The Community: Your Largest Referral Source

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By Morgan Meyer and Jessica Hunt, MA

Are you struggling to bring in new patients to your clinic? Community engagement is key!

Educating employees and patients to be brand ambassadors is a great way to draw patients to your clinic. Creating local connections and producing social media content that is relevant to your unique community will help with acquiring referrals and new patients. This article outlines are some easy steps to tap into your community.


Everyone can be a marketer! Word of mouth is the best way to get your name out on the street. Invite your customers and employees to be brand ambassadors. Generally, we forget to make the ask—or don’t have the courage—and consequently lose out on valuable word-of-mouth marketing. Ask satisfied patients to share their experience at your clinic with friends and family, online by posting reviews on your website, or on social media.

A refer-a-friend program also leverages your community and word-of-mouth advertising to drive new referrals. Encourage current patients to refer friends and family for therapy. Even if they don’t need care immediately, sharing the clinic experience will help them remember your clinic in the future. With over 50% of business coming from self-referring patients, or patients choosing your clinic apart from a physician referral, the best tool we have is happy patients. Programs like refer-a-friend rely on the patient experience, so go back to the basics, and ensure that your patient remembers why they chose your clinic.


We live, work, and play in the communities that we serve. Actively seek out opportunities to connect with other local businesses, restaurants, and nonprofits to gain community recognition. Whether it’s offering them a service or collaborating on an event together, establishing relationships with other community businesses will help you stand out. If you struggle to find the time for marketing activities, try utilizing a community liaison or a front office who can talk about your business and help drive referrals. Putting in the time with local non-profits, community groups, chambers, and more will set you apart.


Get personal with your social media platforms and website. Content that gets the most engagement is relatable and personable. Highlight your providers doing something outside of work that they like to do for fun, show off the team’s pets, or do a meet-and-greet video where your patients can feel like they can get to know their provider better. Share patient success and graduation stories (with their permission) or how to prepare for an appointment.

All of these ideas encourage patient engagement. That engagement will ultimately build a strong bond between patients and their providers, and that bond will foster a great reputation within the community.


Social media itself is an important (and free!) marketing tool that allows your company to educate the population while personalizing your services and extending your brand. From patients and the communities they represent, to the staff themselves, every location of your practice is different. Establishing a social presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok is a good way to not only showcase your specialists but to engage directly with your patient-base and other businesses in the community.

Ensure your company has reach within the community by creating social media accounts corresponding with each location and designating clinic staff, or social ambassadors, to take ownership of the content on these accounts. The content for each clinic should be a representation of the skillset, personalities, and creativity of that staff. For example, a location that promotes its performance enhancement services may be more predisposed to posting videos of staff illustrating strengthening exercises, whereas a location treating more labor and industries (L&I) injuries may post infographics about common workplace injuries they treat and how physical therapy can help. You may also have a clinic that maintains a wide scope of treatment who likes to post pictures of providers with descriptions of any advanced certifications its clinicians possess. Ultimately, how the clinic chooses to personalize its social media will vary, but the underlying goal is to create a space for these providers to continue to be memorable and a voice in the industry.

These individual clinic accounts can also reach and engage patients and their communities in a way that a main brand account cannot; patients and businesses will want to engage with their neighborhood clinic and the providers they know. Holding competitions for guessing how many gumballs are in a jar or voting for a favorite Thanksgiving Day side are both interactive and memorable and can drive traffic back to your website. Videos and other informative content can educate and “influence” followers in their daily health habits. Boosting local businesses—restaurants, shops, nonprofits, etc.—is a fantastic idea. It’s as simple as tagging the coffee shop located in the same office park in a picture after a midday stop or re-sharing a fundraiser to your story. The successes of neighboring businesses are directly correlated to the economic health of the entire community. Physical therapy is uniquely situated to not only use social tools as a way to improve the physical and mental health of their patients, but to uplift other industries where they can.

Utilizing a healthy combination of local connections, community content, and social media will leverage your locale as a referral source for your clinic. Review your current practice and determine if adjusting each of these areas is warranted and implement a strategy for change. 

Morgan Meyer & Jessica Hunt

Morgan Meyer is Public Relations and Events Manager at IRG Physical and Hand Therapy can be reached at Jessica Hunt is the Project and Social Media Manager for IRG Physical & Hand Therapy in Washington. Connect with Jessica at and @jessirhunt.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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