Google has recently made the social media lives of therapists a bit more complicated.
While attempting to improve user-friendliness, the new Google My Business (GMB) Q&A feature has unfortunately created a few more hoops to jump through.
In a nutshell, Google has added a feature to the Google My Business listing called “Questions & Answers” or Q&A. When a person finds a Google My Business listing, the Q&A feature allows them to post a question directed to that specific business. Anyone with a Google account can post both a question and an answer to other posted questions.
Furthermore, every question has the opportunity to be voted up by other users, making it more visible on the listing.
Here are a few concerns that this new feature raises for therapists in particular.
Privacy Is the #1 Concern
As a therapist, you’re forced to rethink the way you handle yourself on social media. And the first thing that comes to mind is your client’s privacy.
To preface, each question posted via the Google My Business Q&A field can be traced to the account that posted it simply by clicking on the question. For instance, if a client asks a specific question referring to a session, that alone divulges they are a client. Of course, you can’t answer it within the Google My Business listing because you can’t publicly confirm that a client is a client.
So their question often remains unanswered. Which, in turn, doesn’t bode well for your online reputation.
In contrast, answering a potential client’s question isn’t as big of a privacy concern as those of existing ones because you could simply list a waiver. The waiver would explain that answering questions does not constitute a client/therapist relationship.
Notifications Can Be Complicated
As mentioned earlier, a client can post a question by first locating your Google My Business listing via a Google search. Once they find your GMB listing, they can go to the “Question & Answers” section and then type in their question.
From mobile devices, the Q&A section on Google My Business looks like this:
While from desktop devices, the Q&A section of Google My Business looks like this:
It’s an easy process for those posing their questions on your Google My Business Listing. However, for you to be notified of the new question on your GMB is slightly more complex and still a bit spotty.
Currently, notifications do not come through your Google My Business listing. Android users can install the Google Maps app on their phone in order to receive notifications of questions coming through on GMB. For all other users on mobile and desktop devices, the jury is still out as to how notifications will come through.
Consequently, for Android users who have the Google Maps app, it will be important to maintain an updated version of the app and to ensure that it’s synced to their GMB listing. Finally, since Google hasn’t yet fine-tuned the notifications process, you’ll need to stay logged into your business account at all times to be alerted by push notifications throughout the day.
We anticipate that Google will adjust the notifications process as more and more users put the Q&A feature to the test. In the meantime, we recommend you check your Google My Business listing regularly—as in, once a week.
Questions Can Be Changed Later
Not only the business owner but anyone with a Google account who sees the question can answer it.
Although there are Q&A policies to follow, it’s unknown how closely Google will monitor each question or answer. What is known is that Google has allowed the option to edit a question. This means for you to answer with a generic “yes” or “no” isn’t plausible on this feature.
Granted, a simple answer doesn’t often fit the scope of a therapist but it may, and that’s something to be cautious about.
For example, a client writes, “Does your building have blue shutters and a gray door?” You type, “Yes.” Later, the client or a spammer could easily go back and alter the question, making it appear you answered “yes” to a question that could be quite different than the original one.
Obviously, the non-permanency of the question is problematic. Therefore, we suggest to copy/paste the initial question. Then label it as “Original Question” and follow it will your actual answer.
General Advice to Therapists
First, as a basic security measure, since your site’s link is in the Google My Business listing, it’s important to post a social media policy on your website. This policy should clearly state that you won’t answer clients on social media when they attempt to contact you.
Furthermore, be sure to sit down with your new clients in your intake and actually review your social media policy with them. This will eliminate any confusion that might come up should you run into them in public.
Second, make it a habit not to respond to clients’ questions in the Google Q&A feature. The exception is a potential client. If they are not divulging too much personal information, you can send them to your website.
Third, while Google is working out the notification bugs, remember to check your listings regularly. You can even set a reminder for yourself to check for new questions on a weekly basis, for example. Although unanswered questions can look bad, approach all questions with caution and care.
Although Google has introduced a few more hoops through which you must gracefully navigate, it doesn’t have to roadblock your social media life altogether.