I love a little healthy competition. From burning up the court as a collegiate basketball player to founding and growing a market-leading technology company, I’ve learned the value of building an intelligent strategy and keeping my eye on the ball. I’ve also learned that when you’re down in the first half—for example, if your clinic’s digital marketing strategy isn’t producing the results you want—you may need to reposition the Xs and Os on your gameplan to rally a win. And that means making sure your social media game is a slam dunk.
So, as promised in my last founder letter, here are some buzzer-beating strategies rehab therapists can use to get the most out of social media for their businesses:
1. Be on the right channels.
First, let’s talk about the arenas your clinic should be playing in. You’re probably somewhat familiar with the various social media platforms (in fact, you’re likely already on one). I definitely recommend being present on Facebook and Twitter at the very least; if nothing else, this will help boost your visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). But some social platforms are better than others when it comes to reaching certain audience segments—so depending on who your target audience is, you may want to prioritize your time (and money) in certain places. Here are the details on some of the bigger social sites:
Facebook allows users to like, comment on, and share photos, videos, articles, and status updates—and it appeals to a wide audience. In fact, as noted in this post, “Facebook is the biggest social media site around, with more than two billion people using it every month. That’s almost a third of the world’s population!” It’s also highly personal and often reserved for friends, family, and acquaintances. In other words, it’s a place where people typically post about the more intimate details of their lives. If you really want to get to know someone, look at his or her Facebook page.
As Meredith Castin, founder of The Non-Clinical PT, explains in this blog post, for businesses, Facebook “also offers advertisements and sponsored posts, and it has a feature for creating company pages and groups (which can be linked to company pages).” In general, Facebook offers businesses a plethora of helpful, built-in tools that help them better understand their audience, track engagement, and boost post visibility to reach more people—for a price, of course (more on that in a bit).
For physical therapy private practices, having a Facebook page is essential. Getting patients to follow your business on Facebook has a lot of benefits. Facebook makes it super easy to share content, which is perfect for clinics that invest in maintaining a blog or making their own videos. However, because Facebook typically revolves around a more personal user experience, the type of content you share should speak to that—which means it should cater to your current audience and the patients you want to attract. For example, if you treat a lot of athletes and want to showcase your sports medicine expertise, a video demonstrating pre-game stretches to avoid injury will perform a lot better than a post about staying fit in your senior years.
Whereas Facebook acts like a scrapbook of cherished memories, Twitter is more focused on quick conversation. Each post (or “tweet”) has a 280-character limit, which means it has to be punchy and to-the-point. And although Twitter’s lack of seamless integration with YouTube makes sharing videos directly from the platform difficult, you can upload videos directly to Twitter to make them easier to share (or “retweet”). Twitter’s user base also skews younger: nearly 63% of users are under the age of 35 as of 2020. And because Twitter users come to the platform to engage with others about hobbies and special interests, they’re far more likely to retweet and share videos that relate to those interests.
To build up your audience, Castin recommends getting “the attention of others you admire by tagging them in your Twitter posts. Want to give a shoutout to another clinic owner or therapist you think would benefit from reading your article? Include his or her handle in your post.” You may find that Twitter is a better time investment when you use it to build connections with other industry professionals. If you find that your target audience is on Twitter, however, you have the benefit of cheaper ad space compared to platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Love whipping out your camera to take snapshots of life in your practice? Instagram can be an excellent venue for showcasing these moments. It’s an image-based social network, which means every post needs—you guessed it—an image. And in the case of PT practices, those images are most effective when they:
- align with your clinic brand,
- showcase your clinic culture, and
- are visually appealing.
