Social media is a powerful tool and can be a fantastic way to promote your physical therapy clinic. However, like most tools there are downsides. In this article we will show how negative social media comments and reviews can escalate if not handled quickly and appropriately and how this can impact your physical therapy clients.
While we all know the benefits that nice comments can bring, there exists the possibility that the comments can be negative. The anonymity of social media, in addition to the relative ease of going online and typing in a sentence or two, facilitates the process of social media commenting.
What motivates customers to leave comments requires an understanding of the classic view that people will only be spurred to take action and voice an opinion if they had an ‘extreme’ or exceptional experience – in other words, either really good or really bad. This will hopefully change, as more consumers gravitate to social media commenting, leaving more balanced, nuanced views of a business or service.
A few years ago, as social media channels were proliferating, many businesses decided that the best way to deal with negative comments or reviews was to simply delete them. This fast digital solution soon proved to backfire, as the commenter would quickly see that a comment was deleted, and simply re-comment and escalate the situation by pointing attention to it on Twitter, Facebook, and other channels. Indeed, a business realizes that deleting comments or avoiding response is not a recommended course of action.
Another reason many businesses deleted negative comments was fear of driving down their Google Rankings, though the opposite holds true – positive comments can drive up a business’ rank in search results.
Instead, addressing a complaint, concern, question, or service issue head-on – and publicly – demonstrates the willingness to make things right, for all to see. If the issue requires the exchange of sensitive information, then you should suggest that the complainant contact you privately to settle the issue.
In fact, the process of social media for customer service has become its own discipline, and case studies abound about how certain companies and industries – such as the airlines – have turned around negative situations and provided stellar customer service.
Physical therapy clinics, like any business, need comments for several reasons. One is that it shows that you have customers! The very fact that people have taken to the interwebs to express opinions also shows that you are forward-thinking and are embracing technology to demonstrate your expertise and garner a community.
Another collateral benefit of comments and reviews is the ability to gauge what changes or adjustments are needed in your business – a way to perform your very own market research. If there is a trend or pattern emerging, you can take action and make change before another negative review appears.
Apart from your own owned webpages and social media channels, there exist standalone healthcare industry ratings sites, which collect and promote patient-written reviews of healthcare providers, as a way to create directories and a channel for patients to find the right provider. These include Vitals, HealthGrades, Patient Fusion, with the list growing each day. Some broader review sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, also encourage users to contribute reviews of healthcare providers. As such, there is little control that healthcare providers, including physical therapists, can exert over patient-driven reviews except to provide good service and hope that positive feedback and reviews will result.
Oddly enough, it is not considered a best practice for a clinic to ask a patient to provide a positive online review of your practice. Yelp famously discourages solicitations, as it could lead to distrust. Instead, the site suggests that business owners ask, ‘Check us out on Yelp,’ in place of ‘Please be sure to write a review about us on Yelp.’ This is good advice, and can be applied to physical therapy clinics, for any commenting or review site on which you maintain a presence. As Yelp indicates, ‘it's the difference between actively pursuing testimonials and simply creating awareness of your business through social media outlets.’
Like it or not, your physical therapy patients and prospective patients will be interacting with your content and digital assets, and this includes the possibility of them leaving comments or reviews. While comments certainly open a clinic up to reputational risk, they can be harnessed and leveraged for a greater value. Pursue comments and reviews as part of your marketing strategy and if managed properly, can provide your business with innumerable benefits.