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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor April 4, 2012 - Tip #527 
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Using Facebook to Market Your Practice

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Chances are good you have a Facebook page. When I ask large audiences of eye care professionals (ECPs) if they have one, about 75% of the people raise their hands. Facebook is projected to have 1 billion users this summer! That means a large number of your patients use Facebook and there is no doubt that social media offers some strong marketing opportunities for your practice — and it's free! But many ECPs have Facebook pages that are simply not active. They sit there and do nothing and very few patients see it. Let's look at some entry-level ways to make Facebook work for you as a marketing strategy.

Personal and business pages
First, you must have a Facebook page. You may want to have a presence on other social networks as well, but FB is a great place to start. Facebook allows you to have profiles (or pages) that are personal or for a business. They work slightly differently, but if you are not on FB, register first as a person (with your own name) to understand the system and then design a page for your practice later. It is really very easy. Just go to Facebook.com.

I strongly recommend that the doctor/practice owner delegate Facebook updates to a staff member. The FB business page can have multiple administrators who have access to the account and can post under the name of the business. Of course, the doctor can be very active in the social media process, but I recommend regular and frequent posts and that may be easier if a staff member handles it.

Why and how to get more likes
You want to have a lot of people "like" your business Facebook page because those are the people who will see your updates and posts. Hopefully, some of them will comment or like one of your posts and when that happens, all of their friends will also see your post. This is how Facebook can introduce your practice to a large number of people. Your practice can stay visible to your patients and your fans on a regular basis. That is a powerful relationship builder.

It is pretty easy to get more likes; just ask people to like your page. Most FB users are happy to do so and have liked hundreds of pages, so it's no big deal. Just ask. Consider these strategies to get more likes.

  • Have a contest. People who like your page over a specific time period are entered into a drawing to win a free pair of sunglasses. The challenge may be how to tell people about the contest. This is one great reason why you should be able to email your patient base. If you work with one of the online marketing companies (like Websystem3, Demandforce, Solutionreach and others) it's easy to invite people to like your page and enter the contest. See tip #471 for more on this http://www.optometricmanagement.com/mtotw/tip_new.asp?tip=471
  • Ask your personal FB friends to like your business page.
  • Posters in your reception area and a sign at the front desk. Design a flyer that says your practice is on Facebook. Invite people to "check in" with you on FB (a one-click way for people to tell friends where they are right now). Don't ask me why people want to tell others where they are; just go with it. Most people have a smart phone with them and use it to access Facebook. This is a very popular practice when you have a few minutes to wait in a doctor's office.
  • Posters in the exam room. This is also a place where people are waiting and reading FB on their cell phone. The poster asks people to visit and like your page.
  • Your staff can ask patients if they are on Facebook and give them a card with your FB name. Ask them to find you and like you.
  • Use QR codes on posters and cards. These quick response codes are a square black and white pattern that can be scanned with a cell phone (you need a free app for this) and it will immediately take the user to a website or Facebook page. It is very cool and people who have a QR scanner app on their phone love to use it. When they see the square on your poster, many will scan it and it takes them immediately to the like button on your FB page.
  • Have Facebook promotions. Drive people to your FB page by having occasional discounts or perks for FB fans only. They have to like you to be notified.

What to post
After your practice page is set up, you need to post interesting updates that are appropriate for patients. That is the market this page is targeting. Use your personal FB page for your personal life. You want to post fairly often but not become annoying. If your fans don't like your posts, they can easily and invisibly unsubscribe from your feed and no longer see them. I think a good schedule is about two updates per week, but this can vary with personal preference. Once you get some ideas about updates, it only takes a few minutes to post it.

Facebook is designed for photos and videos. Try to have a picture of some kind on all your updates. I think the best posts are about your practice rather than some boilerplate fact about the eye from some other source. On the other hand, if you mix it up, posting a link to an expert resource or organization in eye care is easy and informative.

Consider these ideas for posts:

  • What's new in your practice? Take a photo or short video of it, upload it and write a few sentences about it.
  • Do you have a new frame line coming in?
  • Did you acquire a new instrument?
  • Are you participating in a community event?
  • Are you hosting an in-office seminar or screening (see last week's tip).
  • Have a running "meet the staff" feature, with a photo and short personal bio.
  • Optical illusions are always a hit. Find a website and post the link.
  • Look online to any resource about eye care or news organization that has an eye story and post the link. Allaboutvision.com is a great source along with the AOA.
  • I've seen posts when offices have an opening in the patient schedule due to a cancellation — asking if anyone wants it.
  • Facebook is a very inclusive network. Follow other practice pages and see what they post. Most ECPs would not mind in the least if you repost their posts; after all they are seen by a different circle of patients.

This overview is just a very simple introduction, but the important thing is to keep your Facebook page active. It only takes a few minutes per week but it can grow into a powerful marketing program.

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

A Proud Supporter of

Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.

Please Note: The views expressed in Management Tip of the Week do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

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