But Instagram’s biggest benefit is, by far, its hashtag function. While it’s certainly not the only platform to use hashtags, it’s the only one that’s really gotten it right. (Platforms like Facebook and Twitter use them too, but the experience is far less intuitive.) Users can follow certain hashtags (e.g., #basketball) which means any popular posts using that hashtag will automatically appear in their feed—even if they’re not following the account. Users also frequently browse hashtags, so if, for example, you post a picture of your staff volunteering at a local Ironman event, you could use #PhoenixIronman to gain visibility among those who are interested. The biggest takeaway here is that the more niche your hashtag is, the smaller the audience it’ll have—but you’ll also be competing with fewer posts for the top spot.
2. Post frequently—and consistently.
When it comes to posting on social media, frequency is just as important as content. There’s not really a magic number for each platform, but just like in sports, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That said, here are some findings from my own research on ideal social media posting frequency:
Through proprietary research, the marketing experts at Hubspot found profiles with fewer than 10,000 followers “that post more than 60 times a month receive 60% fewer clicks per post than those companies that post 5 or fewer times a month.” However, the same research found that pages with a large number of followers received more engagement the more they posted. So on Facebook, I recommend:
- one to two posts per week for smaller practices;
- one post per day for mid-sized practices; and
- two or more posts per day for large, multi-location practices.
Tweets generally have a short shelf life compared to posts on other social platforms. That means you can get away with posting anywhere between one and 100 times a day. However, a single daily post might not be super effective if you’re trying to gain real traction on Twitter, and 100 daily posts may be excessive if you’ve got a busy clinic to run. So, we suggest an average of three or more tweets per day, which you can schedule ahead of time using a tool like WebPT Reach.
For Instagram, the general consensus on frequency appears to be one to three posts per day. Like Twitter, this platform is well-suited to scheduling posts in advance using a third-party scheduling software.
3. Create and post content with your audience in mind.
Naturally, it won’t matter how often you post if your content doesn’t resonate with your audience. An image-based platform like Instagram is ideal for posting content like videos and pictures. Videos, especially, are a great way to spread your message, with 72% of people preferring to learn about a service through video instead of text, according to Hubspot.
For content to be truly impactful, it has to be relevant while also demonstrating your expertise. As physical therapists, we’re neuromusculoskeletal experts, and our voices carry a lot of weight with patients. Ultimately, your goal should be to educate—not sell. When your content is done right, your reach is far more organic—and patients respond positively to that. Think about your own social media habits. You’re probably much more likely to watch a video that three of your friends have shared than one that’s part of an advertisement.
Once you’re ready to develop your content, follow Dr. Ben Fung’s steps for creating content that will resonate with your target consumer base:
- Know your audience.
- Determine your strengths.
- Develop content.
- Market content.
- Forecast change and respond/adapt.
Now, don’t get me wrong: you don’t have to produce original content every day to effectively broaden your social media reach—and I’m guessing you don’t have that kind of time, anyway. You can also leverage outside content by:
- sharing content from other providers (who could be potential referral sources); and
- subscribing to relevant media outlets and industry thought leaders—and then sharing content those outlets and leaders deliver.
4. Promote the right content.
While I’ve covered the basics of an organic social media strategy, I’d be remiss to not mention the benefits of putting a few dollars behind certain posts. Over the years, social media has shifted to more of a pay-to-play landscape for businesses. So, the more money you intelligently invest in your social strategy, the more you’ll get out of it. In fact, sites like Facebook and Instagram have actually made it harder for business pages to gain visibility among their followers, almost forcing businesses to put a line item in their marketing budget for boosting social posts (i.e., paying the platform to increase the visibility of specific posts to individual Facebook users). Boosted content displays as “sponsored” posts on your intended audience’s feed.
Now, as I already mentioned, your audience probably won’t be as interested in these “sponsored” posts as they are in posts that have gained visibility organically. But, some content may never have a chance to gain that organic visibility without an initial paid boost. So, I highly recommend that, if you don’t spend anything else on social media this year, you should at least budget for a handful of boosted posts each month.
This is something we frequently do at WebPT, whether we’re promoting major industry news and updates (such as this post that covered the surprise NCCI changes on January 1, 2020) or thought leadership pieces that resonate with our existing audience (such as last month’s founder letter).
