A Framework for Social Media Success
A next-level discussion of social media strategies.
By Karen Litzy, PT, DPT*
What is your why? Like Simon Sinek illustrates in his book, Start with Why,1 you need a framework upon which an organization is built, and it all starts with your why:
Why do you make the decisions you do in your business?
The “Start with Why” approach also pertains to social media. As a physical therapy entrepreneur, there can be several reasons for you to be a part of social media. These reasons may include, but are not limited to:
- Disseminating content
- Creating collaborations/relationships
- Generating business
- Gaining access to research
- Asking questions/debate
- Gaining publicity
If you’re just getting started with developing a social media strategy, see the 101/How-To feature on page 45 this issue, “Take Your Social Media Presence from Zero to 100 in Five Steps” by Erica Vossen, for some basic steps to get started on social media.
LESSON ONE: KNOW YOUR WHY
Just because you are a physical therapy business owner does not necessarily mean you are using social media to gain more clients for your business. For example, when I joined social media, my main objective was to create collaborations and network with colleagues from across the country and around the world. I was very clear on my “why” and therefore, I was able to be laser-focused with my message and my time while on social media. As a result of knowing my intentions for being on social media, I was able to set out and accomplish my goals of collaboration and networking. It has, in turn, brought in clients to my business and allowed me to speak on stages around the world. It is important to note, even though I was not utilizing social media specifically for client acquisition, my presence on social media still generated income and clients for my business. In other words, think out of the box when it comes to your why.
Your “why” is so important because it will serve as the basis for your goals of being on social media. We collaborate with our clients to write goals to keep everyone involved accountable and to create a treatment plan that is in service of those goals that will (hopefully) ultimately lead to a successful outcome. Utilizing social media for your business is no different. Once you are clear on your why, write out your goals (no more than four) for why you or your business is on social media. Your goals will be vitally important when we get to leveraging social media for success.
LESSON TWO: KNOW YOUR DEMOGRAPHICS
Social media is a staple in everyday life for most people around the world. Algorithms will change, demographics may shift, and new social media sites will continue to emerge. But the fact remains that social media sites are powerful tools to reach our ideal audience. According to Statista, the worldwide digital population, which is the total number of people who have access to digital information via the internet, is 4.57 billion. Of those 4.57 billion people, 3.81 billion are social media users and 3.76 billion access social media on a mobile device (Figure 1).2 That means 50% of the world’s global population is using social media.
Focusing on the United States, according to the Pew Research Center, in 2005, just 5% of Americans used at least one social media platform. Fast forward to 2019, and that number jumps dramatically to 72% (Figure 2).3 Of course, their reasons for using social media and the platforms they use will vary widely. Still, as health care providers and business owners, we need to meet people where they are. And in 2020, that means social media.
You can break the above demographics down even further to see which platforms people are “hanging out” on social media. Why is this important you may ask? Knowing the demographics of individual social media platforms will help you better target your message to the people who need to hear it. For example, if you have a clinic that specializes in treating a geriatric population, then focusing on TikTok might not be the best use of your precious time and resources. Instead, you might want to focus your efforts on Facebook.
Figure 3 breaks down the number of users on various social media platforms as of January 2020.4 Facebook leads the pack by a considerable amount (at almost 2.5 billion/month) with 190 million of those users located in the United States.5
A number to note is the rise of the messaging apps of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which have become hugely popular in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, take note that YouTube, which is often not thought of as social media, is hosting 2 billion users per month. YouTube is a platform that is ripe for evidenced-based, accurate physical therapy content. Now that you know why you’re on social media and that the various platforms are immensely popular. You need to look at a breakdown by age, gender, and income to determine which ones are best for you and your target market.5,6
The following social media analytics were gathered in a report by The Pew Research Center using a sample of 1502 adults age 18 years or older living in the United States. The data was collected through telephone interviews from January 8 through February 7, 2019.
Figure 1. Global Digital Population as of April 2020 (in billions)2
Figure 2. Percent of U.S. Adults Who Use at Least One Social Media Site3
Figure 3. Reprinted with permission from We Are Social and Hootsuite. https://datareportal.com
You may be thinking, “who cares about all of these numbers and statistics surrounding social media? Can’t I just post content on all of the platforms all the time?” You can, but you might be missing the mark and wasting precious time. It is challenging to be all things to all people, and this is undoubtedly true for sharing content on social media. These numbers and statistics surrounding social media are vitally important when it comes to matching your ideal audience to your unique message.
LESSON THREE: KNOW YOUR CLIENT/AUDIENCE
Now that you have a better idea of where people are spending their time on social media, you need to be very clear about who your ideal client or audience is so you can effectively target them on social media. If you have not done this exercise for your business, it is both compelling and informative. If you have already done this exercise for your business, do it again and pick a different kind of client (it is OK to have a few ideal clients). So, grab a pen and paper or your computer because it is time to dig deep into your ideal audience. I recommend writing this narrative out (and yes, it should be a narrative that is several pages long) and sharing with others. Why? When you write it down, it becomes real. It is a commitment to yourself and your business that you are taking your ideal audience seriously.
Answer the following questions and then create a full story around those questions to create your ideal client or audience. This process may be one of the most important things you can do for your business, and it will be well worth the time it takes.
