if you tag them correctly. There is a lot of potential here to become a Facebook of social media for addicts.

In the final analysis I still would not put a lot of resources towards social media just yet but I would not ignore it either. Figure out a way to be engaged and stay engaged and it should pay dividends for you in the long run. Probably the best advice I can provide is to repurpose any and all of your content into the social media and blogosphere space it can only help you distribute your message and brand. The next big thing coming down the pike is social media combined with mobile, as a matter of fact it is already here.

If you want more detailed information on Social Media I would download the recent 2010 Social Media Industry Report from the Social Media Examiner. While many of the respondents in the report said that they got more eyeballs using social media I can tell you that many of the search engines love the social media sites too. Search engines like to see incoming links to your site from YouTube videos and other social media sites like blogs, this can add SEO link juice to your site. Typically the more comments on a blog page and on a video tend to add more “link value.” The reverse is true as well. The more incoming links you have going to your YouTube Videos and blog posts tend to rank in the search results pages. Many people are solely focused on ranking their web site(s) but you might also want to look at optimizing your videos and blogs as well.

Jim Peake is an internet marketing consultant with special focus on the behavioral health and addiction treatment industry. He helps treatment centers improve their web presence and in lead generation online as well as offline. He uses advanced SEO and PPC direct response advertising for addiction treatment search engine marketing.

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