To that end, here are the guidelines to boosting posts on the big three social platforms I’ve mentioned previously (as adapted from this Hubspot article):
- Select an existing post on your clinic’s Facebook page. I suggest choosing a post that’s already gained a bit of traction with your existing followers.
- Select “Boost Post” in the bottom-right corner of the post.
- Pick your intended audience. You can choose between a recommended audience that Facebook has put together for you or a totally new audience.
- Decide how much you want to spend and how long you want the post to be boosted. Facebook will then provide an estimate of how many people your post will reach based on your budget and duration.
- Select “View Tweet Activity” on the tweet you want to boost.
- Select “Promote Your Tweet.”
- Choose your target audience based on location.
- Decide how much you want to spend. Like Facebook, Twitter will provide an estimate of the number of impressions and engagements your tweet will get based on your budget.
- Select “Promote” at the bottom of the post you want to boost.
- Decide whether you want to attract more website traffic, profile visits, or promotion views. Instagram will ask you to select one of those three goals.
- Pick your intended audience using one of three different targeting options:
- Automatic (Instagram will target people similar to your current followers),
- Local (Instagram will target people in a specific location), and
- Manual (Instagram will let you target specific hobbies, people, or locations).
- Set the amount you want to spend and how long you want to boost your post. Like the other two platforms, Instagram will estimate how many people your post should reach and the number of clicks it should receive.
5. Optimize your social profiles for search engines.
Marketing is full of techy-sounding terms, from PPC (pay-per-click) to CTA (call to action). But if there’s one term you’ve heard before, it’s probably SEO (a.k.a. search engine optimization). If you’re still hazy on what SEO encompasses, just know that it’s exactly what it sounds like. One of the most important strategies in your marketing playbook is getting noticed on search engines like Google and Bing. After all, a 2018 survey from Doctor.com found that 80% of respondents used the Internet to search for healthcare-related information in the past year. The survey also revealed that 63% of respondents chose one provider over another because of the provider’s strong online presence (e.g., availability of relevant, accurate information). That means your clinic’s online presence needs to be optimized for search engines.
So, what does this have to do with social media? When you run a keyword search for businesses on Google (e.g., “physical therapists in Phoenix”), the first set of results on your search engine results page will be paid advertisements. Below the ads, you’ll see local search results scattered on a map. These are organic search results. Unlike paid ads, the order and appearance of these search results are determined by each site’s SEO.
And the main elements that impact your clinic’s SEO are your:
- Google listing, and
- social media pages.
How? Well, Google’s algorithm is designed to provide the most accurate results based on a user’s search terms. So if, for example, a clinic’s address on its website doesn’t match the address on its Facebook page, Google deems that result less trustworthy and bumps it down the results page. This can boil down to a simple difference in abbreviation. If your address is listed as “123 South 5th Street” on your website and “123 S Fifth St” on your Facebook page, Google views that as a mismatch and won’t trust its accuracy. This means your clinic’s name, address, and phone number have to match perfectly across all social media platforms—and everywhere else on the web, for that matter. (Tools like WebPT Local take that extra work off your plate by automatically searching for, updating, and managing your practice’s online listings.) On the flipside, when you have multiple consistent listings across multiple sites—including social media platforms—Google views your business as more trustworthy and will display it to more people.
While these tips are intended to support the success of individual rehab therapy businesses, remember that on the Internet—just like anywhere else—a rising tide raises all boats. In other words, scoring big on social isn’t just about getting as many patients into your practice as possible; it’s also about uplifting the profession by spreading the word about the benefits of choosing physical therapy over invasive—and costly—surgical procedures and dangerous opioids. A large percentage of potential patients—including the 90% who could benefit from rehab therapy but aren’t seeking it—are hanging out on social media, which means it’s a huge opportunity for us, as a profession, to meet them where they are and expose them to the immense value we have to offer.
It’s game time, PTs—are you up to the challenge?