Social Media in Private Practice

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Get customers to know you, like you, and trust you before they step through the door.

By Stephanie A. Weyrauch, PT, DPT, MSCI

Creating your brand as a private practice is important in growing your customer base and clinic. Commonly, we do this by visiting physicians, advertising, hosting community events, and encouraging our customers to tell their friends about us. No matter the method, the goal is to engage current and previous customers and attract new customers to the clinic. Use of social media is one way to do this, and its use as a tool to reach potential customers has become a popular form of health care marketing. Since 2005, social media use in the United States has increased from 8 percent to greater than 72 percent. Currently, 70 percent of US health care organizations utilize social media to reach patients.1

In private practice, efficiency is always of crucial importance. Social media can be a vehicle for reaching customers without the cost of traditional forms of advertising. Additionally, utilizing social media as a marketing tool allows customers a unique opportunity to 1) get to know you as a clinic and therapist; 2) gain trust and rapport; and 3) show you are active in and care about your community.

Get to know you as a clinic and a therapist
As physical therapists, we are lucky. We get to spend more time with our patients than most health care professionals. This puts us in a unique position in regard to building relationships with our patients, especially in private practice.

Your clinic’s social media page allows your clinic to be visible. Whether it be through posting educational YouTube videos, live Facebook posts documenting your clinic’s culture, photos of clinic events, or posts highlighting accomplishments of practitioners and customers (with properly signed media release forms), social media allows the new customer to get to know your clinic prior to their first interaction. It may also help retain customers by allowing a consistent reminder of who they can go to when they have aches and pains.

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You are either a practice owner/partner or employee, so what is appropriate for your personal social media page? Your personal pages can be just as powerful as a marketing tool, especially in retaining clientele, as your clinic’s social media page. It is important to acknowledge the controversy in accepting customer friend requests on social media, as this can be a concern for professional boundaries. This is where you need to examine how your personal brand fits into your clinic brand. If you do decide to allow customers to be part of your online social network, you may want to restrict what you post online, especially if the post is politically polarizing, as this could interfere with growing your customer base. Additionally, you will need to check with your employer and state practice act to see if there is a social media policy you need to follow. Our practice is located in a rural area, so many of the customers I see do become my friends. In my town, “friending” former customers on Facebook or interacting with them on Twitter is an important aspect in maintaining visibility and complementing the relationship I built in the clinic. If your community is similar, it is important to build a consistent brand on your personal social media platforms. Being a physical therapist is a part of who you are. In other words, you “my friend” is also you “my physical therapist.”

Gain trust and rapport
It is easy to build trust and rapport in the clinic—after you do your initial evaluation and the customer has bought into your plan of care. This is more difficult if the customer is just discovering your practice and has not yet walked through your clinic’s doors. Social media marketing is a great way to form a trusting relationship even before the customer comes for his or her initial evaluation. Your platforms may be a potential customer’s “first stop shop” so this is where you need to establish your clinic’s brand. Consumers desire relevant content and real interaction when looking for information online. Providing this will elevate the customer’s online experience. Engaging people through various social media channels will establish the trust and rapport essential for customer loyalty.

Show you are active in and care about your community
Once your online presence and brand is established or after a customer’s course of therapy ends, it is important to maintain your relationship in person.2 This may include a variety of community service events such as hosting 5K/10K races, donating to a customer in need, or cleaning up litter lining community highways. Attending high school athletic events, joining service clubs, or coaching a sports team are also ways you can give back to your community, all while representing your private practice. People want to identify a brand or private practice name with community events and familiar faces.2 This will continue to enhance customer loyalty and will contribute to increased business. Our team utilizes social media to promote our clinic culture. We post photos of us having fun at dress-up days, events we have hosted, fundraisers, and community service events. We want our customers and community to know that we care about our town and the health of its residents.

Marketing has become more than just visiting physican offices and advertising on billboards. As more people get their information online, it is important that physical therapists engage their customer base, not just their referral sources. In private practice, we are perfectly situated to highlight our expertise in providing outstanding customer service and community engagement. Social media allows us to step on this pedestal proudly and confidently and stand out as the provider of choice for the movement system.

References

1. Ventola CL. Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. Pharm Therapeutics. 2014. Jul; 39(7): 491-520.

2. Bohnett C. Social media tips for marketing for PT profession, Part 3. WebPT. Sept. 13, 2012. www.webpt.com/blog/post/beyond-standard-social-media-tips-marketing-pt-profession-part-3. Accessed March 2017.

Stephanie Weyrauch, PT, DPT, MSCI, is a PPS member at RehabAuthority in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. She manages and contributes to several APTA-affiliated social media platforms including the Education Section and the Health Policy and Adminstration Section. She can be reached at stephanieweyrauch@rehabauthority.com.

Copyright © 2017, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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