Think of the last new patient you treated- how did they find you? Chances are they probably searched for your services online. As practice management guru Dennis Bush points out in our PT TV episode on referrals, the majority of younger patients, who often do not have a primary care physician, are turning online to find healthcare providers. Even those patients who are referred by a doctor will do a quick Google search to size up their suggestion. And informed patients in direct access states are skipping the prescription all together and searching directly for you.
Needles to say social media has become a very important aspect of a successful PT career and practice. Social media platforms are increasingly powerful networking tools, giving you a tremendous opportunity to build your practice, source new patients, score your dream job and manage your online reputation. Here are some tips to help you boost your visibility and build brand and credibility
Be Alert. Be Proactive.
Ignorance isn’t bliss for PTs online. It is critical to pay attention to and improve how you are being represented online. Even if you are not very active on social media sites, content about you and your practice is likely on the internet. You can protect your reputation by ensuring that patients and doctors who search for you find good information rather than negative reviews and comments. Here’s how to get started:
Google yourself. Search for “your name + physical therapist + your location” and/or “your practice name + your location” and pay close attention to the results. This is what patients and doctors will see when they research you online.
Work on getting negative comments removed from your search results. Contact the site owner or poster of negative reviews personally and address their concerns. This can go a long way to clearing up reviews.
Sign up for Google Alerts, a free service that sends notifications to your inbox when you are mentioned online. Alerts bring potential problems to your attention early, allowing you to deal with them before they spread.
Encourage patients to leave positive reviews for you on Yelp and Health Grades and link to these reviews on your website, blog, social media accounts, and other places where patients might see them. Tell patients that are especially happy with your work that positive reviews on Yelp and Healthgrades, along with recommending you to their friends, would be greatly appreciated.
Why Social Media Matters
Social media is on its way to surpassing email as the primary vehicle for online communication. 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses.
- Twitter has 465 million registered accounts.
- Facebook has over 850 million active users.
- Google+ has nearly 100 million users.
- LinkedIn has over 130 million members and 17,000 physical therapists in the United States.
Using Social Media
While you can’t control everything that’s written about you online, generating social media content allows you to create a positive online presence whether you are an employed PT or a practice owner. Social media sites are big players in boosting your search rankings, often showing up in your first few results, so it’s important to establish yourself on major sites. Start building your online brand with these best practices:
Tips for Employees
Start a blog and a Twitter account. Blogging and using Twitter are terrific professional networking opportunities for individuals. With Google’s search ranking algorithms, new and regular content is essential for better rankings. These tools let you generate content regularly as well as contribute to conversations that raise your visibility. In addition, Twitter is a great way to connect and collaborate with other PTs and stay up to date on the latest information.
Blog about your expertise and perspective. Blogging doesn’t just build traffic, it also increases credibility and establishes you as an expert. If you have a particular specialty, this is a great place to write about it. Creating valuable content about specific topics will help establish you as a go-to source in a particular area.
Refer patients to your blog for articles they’ll find useful. Inviting patients to read your blog is a great way to build your fan base and further build your relationship with your patients outside of treatment time.
Think ahead. If you have aspirations of starting a practice of your own, building your brand now is critical. See the Practice Owners list below for more.
Tips for Practice Owners
Build an optimized website. A professional website is the first step to building your clinic’s online presence. It is vital that your site’s content and keywords boost your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) , so that you can be found in your location and stand out for any specific services you offer.
Start a Facebook page for your practice. Facebook Business Pages are a great way to engage your audience and promote your business. Unlike personal Facebook accounts, Facebook Business Pages are public, meaning anyone can see them (including Google). Your practice’s Facebook Page creates another channel to help patients find you on the web. In addition, they have analytic tools that show you data about who has been visiting and interacting. Invite your patients to “like” your page to begin growing your fan base.
Build a patient email list. Keeping current customers engaged is just as important as acquiring new ones. Emailing your existing customers is by far the least expensive and most effective way to generate repeat and referral business. Let them know about specials, changes at your practice, and any other information they may value.
Join the conversation. Social media is about two-way communication. To use it most effectively you must be, well, social. Invite readers to share their thoughts on your blog. Connect with other active PTs online. Post valuable insights and information on Twitter and Facebook.
For more information about utilizing social media to improve your online presence visit your Social Pulse Resource Center, a collection simple video tutorials, checklists to get you started with the basics and additional articles and tips from expert sources so you can learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.