Let’s face it: social media is all around us. Everywhere you look it’s “Like Us On Facebook” here and “Tweet Us” there. We are surrounded by social media networks, and new ones are springing up constantly. While some businesses have seen the value of social media, many more have failed to grasp the effect it’s having on the way businesses need to market themselves.
Effective marketing relies on being able to target and reach the greatest possible number of potential customers. If traditional marketing methods become ineffective or outdated, what should a business do?
In the past, most people would read a newspaper daily. So when a business took out an advert, it was seen by most people. Today, many people catch up with current events either through news apps or from the latest hot topics circulating around in social media conversations, many of which don’t use advertisements. Where does this leave small businesses like private physical therapy practices?
[note_box]If you can’t get your marketing materials seen by your target audience, then not only will you be wasting your money, but you will see a big fall in your revenue. Your only option is to go where the people are—and that’s on social media.[/note_box]
The time people spend on social media networks is growing, almost on a daily basis. They interact with people globally, make friends there, ask others for advice there, even shop there. Because of the options given to people within the social network communities, people are much more savvy about the products and services they want to buy. How do you get the voice of your practice heard among the literally millions of other voices that are talking daily on social media?
There is no such thing as a “captive audience” within these social networks. Physical therapy practices need to relearn how to reach out and engage with potential patients, but they need to approach it in the right way. People need a good reason to investigate a business page on social media and an even better one to come back for more.
You don’t need to make mistakes to learn. Instead, you can benefit from looking at the mistakes people have made in the past so you don’t repeat them. Here are some lessons others before you have learned the hard way.
There are two main reasons for ignoring social media: Businesses either think it to be a fad that only kids use to chat on and pass funny photos around, or they don’t take it seriously as an option, thinking that there are better ways to spend their marketing time than talking to teenagers.
The facts show social media is here to stay:
- August 2013, ExportedRamblings.com reported Facebook had clocked up 1.15 BILLION active users.
- 21st March 2013, on its 7th Birthday, Twitter announced that it had over 200 million active users creating over 400 million tweets daily.
- In July 2013, Semiocast revealed Pinterest had over 70 million users.
What’s more, the user figures for each of these and other social media networks show no sign of waning. Social media networks continue to grow month on month. Every practice owner should ask itself the serious question: “Can my practice afford not to be using social media?” (The answer, of course, should be no!)
Jump On In…The Water’s Fine
So that’s it. You’ve decided to take the plunge into the pool of social media. So you’re going to tell people about your vacation and then—wait for it—hit them with your sales pitch. Not the smartest approach. That would be like jumping into a swimming pool when you can’t swim; you would just sink without a trace.
Each social media network is different. They have their own individual user profile, their own way for users to interact with each other, their own communities, their own rules and social etiquette, and their own way of getting users to engage with one another. Unless you investigate each network, you can’t be sure which ones are going to be the best fit for your practice. As we said before, you need to market directly to potential customers in order to promote more sales, so you need to be sure your customers are actually there before you start.
Is It The One For Me?
People will tell you that you should be on this social network or that social network. Really? You need a presence on every network going? Considering the growing number of social networks out there, you would need days and days worth of time to keep each one of your accounts active, engaging and ticking over. So unless you have an army of employees to do it for you, you would have to choose between running your business or running your social media empire.
We all know that time is money. So rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, start off with a manageable number of social networks that have a broader user profile. The popular networks of Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are a good place to begin. There is much advice available to businesses on how to use these networks to good effect. We can also help you work out a good, effective marketing strategy to promote your practice on these platforms.
Once you are comfortable with the weekly routine of keeping these running, you can then take the time to look at other social networks to see if there are any other networks that offer your practice the chance to make contact with other sections of your potential patient base.
Social media is a vast digital landscape that is easy to get lost in if you don’t have a map or purpose for being there. You need to have a good individual marketing strategy for whatever platform you are on, as well as knowing the best way of engaging users in that network. That way you will always be focused on what you want to achieve, as well as how you are going to achieve it.
It’s Not Just Business
Imagine you met someone that you really clicked with as a friend. You spend two weeks together speaking all the time and you build up a really good rapport. Then, without any warning, they disappear. One month passes without a word, then another and another. Six months later, they get back in touch as if nothing has happened and try to pick up where they left off. How would you feel? What if they tried to sell you something in that first conversation with you? How would you feel then? Used? Misled? Could you really see them as a friend or would you see someone who was just pretending to be friendly to get money or a favor out of you?
This is how social media differs from regular marketing. Before you can start to benefit from the connections you are making to people on each network, you need to build up a trust and rapport with them. This means being a regular part of the network community, something that can’t be done by dipping in and out every 3-4 months. The connections your business makes on these social networks need tending just like any other offline customer relationship.
The clue is in the name: social media. These networks aren’t somewhere people come to shop. There are shopping malls and digital department stores offline for that. People come to social media to engage with and socialize with other like-minded people. Being social, you find fun things to look at, interesting people to chat with, amusing anecdotes and videos, and a peek into the lives of others around the world. So if you are dull and stiff and business-like, and just in it for the sales, then people will avoid you like the plague.
As a small business, you need to strike a happy medium between staying professional and letting your potential patients see the human side of your practice. So don’t be afraid to share some of your personal side with other users. Letting your personality out gives others something about your practice they can relate to and will make them more likely to come to you for treatment.
By posting daily, commenting and contributing to the social fabric of the social media networks your practice is a part of, it keeps you and your practice visible to others and builds up their trust in you as someone more than just another company trying to sell them something.
Keeping It Real, But Not Too Real
There are horror stories galore about companies who have either pretended to be a customer to leave themselves a glowing testimonial or have paid people to put their name to a glowing review the company has actually written itself. These types of deceptive actions shatter the confidence or trust customers may have in any business caught doing it.
So the best advice for any private practice owner is to keep all the information in your posts as genuine and reliable as possible. Talk about your day (trying to make it interesting), or maybe describe a new service you’ve recently introduced, but be sure to intersperse it with some lighter, more personal details: a vacation maybe, or something that happened while driving.
There is a fine line between personal and too much information, especially since what you post reflects on your practice. Try to stay away from details of your life that reveal too much or details of your business relationships that may show you in a negative light. If people see you representing your patients negatively, for example if you perceived them to be a bad or rude patient, they may assume the issue lies with your attitude, which ultimately is damaging to your reputation.
So be honest when you post, but not too honest.
Social Media Marketing: It Costs
Social media networks cost nothing to join, so businesses think that they are just a free outlet to rake sales in from without having to spend a penny doing it. Well let me ask you: How are prospective patients going to find your small practice among all the other thousand of businesses out there?
For any marketing campaign to be successful, there needs to be a well thought out, focused strategy targeting who it’s aimed at, where those prospective customers are located and how to build up communication through social media that will result in them becoming one of your patients. You also need to know how much time and effort you need to set aside not only to implement the campaign but also to oversee it and analyze the results, and if you can use any other resources to increase the effectiveness of your posts on each of the social media networks you are using.
So while the initial cost of social media is free, there is a time and energy cost to the individuals who need to spend time cultivating and developing online relationships inside each network.
We Can Help
We know just how busy the life of a private practice owner is. It can take a lot of time and effort just to keep the business running from week to week, and you just may not have enough time to sit down and plan out which of the social media networks will benefit your practice the most and then work out how to use each one.
We can help you with this. We have been involved in marketing small practices like yours on social media for many years and have many valuable ways to increase both the visibility of your company and its profits.
Feel free to give us a call, and we can show you how we can help market your practice on social media to produce great results.