- Who is this person? (Give them a name.)
- What do they do for a living?
- What is their income?
- What are their hobbies?
- What do they like to read, watch, listen to, etc.? (Be specific.)
- Where do they shop? (Again, be specific.)
- What is their private life like? (Are they married, single, living alone, with a roommate, etc.?)
- Why are they coming to see you?
- What are their goals?
- What are they afraid will happen if they don’t see you? (What is their pain point?)
- What will happen if they have a good experience with you?
- How will they feel as a result of working with you?
- What are their dreams for themselves?
Now that you have your narrative around your ideal client or audience go back to the second section and find the platform that best matches your demographics. It is OK to use up to three platforms if you are more experienced with social media, and you have the time and space (or an assistant to help). If you are less experienced, stick with one platform so as not to get overwhelmed and give up before you gain momentum.
LESSON FOUR: KNOW YOUR LEVERAGE
Now that you know your “why,” have written your goals, understand social media demographics, and have a clearer picture of your client/audience, it is time to leverage social media to meet your goals. If you are not on any form of social media (which, given the statistics, is very unlikely), then sign yourself up! If you went through all of the lessons in this article, you know precisely what platforms to use to reach your goals.
There are several ways to leverage social media, and you can use the list here directly or to spark your creativity. If your goal is to attract more potential clients to your practice, consider the following:
- Set up your professional page on Facebook. Then create a professional Instagram page and connect the two. Because Facebook owns Instagram, they are easy to connect.
- Commit yourself to post once a day on your professional Facebook page or Instagram page. If you have your Instagram page connected to your professional Facebook page every time you post on Instagram, it can automatically post to your professional Facebook page. This is a great time-saving hack and is built-in leverage!
- What should you post? Create a content calendar for the next three months (October through December) and tackle one topic per week. For example, a subject could be knee osteoarthritis. You can film seven quick videos (keep them 5 minutes or less) talking about the etiology, symptoms, myth-busting, and of course, exercises that might help. At the end of each video, be sure to add your call to action (CTA). An example of a CTA is “If you have any further questions about knee OA, please leave a comment below the video or give us a call at…”
- Keep your posts accessible, jargon free, and simple while addressing a possible pain point for your audience.
- Don’t be afraid to be a bit controversial by challenging common beliefs!
- Try videos instead of written posts. People view videos five times longer than written posts. Native videos on Facebook (this means you made a video and posted it directly to Facebook vs. sharing a link from YouTube or Vimeo) have a 1055.41% higher average share rate and 300% better engagement from viewers.7
If your goal is to make professional connections, network, or gain publicity, consider the following:
- There is a robust national and international physical therapy community on Twitter. This community includes clinicians, students, researchers, academics, and more. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, you can post several times per day without overloading your audience.
- If there are people you want to “meet” on Twitter like, retweet, and reply to their posts. This is a quick and easy way to stand out from the crowd. As an example, years ago, I wanted to meet Dr. Karim Khan, the editor of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I made sure to follow his account, like, retweet, and even direct message him…several times. I was finally able to connect with him and, through his support, I have been able to widen my professional circle around the world.
- Be active on LinkedIn. This often-forgotten social media platform is the best when it comes to professional connections. People are on LinkedIn as their professional selves and are much more likely to engage with other professionals to create win-win collaborations.
- To connect with a colleague on this platform send a direct message with the following structure:
- Create a personal connection by mentioning someone you both have in common or mention one of their posts that really resonated with you.
- Then introduce yourself with one to two credibility markers.
- Finish by asking them what they need help with right now, and in a couple sentences, you have a potential connection!
- If you are looking to gain publicity for your business, and you want to reach out to a local or national journalist, Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to start. Almost all journalists are on at least one of these platforms. Often, they will have their email and what kind of stories they are looking for on their social media bios.
- If you are looking to gain publicity for an event you are hosting, or you have written an article and want to publish it in a national or local publication, you can search for that publication in LinkedIn.
- Once you find the publication, click on the tab to see the people that work there and look for the appropriate journalist or editor. Now you are leveraging social media to make connections that can get your message out to thousands, if not millions of people.
Social media does not have to be daunting or overwhelming. By following the lessons in this article, you now have a framework that is repeatable, reliable, and will give you the power to leverage social media for yourself or your business.
1Sinek S. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. London: Portfolio/Penguin; 2009.
2Kemp S. Global Digital Population, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/. Accessed June 15, 2020.
3Demographics of Social Media Users and Adoption in the United States. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/social-media/. Accessed June15, 2020.
4We Are Social. Digital 2020: 3.8 Billion People Use Social Media. https://wearesocial.com/blog/2020/01/digital-2020-3-8-billion-people-use-social-media#:~:text=Worldwide%2C%20there%20are%203.80%20billion,percent)%20over%20the%20past%20year. Accessed June 15, 2020.
5Pew Research. Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/10/share-of-u-s-adults-using-social-media-including-facebook-is-mostly-unchanged-since-2018/. Accessed June 19, 2020.
6Statista. U.S. TikTok users by age 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1095186/tiktok-us-users-age/. Accessed June 15, 2020.
799firms. 40 Facebook Video Stats to Know in 2020. https://99firms.com/blog/facebook-video-statistics/#gref. Accessed June 17, 2020.