In this day and age, raising awareness and social media go together like peanut butter and jelly—or, to use a more PT-appropriate analogy, like bones and ligaments. Because just as the knee joint won’t be very stable without the ACL, awareness campaigns won’t grow—or at least, won’t grow very fast—on a global scale without the power of Internet sharing. (Just look at what happened with the ALS ice bucket challenge!)

With World PT Day fast approaching—this year it falls on September 8—now’s the time for us, as physical therapists, to start thinking of ways we can make our own splash on social (ice water not necessarily required). This is our moment to shine—to grab our share of the spotlight and show the world who we are and the value we provide. And with this year’s World PT Day theme—“Fit to take part”—we should have no shortage of share-worthy material. According to this post from the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT), “people with a disability are less likely to be employed or to be playing an active part in society.”

This is what inspired this year’s theme, because—as we all know—physical therapists are uniquely equipped to help those with disabilities live full, productive lives. More than that, though, we inspire confidence among our patients by allowing them to recognize their own potential—to realize for themselves that they don’t have to be defined or limited by their conditions. You see these “breakthrough” moments every day in your clinic, and you know how special they are. But the truly significant moments—the ones that have the most impact—happen outside of the clinic, when your patients take the skills they learned in your treatment rooms and use them to achieve things that they—and many times, the rest of the world—never dreamed possible. Sounds pretty incredible, if I do say so myself, and absolutely worthy of mass social shares.

So, how do you get the word out? Well, if you check out the WCPT website, you’ll see in their toolkit an arsenal of posters, logos, slogans, and other “marketing” materials. There’s even a tab of ready-made tweets and posts for social media. But, as the ALS ice bucket challenge proved, raising awareness on social media—and effecting meaningful change as a result—means concocting something far more eye-catching (or, in marketing terms, “stickier”) than an inspirational boilerplate. Social media is a place where showing—rather than telling—tends to win out (which is why your Facebook news feed is always flooded with photos and videos). I applaud WCPT for the effort, but I think we need to take it a step further. Our mission is two-fold:

  1. Show that people with disabilities shouldn’t be limited—by either themselves or others—because they deserve to reach their potential just like everyone else, and as we all know, when each individual reaches his or her own potential, it raises the level of society as a whole.
  2. Educate the public on how PTs can help those with disabilities experience and enjoy life without limits—how we can help them not only become aware of their own potential, but also achieve it.

Now, here’s our challenge: how do we achieve this mission with social media? Let’s use this blog post as a brainstorming session. Share your ideas and feedback in the comments section, and let’s develop a sticky, oh-so-share-worthy campaign. My advice? Let’s start small, and think about what we can do at the therapist or clinic level.

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