In my last WebPT blog post, I discussed #BrandPT. This served as the basis for my next idea: a weekly branding challenge on social media. I developed this idea after realizing that physical therapists need to take more widespread advantage of social media in a couple of key marketing areas: consumer engagement, active market survey, and closing the brand image/identity gap. 

With this challenge, my hopes were:

  • that physical therapists and consumers would develop an open channel of communication
  • that the physical therapy community would take advantage of the many opportunities right before our eyes, ready for the taking.

I originally issued the challenge for physical therapists to engage with consumers on any and all social media outlets using common hashtags in relation to pain and/or health. The four hashtags I ended up issuing for the #brandPTchallenge were #backpain, #kneepain, #shoulderpain, and #backtoschoolweek. Not surprisingly, #backpain was an amazing topic to connect with consumers. #Kneepain and #shoulderpain were satisfactory, #kneepain to a lesser degree. #Backtoschoolweek was a very active hashtag, but engagement was difficult because so many vendors were using this hashtag for contests and giveaways rather than consumer engagement. 

Additionally, I learned a little something about the trends of using Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for consumer engagement. Facebook remains a place where acquaintances, friends, and family maintain connections in an intimate way. Intruding here is considered quite awkward and quite possibly offensive. Google+ continues to be an arena of media output but not user engagement—with the exception being Google Hangout. Twitter, though, truly shined as the media of choice when it came to open engagement with consumers. The culture on Twitter is such that randomly reaching out to other users is akin to bumping into someone on the street and offering a friendly “Hello.” Sure, random interactions in person can be awkward, but they can also be equally meaningful—such is the climate in the Twitterverse. 

Now, regarding the brand of physical therapists and the physical therapy experience, there is a lot of defining for us to do. The great challenge of any branding campaign is committing to a core image and experience. The continual challenge to any brand is to close the gap between brand image (what the consumer sees a brand to be and what they “imagine” a brand to exist as) and the brand identity (what the brand sees itself to be and how it identifies itself). And finally, the existential challenge to all brands is to exist beyond their self-prescribed identities—to expand their current identities to reach the perceptions of a consumer’s brand image. Furthermore, truly great marketing efforts tantalize consumer imagination, pushing the image of the brand into exciting new areas for expanding market share—making the existence of the brand image and identity of one mind. 

We must remember that marketing is far more than just advertising. Here is my personal, working definition of marketing: 

Marketing is the science, art, study, and application of the marketplace for the purpose of identifying, fulfilling, and driving demand to ultimately expand market share. 

In essence, marketing is seeing from the consumer’s perspective—what they want, what they need, what they will want, what they will need. Together, these elements ultimately determine when, what, where, why, and how consumers will buy for the here, now, and future. 

One example of such an approach to marketing is @MakovickaPT. This group has created branding content around the question: “What has physical therapy allowed you to do?” The best part of this marketing campaign is that it delivers a brand experience image to the consumer: physical therapy empowers you to do something you may have been unable to do or lost the ability to do. Additionally, this campaign is a demand-side project because this group is receiving perspectives from the consumer and closing the gap between their image and identity with a customer-first attitude. 

Did you try the #BrandPT challenge? If so, what were your findings? In what other ways could your clinic use social media to merge the gap between your image and your identity? What marketing challenges could you develop for your practice and your team? Tell me in the comments section below.