Social Media: Worth the Spend?

As physical therapists, we’re all about results. When it comes to patient care, we have the privilege of witnessing the effects of our work first-hand. We see our patients getting better, stronger, more independent—and we have the measurements to prove it. With social media marketing, though, there’s really no objective way to gauge the success of your clinic’s efforts. And for that reason, many PTs question whether social media is worth their money—or even their time. As you might have noticed, the title of this blog post posed that very question—which might have implied that the post itself would provide an answer. But I’ll be honest with you: that is not the case. Because in reality, there is no simple “yes” or “no” solution to this quandary.

That said, I truly believe that when you use it correctly—and with appropriate expectations—there is definitely value in including social media in your clinic’s marketing plan. But there are a few critical points you need to understand—and accept—before you dive into the social sea.

1. You will not go viral.

The first, and perhaps most important, thing for you to understand is that you will not go viral. It doesn’t matter how clever or seemingly click-worthy your social campaign is. There’s a huge misconception out there among business owners that viral marketing equals free marketing. But it’s not that easy. In reality, social media efforts that achieve that level of reach require a major investment of time and money. And while it is technically possible for you to create content and have it go viral without any paid promotions, it most definitely is not probable. The select few pieces of content that have caught a ride on the oh-so-elusive rocket to free Internet fame had the benefit of perfect timing—and a lot of luck.

2. Big reach requires big dollars.

Social media—like all technology—exists in a constant state of change. What worked yesterday might not achieve the same results today. This is especially true when it comes to audience reach. For example, back in the good old days, getting someone to “like” your business’s Facebook page meant that person would see all of your posts and updates. So basically, it was free advertising. Nowadays—thanks to major changes to the Facebook algorithm—only a small percentage of your page’s audience will see each one of your posts. In fact, your page’s organic reach is probably only about 2% to 6%. What does that mean? Ultimately, it means you have to throw a lot of money at things like promoted posts if you want to reach a significant portion of your fanbase. And for many small business owners, that’s just not in the budget.

So, if your goal for Facebook is direct conversions—that is, people going straight from seeing one of your Facebook posts to booking an appointment at your clinic—then you’re setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment and frustration. But that’s not to say Facebook isn’t valuable. Even if you only dedicate a few minutes per day to sharing and posting, Facebook can help you connect with your target audience on a personal level, showcase your and your practice’s personality, and built brand visibility and recognition. And even if your followers only see a small percentage of your posts, they’re still seeing them—which means you’re still fresh in their minds, if only on a subconscious level.

Another thing Facebook is really good at—and something definitely worth considering as you weigh the pros and cons of devoting time to your Facebook efforts—is informing people’s friends of their interests and interactions. For instance, if one of your fans “likes” one of your posts, that fan’s friends—or at least some of them—will see that activity. Now consider this: according to a Forrester Research report, “70% of US online adults trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family.” So people care about the products and services their friends are consuming, and Facebook provides a great opportunity for people to show their friends and family that they like the services you provide.

Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind that many people want the option of interacting with your business on social instead of making a phone call or firing off an email. And if you don’t have a social presence, you could be inadvertently locking that audience out.

3. Conversions might cost money, but conversations are free.

Yes, you might have to pay the big bucks to blast your audience with ad-esque promoted posts. But remember, talk is cheap—and by cheap, I mean basically free, because it doesn’t cost you a cent to interact with clients, potential clients, and industry peers on social. And each time you do so, you strengthen your online presence and your professional brand. I use Twitter all the time to chat with fellow PTs using hashtags like #SolvePT and #GetPT (shameless plug: you can follow me at @HeidiJannenga). I also take advantage of conference hashtags when I attend industry events. That way, I can offer feedback to speakers as well as network with fellow attendees.

LinkedIn is another hub for industry-related discussions. A lot of people mistakenly write off LinkedIn as just an “online resume bank”—something you really only need to use if you’re looking for either a new job or a new employee. And don’t get me wrong; it’s a very useful tool for both of those pursuits. But over the last few years, the so-called professional social network has evolved into something much more. It’s become a place where you can engage in meaningful dialogues with others in the therapy industry and build credibility among your peers. How? Well, one of LinkedIn’s most popular features is its vast array of groups. These forums allow you and other professionals who share common interests to connect and have thoughtful, long-form discussions on the issues and topics you all care about. This allows you to both demonstrate your expertise as well as gain new, valuable insight that may enhance your skills as both a therapist and a business person. Additionally, LinkedIn allows users to create business pages that function in a similar manner to those found on Facebook. So, if you have your own practice, you can set up a business page and use it to share clinic updates, job postings, and industry news. And as with individual profiles, business pages allow other users to leave recommendations.
At the end of the day, I believe social media is absolutely a worthwhile venture for PTs—if you’re committed to the long game, that is. Ultimately, you need to be ready to have a relationship with your social media accounts and their audiences. Set appropriate, realistic goals; do not aim for hard ROI or conversions; and only put in what you’re willing to wholeheartedly give. And remember, having some type of social media presence—even if it’s just Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages with your company information and nothing else—is better than no presence at all.

Want to learn more about social media? I recently participated in a webinar on the topic. Check it out here.

About the Author

Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L, Founder and COO of WebPT

As Chief Operating Officer, Heidi leads the product strategy and oversees the WebPT brand vision. She co-founded WebPT after recognizing the need for a more sophisticated industry-specific EMR platform and has guided the company through exponential growth, while garnering national recognition. Heidi brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and multi-clinic site director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

An active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA, Heidi advocates for independent small businesses, speaks as a subject matter expert at industry conferences and events, and participates in local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership seminars. Heidi is a mentor to physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs and leverages her platform to promote the importance of diversity, company culture, and overall business acumen for private practice physical therapy clinics.

Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a life-long fan of the Aggies. She graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences and Exercise Physiology, went on to earn her MPT at the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida, and recently obtained her DPT through EIM. When she’s not enjoying time with her daughter Ava, Heidi is perfecting her Spanish, practicing yoga, or hiking one of her favorite Phoenix trails.