MARKETING & MERCHANDISING
Plan Your Practice’s Social Media Campaign
Use these basic steps to optimize your marketing, education and patient outreach through social media.
ALAN GLAZIER, O.D., ROCKVILLE, MD.
No doubt, you’ve heard talk about what Internet marketing can do for your practice marketing, more specifically how social networking can help grow your business. This form of networking offers a host of tools that can:
▸ Drive patients to your practice.
▸ Inform existing patients of promotions.
▸ Provide “crowdsourcing” information (e.g. ask a question to a large group of people to get a varied response that helps your decision making).
▸ Enable information gathering.
While few resources are required to start a social media program (a computer, high-speed Internet connection and social accounts), the real challenge is in how you optimize it for your marketing, education and outreach efforts.
My advice: Always start with a social networking plan that includes the following steps.
Understand the terrain.
Every military plan starts with understanding the terrain, or the “lay of the land.” Before you establish a social networking presence, “play” there to understand the topography — familiarize yourself with the lingo and etiquette. By playing around on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest etc., you’ll understand how they work. Then, when your business is represented, posting and sharing will be a smooth process.
Tip for starting out: Don’t post or “tweet” something that might come back to bite you someday — everything you post is discoverable and permanent. Once you alienate someone in social media, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to gain their trust and attention again, just like in real life. So, tread carefully.
Identify your administrator.
Once you are familiar with the terrain and acceptable behavior, make a staff member in charge of your social media marketing efforts. If you have a young staffer familiar with the online social environment and trust this person to monitor your efforts, you have a good candidate to involve in the process.
The two major “acts” of social media marketing are (1) content creation and (2) posting. Some business owners prefer to manage content creation and have the staffer do the posting, while others are comfortable having a staffer create and post the content.
Tip for delegating social media responsibilities: Maintain control of the content, and have a staffer post it. When someone else is posting for you, you have less control regarding what is said online under your brand. My staff gets involved in coming up with ideas for content about the practice, but I craft it myself, as I want full control of my marketing brand and responsibility for everything that we, as a practice, post online.
Posting can get complex, especially blog posting, and it is no small job. Also, most of us, as professionals, can write the content easier than we can post, so I recommend this to get started.
Set-up tip: Establish the social accounts in your name or in your business’ name. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with docs who had staffers set up their Facebook page through the staffer’s personal account. When that staffer is gone, so is possibly years of work building a practice Facebook page.
Post on the big five.
Make sure you are active on the big five: Facebook, Youtube, Google +, LinkedIn and Twitter. Up and comers include Snap-chat, Vine and Instagram. Pinterest is very popular with females age 35 to 50 and isn’t really considered just an “up and comer” anymore. So, if that is a target demographic, consider a presence there as well.
LinkedIn is a great place to start and observe, especially if you are unfamiliar with the social networking landscape. The reason: It is considered generally more professional, and you can observe how people share content between LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, which might enable you to dip your toes slowly in the water to get used to those other networks.
Make your posts engaging.
Observe how others post, interact with and engage others.
Tip for posting: Notice that people who post product pitches are generally ignored, while people who engage others around topics of interest get more attention within their threads and are able to build trust and gain more attention.
For example, a post like “come to our trunk show Dec. 3” is likely to get ignored, while the post “we are considering having a trunk show Dec. 3. What brands would you like to see featured?” is likely to get more interaction.
Your audience is more prone to be engaged with open-ended questions vs. declarations. When practiced properly, social media is a more subtle form of marketing vs. in-your-face traditional marketing.
In between your subtle marketing, post fun items, such as photos, videos, quotes — anything that makes people laugh. Charitable efforts are popular online and, when used correctly, can be a draw as well as reflect well on your social media marketing efforts.
Topics of interest create attention and trust.
Tip for connecting: Connect with people who have large followings. Get your content in front of “friends of friends.” The odds are your friends already know who you are and what you are doing, but when their friends see them interacting with you, potential new patients become aware of you. This is the crowd you are trying to attract.
Plus, people tend to trust the recommendations of their friends, increasing the likelihood they will engage in your social media efforts.
Measure your success.
The success of your social networking plan can be gauged in one of several ways. The easiest and most straightforward is to assess your plan’s ability to draw new patients. Take an average figure for new patient volume through the preceding four quarters, and compare it with new patient volume through the period you initiated social media marketing. Try to use more than one quarter’s data.
Or, you can monitor hits to your website if you drive people to your website through social media links. Several tools, such as Google Analytics, are available to accomplish this.
Tip for measuring effectiveness: Ignore the first quarter and second quarter of data, as it can take from three to nine months for your social media plan to take effect.
Create a buzz.
Your efforts in the social sphere can create a buzz for your business on a scale previously unattainable through traditional media. So, navigate your terrain carefully, familiarize yourself with the major social networks, ask questions and dip your toes in the water to make your efforts pay off. OM
|Dr. Glazier is the founder/CEO of a four-doctor private optometric practice. He is founder of “ODs on Facebook” and a frequent lecturer on social and new media. Contact Dr. Glaizer at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this article, e-mail email@example.com.|