Why Do I Need Social Media?
There are two big mistakes medical practices make in regards to social media. The first one is that they believe they are not a ‘business’ and therefore do not need one. Or, they realize they are a business, but flat out just don’t believe they need one. It’s one in the same, really, but don’t be mistaken: practices are business, and you do need social media. Yes, I’m sure you know that from countless people saying ‘do it’. But, the question is “What’s the practical benefit?”
Most social media allows personal messaging, allowing for a unique way to stay in touch with your patients. In this age of technology, many people prefer to ask questions about the practice, or even request an appointment, via the internet. Whether that is due to people being anti-social, lazy, or just plain busy is irrelevant – it’s a thing that people want. My office, for example, receives a number of patients who ask to make an appointment via social media every week. The benefit here is that you cater to them. After they tell you their availability, your scheduler can open up the appointment book, find a few timeslots that would work, and then can call them, or just book it via an online conversation. Hook, line, sinker. If they use the messaging system, a new form of communication is established. I once had a patient contact us about a fundraiser they were having and if we would like to contribute. We were able to really get into detail and have a record of everything we needed to make sure everything went off without a hitch. That second part is important – it makes it easy to go back and review the details, and not rely on trying to remember.
Reviews & Referrals
Also, do not underestimate the power of Yelp and sites like it. Many offices don’t even realize they have a Yelp page, and that’s no good– especially if people are leaving reviews and a lot of your traffic is coming from there. Check Yelp. Just because you haven’t made a page there doesn’t mean it hasn’t been set up. If it’s there, ‘claim’ it and maintain it. If you don’t have a Facebook page, people are going to find other ways to see what people are saying about you. Then, as appropriate, reach out to any reviewers. The key thing about social media is communication and outreach. Which leads me to my next point: referrals. There have been dozens of patients who have filled out the “Where did you hear about us?” section with the answer of “Facebook” or “Yelp”. Do you ask patients that? If not, you should. So, other than direct interactions and reading reviews, what’s attracting them? Personalization.
Posting on social media with fun facts about animal eyes, costume contacts, and celebrity involvement in eyecare is all well and good, but it’s the personal stories about your office that are key. I had the largest outreach to my office after we started posting pictures of our entering kindergarteners having their mandatory eye exams. The kids get super into it and thus the parents do too. That’s when they share the post of their kid wearing large red frames and a big happy smile, linking from your social media page to their own. Then their friends, with kids of their own, see that post and you get a chain reaction. Other fun stories unique to the office are great too. One time, a patient found some sunglasses out in the parking lot. Figuring they had to belong to someone at our office, they brought them in. Our office manager looked up the stock number, and a little detective work later returned the frames to their owner, who thought them lost forever. They were ecstatic, and our followers loved knowing the lengths at which we would (and do) go for them. Another time, we loaned out a pair of display frames to a patient for their child’s school event. They dressed as Steve Jobs for a ‘wax museum’. After which, they posted pictures of their child, featuring our frame, to their facebook and to ours: their friends and followers loved it. It is one of our most liked and shared posts. The lesson here: chronicle your experiences with your patients, if they don’t do it first– and if they do, make sure you share that too. By doing this, you’re establishing great relationships and subtly beginning new ones.
Know Your Audience
Networking might seem like it’s about you, but it’s not. When it comes to social media, it all goes back to the patients. Networking is key, though, because it provides you with advice, tons of content, and, frankly, stamina. So why does social media seem so intimidating? Well, a lot of practices know their patients, but they don’t know their audience. This harkens back to posting the personal experiences: many of our patients and potential patients are children and their parents. Whoever your target audience is, personal experiences are key. Likewise, you have to decide, is the social media outlet for your patients or networking? You aren’t going to post a live procedure of a cataract surgery for your patients, right? To solve this problem, I targeted different audiences based on the social media platform. I found success amidst my patients via Facebook, other offices on Twitter, and aspiring optometrists and ophthalmologists on Tumblr. And yeah, having all three is definitely beneficial and OK. One fuels the other and keeps things fresh and exciting, so I definitely don’t recommend having just one. At the same time, get your footing and see what works for you and your office. That’s sort of the best part about social media, it’s you doing you– and that’s exactly what your followers want.
– Mikayla Matz