|For many ECPs across the country, social media has replaced the yellow pages and
other forms of traditional advertising.
|IMPROVING YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION Peer review websites like Yelp and Google+ give the public an opportunity to comment on and rate your business. These sites have become popular and should be something you monitor daily. If you have created a practice with good business ethics, positive reviews will come naturally. If you receive a negative post, the first step is to fix the issue. No company is perfect and given time, you will make a mistake. Combine that with some people’s affinity for complaining, and you are bound to have one or two negative reviews.
By claiming your Yelp and Google+ pages, you can combat negative reviews by leaving explanations in the comments section. Leave comments that apologize for the person’s frustration, explain the reasoning for the issue and if necessary, offer that particular patient an opportunity for it to be made up to them. Consider assigning an employee the task of managing and promoting your social media pages.
Over the past few years, social media has exploded, easily becoming the number-one activity on the web. Facebook alone has over one billion users. In fact, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world, behind China and India. Given these incredible usage statistics, why wouldn’t a practice want to dive in and use social media to grow their business and strengthen patient relationships? For many eyecare professionals (ECPs), the answer is fear, as the world of social media can be intimidating to newcomers. Others think it requires too much time and is frivolous. Not so.
Alan Glazier, OD, of Maryland-based Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, and founder of ODs on Facebook chose to eliminate traditional marketing from his business plan in January 2007. “Social media and SEO (search engine optimization) save me thousands of dollars a month and are more effective. I have the data to prove it,” Glazier says.
To measure his results, Glazier tracks word-of-mouth referrals and subtracts them from the total volume of new patients. For his practice, YouTube works best. Dr. Glazier believes his patients are drawn to video and that it is better at drawing on patient emotions and creating a connection. It also helps get the message across more effectively. “Patients respond to fun stuff: photos, video, quizzes, contests, charity efforts: the same things they’re likely to respond to in real life,” he states. Studies reveal photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs. “People do not respond to obvious solicitations, but online marketing can be made so subtle that people don’t know they are being marketed to,” he added.
Pete Kehoe, OD of Kehoe Eye Care in Galesburg, IL, has eliminated almost all of his practice’s traditional marketing as well. Of all the social media networks, he finds Facebook works best. “As we’ve grown our Facebook audience, more than half of them are not initially our patients,” he asserts. In addition to all things eyecare, Dr. Kehoe’s strategy includes posts about nutrition, diabetes, general health, fitness, and even fashion. His staff shares articles and humor that can draw interest and they’re careful not to put too much sales-related content on social media.
The practice also uses Facebook for event promotion. “We encourage Yelp check-ins and use Facebook to encourage our Facebook ‘friends’ to share invitations with their friends to events like our annual trunk show event, which features frame reps and private showings,” Kehoe explains. He measures the success of this low-cost approach by assessing the number of shares and comments, and by considering the reach of his posts.
Making connections on Facebook is not limited to friends. In addition to “liking” Facebook pages to stay informed about the happenings of a business, joining a Facebook group can help ECPs can stay more connected with other ECPs.
NEW TO THE GAME
Travanti Jaramillo, ABOC, a technician at 20/20 Eyecare in Glenwood Springs, CO, is just getting started with social media. “The owner of our practice has always taken a traditional approach to marketing and the transition to focusing exclusively on social media has been slow,” says Jaramillo.
The practice has not yet given up marketing via newspaper and radio, but Jaramillo adds that Facebook has proven to help them create more engaged and informed patients. “We hope to teach patients while providing fun facts and adding personality to our practice each time we post,” he claims. Currently, the “Staff Spotlight” posts on Facebook receive the most action from patients. Jaramillo is also in the process of putting a strategy in place to increase the number of patients posting online reviews about their practice on Facebook. “It’s free and when done well, it’s fun and profitable,” he notes.
Regardless of their approach and strategy, all three ECPs agree social media is a necessity. “Look to industry partners who can help with content to post and utilize companies who understand optical rather than claiming to be social media experts outside our industry,” Dr. Kehoe suggests. Additionally, all practices report benefiting by incorporating their staff into the process of using social media. The window to get ahead of your competitors is becoming narrower, and playing catch-up is hard. Successful social media strategy can yield impressive results but it’s not something you can go into halfway. “Put in the effort and go all out,” Dr. Glazier recommends. “Try it for at least six months and benchmark with and without it.”
Jaramillo adds, “Don’t expect a major windfall immediately upon starting with social media. Building and engaging your audience takes time and creativity.”
It also takes involvement. “Google is the new Yellow Pages and people are searching for information primarily online,” says Glazier. “If you are not online and participating with social media, you are irrelevant to the crowd of people searching online; which is most everyone.”
“Social media is here to stay,” echoes Kehoe. “Take the leap of faith and get started.” A great way to do it is by sharing interesting content posted by others. The American Optometric Association and All About Vision, among others, offer resources such as content for Facebook newsfeeds.
Your patients are online and they are using social media to post and review your business whether you like it or not. Do you know what they are saying about your business? Choose to be a part of the conversation and participate. The question is no longer will you use social media, but how well will you use it?
Samantha Toth is the resident Marketing Rockstar for Innereactive Media, a full-service marketing company specializing in the optical industry, in Grand Rapids, MI.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
All About Vision
858-454-2145 • allaboutvision.com
American Optometric Association
800-365-2219 • aoa.org