Physio industry builds social media muscle

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The peak representative body for Australia’s physiotherapists is using social media as a valuable tool to engage and benefit its members, but also to boost awareness of the profession and its role in the community.

Staying focused on your strategic goal is key when it comes to effectively using social media, says the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s marketing manager Odette Barry.

“It’s very easy to post the in-jokes that will get shared and might get great engagement but it doesn’t necessarily serve our purpose,” she says. “You have to keep your eye on what it is you’re trying to achieve.”

“Our overarching strategy with social is to broaden community understanding and help consumers recognise the benefit of physiotherapy. We also need to deliver research and clinical news for physios, and demonstrate the value of being a member of the association whether it’s connecting the profession with potential job opportunities or professional development.”

Barry has been steering the APA’s social media strategy since joining the physiotherapy profession’s peak body 18 months ago. While the APA began using social media in 2011, initially with Facebook and Twitter, she oversees a busy social media portfolio incorporating 12 different channels now also including YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn. With Facebook, APA has multiple pages to target different audiences – physio students, for example, have a separate targeted page – and for specific campaigns, such as its annual Tradies National Health Month aimed at educating tradesman to be more health and safety aware, and the ‘I Love My Physio’ campaign. It also operates a separate page for its annual conference.

“We dabble in a lot of areas with social,” she says. “So we use that overarching strategy and then break that down into the different channels that have different objectives. Some will focus on consumer-centred health and wellbeing messages while others are raising the benefits of physiotherapy. With other channels, we’ll use pop culture ambassadors to promote physiotherapy to different markets like Kyal and Kara from The Block for Tradies Month, and we also partner with other organisations to help showcase physios as community leaders.”

Marketing tool for members

Barry says a key goal with the APA’s social media strategy is to show physiotherapists their social media’s marketing potential. “Physios aren’t natural marketers and aren’t necessarily like ducks to water when it comes to social media,” says Barry. “So we’re working to develop a suite of tools with some of our members who are already engaged in the space so we can bring more members on the journey. It’s our challenge as the peak body to provide that educational opportunity to get more physios online and actively promoting the profession and connecting with colleagues in this space.

“With our primary APA Facebook channel we’re creating shareable content for our members that they can then share with their consumer audience; some of the content will seem basic to a physio but to a non-physio audience it’s informative.”

Metrics challenges

The APA uses a range of metrics to measure the APA’s social media success and to help shape its social strategy enlisting a variety of tracking tools including Hootsuite for scheduling and analytics, Facebook Insights, Symplur for hashtag analysis and Twitter Analytics. But Barry says the ever-changing nature of the social landscape makes measurement challenging.

“[Metrics] are our temperature check,” she says. “We look at growth, engagement, and daily reach and they help to tell us we’re on the right track, but I wouldn’t say they define our success.

“Anyone involved in this space knows, for example, Facebook’s algorithms continually change. This means one-quarter a certain engagement metric has meaning and the next it’s changed its ability to measure success. So while we do have to have a framework, [the metrics] aren’t necessarily the defining measures.

“A lot of what we do is intuitive; you know your audience so you have a feeling about what will connect. You’re always looking at trends across the broader digital community, and you experiment; sometimes it’s not appropriate for the market and other times you get surprised because it hits the mark.”

Twitter Q&As is a new area the APA began trialling this year with some good results. “One of them was particularly amazing,” Barry says. “We had a men’s health Twitter Q&A with one of our brilliant physios, Jo Milios, that had more than 2.9 million impressions and really engaged the local and global community.

“She had a strong following and a great [social] audience which made our job so much easier because the audience is already there and engaged. That’s definitely one of the keys – that she was a savvy digital user herself.”

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