How to Integrate Social Media into Your Marketing Plan
Develop a strategy as to when, why, and how to use your content best.
By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS
Relatively speaking, most of us are newbies when it comes to how to integrate social media into a marketing plan. Social media is a new means to communicate and engage, and it’s a medium that continues to change and evolve. Foolproof evidence on the effectiveness, benchmarks, and return on investment (ROI) of marketing efforts on social media for a physical therapy practice are yet to exist. But effective planning, resources, and expert opinions allow us to strategically consider the whens, whys, and hows of utilizing social media in our marketing, rather than relying on the “Throw everything at the wall and see if it sticks” approach.
Users of the first social media platform in 1997, known as Six Degrees, uploaded profiles and made friends. Social media began to explode after the 1999 invention of blogging, with sites like MySpace and LinkedIn, and photo-sharing sites such as Photobucket and Flickr. YouTube started in 2005, creating an entirely new way for people to communicate, share, and engage, and by 2006 Facebook and Twitter were available all over the world. Since then other sites such as Tumblr, Spotify, Foursquare, Pinterest, and Snapchat have evolved, often filling specific social niches.1
Incorporating constantly changing social media into a practice’s marketing plan can be intimidating and overwhelming. We have a few pointers that can help make it seem more manageable. Let’s get started!
- Begin by choosing a limited number of social media platforms that fit your demographic targets. For example, although Facebook continues to be the number one social media site with the most diverse demographics, growth in popularity is in the age range of 55 and over while teenagers tend toward Snapchat and Instagram.2 Therefore, if your goal is to engage with high school athletes on sports performance and injury prevention, Snapchat and Instagram may be more effective platforms.
- Be proactive and develop a calendar for posting content, based initially on the recommendations or benchmarks for the platforms selected. These can range from 1 per day for Facebook and LinkedIn to 15 per day for Twitter.3
- Create a table or scorecard that analyzes the effectiveness of your social media campaign. The traditional measures of ROI that assess our own investments are difficult to use to measure the success of social media campaigns. Measures related to customer response and their motivation to use social media become the appropriate measures for effectiveness. These can be categorized into brand awareness (e.g., number of friends on Facebook), engagement (e.g., number of comments, or time spent on a blog) and word of mouth (e.g., number of retweets on Twitter).4
Providing valuable, relevant, and engaging content can be time consuming and challenging. But integrating your own content with that which is available can result in a rich presence on social media.
- The Fit Factor (http://privatepracticesection.org/fit-factor/) is an online questionnaire developed as a tool for private practices to use in their marketing efforts. Reference can be made to the entire questionnaire or to specific questions to encourage engagement. People can compare themselves to others as well as learning when and why to see a physical therapist.
- Every month the Private Practice Section (PPS) Public Relations and Marketing committee provides a toolkit for members complete with a professionally written press release, a newsletter that can be used for blogs or e-newsletters, hashtags for Twitter and Facebook posts.
- Choose content from the American Physical Therapy Association’s Move Forward website (www.moveforwardpt.com). This site includes patient stories, videos, images, tips, and tools—an endless amount of content that can be repurposed for your social media sites. Of particular interest is the #ChoosePT campaign toolkit on opioid awareness (www.moveforwardpt.com/ChoosePT/Toolkit#Website).
A monthly blog, patient success stories, staff bios, community involvement, commentary on recent research findings and articles in the media . . . Plan your social media content calendar based on your own practice’s brand and goals.
When it comes to the format for social media posts, images and video are key. Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images,5 and Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.6 The use of video increases click-through, engagement, time spent on a platform, and sharing of content.7 In the year 2017 we are seeing the evolution of video to livestream options on many social media platforms.8
Finally, encourage your team to share and be active on social media platforms by helping them understand the impact that they can have on the practice. Before long, you will be a social media expert! Livestream patient interviews and testimonials (after getting a signed release from them), write a monthly blog from the Private Practice Section (PPS) toolkit complemented with Facebook posts and tweets, integrate content from the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Move Forward campaign, ask engaging questions related to the Fit Factor, post images and videos of community involvement: All of this rich content will be shared throughout your community, increasing awareness, discussion, and utilization of your practice and our profession.
4. Hoffman DL, Fodor M. Can you measure the ROI of your social media marketing? MIT Sloan Management Review. 2010; 52(1).
Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, is the chair of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chief executive officer of Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.