Making sense of social media

Strategies for marketing your practice online through social networking platforms
Stefan Dubowski
April 10, 2015
By
Jeri Denomy didn’t mean to upset anyone. Still, the Owen Sound, Ont., RMT made a handful of folks angry when she published her blog post on myomassology last summer.
   
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In response to client questions about the practice, she researched this emerging alternative to massage therapy. She pointed out differences between the two treatments, focusing on criteria to become a registered massage therapist (RMT) and how to become a registered myomassologist practitioner (RMP) in Ontario. RMTs need two to three years of training. RMPs require six months. RMTs must carry a $2 million liability insurance policy. RMPs are not required to carry insurance. RMTs have to follow strict client-confidentiality rules. RMPs have no such rules.

Many RMTs commented on the post to thank Denomy for the information. But “I got a lot of heat from myomassologists,” she says.

You can access the blog post by this link: http://bit.ly/18hCK8A. Scroll to the bottom for the comments. “I feel that you have totally degraded RMPs,” one person says.

Despite the criticism, Denomy stuck to her guns. For each naysayer, she wrote a calm, professional response. She reiterated her research. She acknowledged that her findings are specific to Ontario and not necessarily applicable to myomassologists everywhere. And she didn’t rush.

“I always waited a day before responding.” By waiting, she gave herself time to process each comment and consider her response, rather than reply in anger.

Denomy acted exactly how social media experts say you should. Don’t post while angry. Acknowledge commentators and address their concerns. Provide helpful information.

Those are just a few of the tips that social media mavens recommend. If you happen to be a RMT who really wants to put blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking systems to good use – to connect with clients and boost your profile – read on to discover helpful resources and to learn from other RMTs’ social media experiences.

Social media workbooks
The Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia (RMTBC) offers three workbooks designed to help RMTs get a grip on social media.

“We were starting to see, especially with Facebook, people not using it as effectively as they could be, particularly since their patients might also be using that site,” says RMTBC executive director Brenda Locke, explaining why the organization created the books.

These resources offer advice and exercises to help RMTs understand the pros and cons of social media. The first workbook covers personal use of social networking. It provides basic advice, such as always act professionally on social media, and use good judgment when posting your thoughts and opinions on social networks. “Remember, once it’s out there, it can’t be retrieved.”

The second workbook focuses on social media for clinics, with tips to help RMTs who work together to get the most out of social media as a team and avoid certain pitfalls.

For instance, the workbook advises RMTs to develop a social media plan before registering to use social networking tools. Figure out why your company wants to use social media. Is it to inform patients? Fill appointments? Anchor a Google ad campaign?

“Asking yourself questions like these will help you develop a successful social media plan that supports and furthers your clinic’s needs and goals,” the workbook says.

The third workbook is on patient-interaction, which describes situations and offers exercises to  hone one’s understanding of how best to communicate with clients via social media. The book contains a handful of serious how-not-to scenarios, like the story about nurses who were reprimanded for establishing a social networking group called “I’m a dental nurse and I hate patients because…”.

That example may seem extreme, but with the information throughout all three workbooks, it could help a massage therapist to think about the positives, the negatives and best social networking practices.

Tweet your way to new patients
So how do real live RMTs use these social media tools?

Emily Lutz, owner of Curative Massage in Halifax, takes to Twitter often to provide information about her clinic and self-care tips, including how to manage back pain – which a good number of her patients know about given the long white winter. Many of them probably spent a significant portion of the season shoveling snow and feeling the physical pain often associated with that activity.

“I like Twitter because, especially here in Halifax, everyone uses it, not just the young people,” Lutz says. Her Twitter handle: @curativemassage. She tweets to let clients know if there’s an appointment opening and that the clinic is open, despite the weather.

Lutz also uses hashtags (#) to broadcast her tweets beyond her 200 or so followers. For example, she includes “#Halifax” in nearly all of her messages so anyone searching Twitter for information about Halifax will find her tweets. Other Twitter users in the Halifax area see her messages and sometimes re-tweet them to boost Lutz’s reach even further. “The retweets are where I can really get new people.”

But Twitter isn’t perfect, she says. “Sometimes the time-consuming nature of it can be daunting. You have to monitor it regularly. And I find it challenging to maintain the flow that I want on my timeline.”

While Lutz would prefer it if her Twitter feed only had information specifically about her clinic and information for patients, it’s difficult to keep so focused.

“You’ll get people tweeting to you, ‘Nice to meet you last night at that event,’ but the event is completely unrelated to massage therapy. It convolutes my message.”

Facebook for client-connectivity
Donna Lowe, a RMT with Pinnacle Health Massage Therapy and Acupuncture in Victoria, B.C., says that alongside Pinnacle’s website (http://pinnhealth.ca), Facebook is her organization’s social media platform of choice.

“We’re still not extremely active on it, but once in a while we’ll post links to health articles and research articles,” Lowe says.

Pinnacle’s posts provide information on a range of subjects, including headache relief, the importance of exercise, acupuncture and promotions with discounted rates for services.

“We try to have a mix of content, not just information about the clinic,” she says. “Sometimes people are looking for information about certain illnesses and wellness issues and they don’t know where to find it. We post that for their benefit.”

The Pinnacle team would like to post more often, but it’s hard to find the time. The clinic doesn’t have a designated social media manager; everyone on the team has a hand in updating the Facebook page.

“As a consumer observing businesses, I think it’s better to have an active social media presence, whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter,” she says. “I should take my own advice. But it makes sense to put as much information out there and communicate with your public and customers.”

It’s not that people necessarily have negative responses to infrequent posting, she says, but it doesn’t help the business as much as regular posting.

Jeri Denomy, the Owen Sound RMT, has a blog and a Facebook page, which has proven particularly useful for business development.

“I find it helps me reach current and new clients,” she says. “I’ve attracted a number of new customers from other people liking and sharing my posts.”

She posts links to articles on topics, such as the importance of slowing down and finding balance, and sleeping positions to relieve pain. She promotes partners’ businesses. And she announces last-minute appointment openings.

Some people find it difficult to come up with topics to share on social media. Denomy has a suggestion: keep a journal to jot down articles and subjects to cover in your social streams. That’s how she manages to maintain a high post rate without devoting too much time to it.

In general, Denomy doesn’t post information that would upset others.

“I never thought I would be posting anything controversial,” she says. But that myomassology blog post certainly was.

Fortunately, Denomy was well equipped with the knowledge and ability to withstand the criticisms and respond professionally.

With all the social media tips and ideas about how other RMTs are using these platforms, as well as available resources like the RMTBC’s workbooks, start thinking about your own strategies to survive and thrive in the social media sphere.


Stefan Dubowski is a freelance writer based in Ottawa. You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Comments  

 
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