Engage and Connect
Leverage social power to transform your clinic.
By Andrew Vertson, PT, DPT, ATC
Actor Ashton Kutcher has over 8 million followers on Twitter. Regardless of the accuracy of his comments, the fact is, he has the ability to influence the thought processes of millions of people on any subject he tweets about. What does Ashton Kutcher have that most ordinary folks don’t have? Social Power.
Social power is the potential to influence or control the actions and ideas of others and is directly proportional to the degree to which influence can be exerted. Politicians and celebrities have greater social power than most. What can you learn from them? As you cross the threshold of your clients’ and referral sources’ minds, over time, the influence of your practice will grow exponentially.
Social power can be nurtured by sharing your expertise in a passionate way. In the context of business, passion can be defined as a state in which peak performance meets optimum engagement. In this Zen-like state, things flow and time flies by. Your patients are the ultimate barometers of your passion, and they should be able to see and feel your commitment to them in ways both tangible and intangible. Specifically, there are two ways to engage patients and turn them into your biggest advocates. The first is to instill a sense of constant progress. You must, through your treatment philosophy and the patient’s cooperation, demonstrate a sustained sense of progress that the patient eagerly recognizes. For example, help the patient to articulate their progress in concrete ways:
- At the time of my first visit, I could not lift my 3-year-old son due to pain in my shoulder.
- In two weeks, I was able to lift my son with very little discomfort.
The second way to engage the patient is by building patient-therapist-patient connections that transcend the self-imposed confines of the treatment process. When a patient both likes the therapist and builds relationships with other patients in your clinic, several things happen:
- Patient arrival rates increase
- Compliance with the treatment goes up
- Outcomes are likely to improve
- Word of mouth referrals increase
In The Happiness Hypothesis, author Jonathon Haidt reaches an interesting conclusion. Happiness does, to a certain extent, come from within. However, happiness primarily comes from between. If your practice becomes a hub for good feelings born of the new friendships formed during the treatment process, it becomes a “happy place” for patients, even though they may wince during manual therapy. In a world dominated by technology and number crunching, the humanization of your practice will be a welcomed change.
Your social power expands through the people who trust and vouch for you. To leverage this social power, ask your clients and referral sources for the following:
- Testimonials (video, audio, written)
- Referrals (friends, family, possibly even to the referring physician)
- Feedback (quality assurance surveys, suggestions for improvement)
Never underestimate the social power of your patients. Each patient has his or her own sphere of influence, and this can be significant. A patient is the best person to influence others because they can attest to how good you are. To expand your influence with them, use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to increase your visibility on the web. Use email, text messaging, voice broadcasting, and faxing to reach patients and physicians with updates and helpful information.
Though technologies are helpful in spreading your message, remember they are just tools. To increase your social power in a service-based profession like physical therapy, the most important factor is face-to-face interaction.
When you gain social influence with patients (and have hundreds of people on your newsletter list), watch as more physicians refer patients to you because you will have demonstrated your social power. Then, sit back and watch your revenues rise!
Andrew Vertson, PT, DPT, ATC, is a PPS member and founder and chief executive officer of Intecore Physical Therapy in Orange County, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.