Facebook and other social networking sites are becoming an increasingly important marketing strategy for businesses. Facebook has over 500 million active users including a high percentage of your patients and people in your community who could become your patients.
This new wave of social interaction over the internet will only become stronger and larger, so if you aren't on Facebook yet, it's time to take the plunge. There are many other social media organizations available, from Twitter to Yelp to Linked In to Foursquare to My Space and hundreds more, but Facebook is the largest and the best in my opinion, so it's a good place to start. If you're already on FB, I hope this tip will help you use it as a practice marketing tool.
How can FB help build your practice?
Facebook offers personal pages and business pages to its members, free of charge. I recommend that you have both, but think of a business Facebook page as a mini-website for your practice, except it's much more interactive than a regular website. When you post an item on your FB page (such as a paragraph about something new in your practice or a link to an article about eye care or a special promotion you have available), it's broadcast to all your Facebook fans. It shows up on the newsfeed section of their Facebook page. And most people visit their page many times per day. So you can keep your practice on the minds of your patients often and that is very valuable marketing. People become fans by clicking on a "Like" button at the top of the page. Your patients and friends will be happy to like your Facebook business page if you just ask them.
A Facebook page is different than a practice website because the website requires people to visit it, while Facebook allows you to send a message out to people whenever you want.
Another feature in Facebook is called Places. By registering your practice with this feature, your patients and visitors can let their friends know that they have "checked in" at your practice. This is just a fun way for people to let others know where they are and what they're doing. We can debate why people would want to share so much information, but I'm sure we can agree that it's good for your practice when they do.
The best way to understand Facebook is to join
The whole appeal of Facebook is hard to describe, so I recommend that you simply sign up and explore. It's no big deal; just follow these steps:
- Sign up for a personal Facebook page at facebook.com. Register by supplying the brief information requested and then create a profile. Upload a photo if you wish. See more below about privacy concerns. It's up to you if you want your personal page to be oriented for your practice and patients or if you want to keep it personal for family and friends. But you need a personal page just to understand how Facebook works and how people use it. A business page alone does not give you the right to explore Facebook and use its features.
- Create a Facebook fan page for your practice. Go to Facebook.com and click on the link at the lower right that reads "create a page for a business." Business pages (also called an official Facebook page) are different than personal pages.
- Only personal pages have Facebook friends; business pages and group pages have fans.
- When you post items of interest on your practice page, they will be distributed to all your fans. What do you have of interest? Lots of things. News items. Photos. Links to articles. Links to websites. Eye care advice. Promotions. Seminars. Social media works best if you communicate more frequently in small bite-size pieces. But don't overdo it; if your posts become annoying your fans can elect to turn off your feed (and you will never know).
- You become friends with people on Facebook by sending them a friend request message and by confirming people who send you a friend request. After you sign up, just do a search for a friend or relative whom you know is on FB and send them a friend request. Facebook is very good at helping you connect with people, so before you know it you'll have plenty of "friends."
What about privacy?
I understand that many people don't want the whole world to have access to their personal life and information, and this fear may hold you back from joining Facebook. But the concern over this is really overblown. The privacy concerns are limited to your personal page because your practice is already visible to the public and there is no information on the business page that you would not want to share with everyone and anyone.
To sign up for a personal FB page, all you must provide is your name, email address, gender, birthdate and make up a password. And the email address and birthdate need not be shown at all to the public, unless you choose to. If you elect to provide more information about yourself, such as your job, your education, your city and state, your likes and interests, your favorite quotations, photos and virtually anything else... you can do so, but you can still remain in full control over who sees it.
After you create your personal page, click on "Account" in the upper right hand corner and then click privacy settings. Read this section, follow the instructions and set your page up the way you want it. Basically, you can control what parts of your profile can be seen by Facebook friends only, friends of friends, or everyone registered with Facebook.
You can also control what groups of people are allowed to "write on your wall," which is Facebook speak for posting items on your page. You can always delete any posts you don't like and you can change your settings and permissions at any time. One final thought: you can delete your Facebook account if you don't want to participate any more. If you ever need help on FB, just click account and then help center.