Social Media and Your Practice: Secrets for Success
The pros and cons of social media
By Nicole Phearsdorf, BS
Social media has become synonymous with everyday life. I dare say “creeping” social media has become as consistent as most people’s morning cup of joe.
As such, social media has become relevant to the physical therapy world, and practices are now faced with how to adapt accordingly. We will examine how social media has changed the hiring process and how it can be used as an effective marketing tool below. How does social media and the ever-changing landscape of information at your fingertips impact one’s professional attractiveness to an HR department?
HR AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Human resources (HR) departments should be extremely familiar with not discriminating based upon a person’s national origin, race, color, religion, disability, sex, familial status, or any other protected status per federal and state laws. Social monitoring should be no exception to these laws and rules. What an employee does in their personal time should be just that, personal. Now with social media, your personal life is made public simply by clicking the “share” button. As social media grows and develops, physical therapy practices must also grow and develop to address and accommodate for the changing times. Ask yourself if a potential employee posts risqué media from a bachelorette or bachelor party weekend, does this make them any less qualified to be a competent employee on Monday morning? As social media grows how can your HR social media policies be effective, fair, and relevant?
While a hiring decision may not be based upon a social media post, a potential or current employer cannot “unsee” something that has been posted to the internet and this may inadvertently impact a candidate’s future or current employment with said company. This can show us how to be aware of our unconscious bias.
Companies have worked through various ways to curtail this potential risk including eliminating social screening from the hiring process or outsourcing the screening to a company such as Social Intelligence. Social screening companies will complete background checks and will deliver findings based upon what information the company is allowed to see. This is very similar to the background check process in which employee consent must be obtained prior to screening.
EFFECTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA USE FOR MARKETING YOUR PRACTICE
In addition to utilizing social media within the hiring process, social media can be a free and effective tool in which to promote your practice. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few of the social media platforms that may help to make the local community aware of your presence and your worth. How often do you research a physician, restaurant, or a destination prior to deciding where to go? I always feel encouraged after reading positive reviews, and word of mouth (or word of social media) can be beneficial to growing your practice. A great way to decide which social media platform would work best for your clinic is to poll current patients and see what platforms they engage with the most. A dedicated associate can be responsible for your social media. This associate can be tasked with posting, researching, and obtaining necessary releases from personal testimonies.
While quality is always preferred over quantity when it comes to posting on socials, quantity is definitely relevant in order to appear on followers’ newsfeeds per the various social media algorithms. There are numerous ways to ensure your practice’s social media pages stand out amongst competitors. A call to action such as a question will typically draw followers to interact with your practice’s page. Everyone loves feeling like a local celebrity! Social media is a great opportunity to showcase a patient’s success story at your clinic. If a patient does agree to be photographed and provide a personal testimony, always ensure written consent is on file prior to posting to your page. As a medical professional, informative content such as which services are offered, which insurances are accepted, and the referral process are always great tidbits to include in posts.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND YOUR PATIENTS
Smart phones and social media may be a foreign concept to some patients. A great way to start a conversation regarding social media is to have all handles on business cards and email signatures. This allows all those who are interacting with your practice to know that your clinic is active on social media and that you are accessible in a variety of formats. Additionally, a poster in a common area such as a waiting room or hallway detailing the platforms your practice is on may also be helpful to patients.
HIPAA must always be at the forefront of your mind while utilizing social media. General information such as phone numbers, directions, or the address of the clinic can be freely posted. Patient information cannot be relayed via a social media platform as this is protected health information and may only be relayed via secure methods. As previously mentioned, patient spotlights are permissible if and only if the patient signs a release form allowing the clinic to share his/her information. Additionally, one must be cognizant of the background of photos — there may be no protected health information in the background of photos. You may want to dedicate a certain area of the clinic or create an area for photos.
Social media is a fantastic tool for immediate communication, socialization, the promotion of your practice and the ability to harness future relationships with the local community. But like any forum there are pros and there are cons. Employers must expressly state social media policies that adhere to state and federal laws and employees should be well informed of these policies.
Nicole Phearsdorf, BS, is a corporate coordinator at MRS Physical Therapy in Erie, PA. She can be reached at email@example.com.