Article Date: 9/1/2010

The New Ways to Reach Patients
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The New Ways to Reach Patients

Now's the time to take advantage of the wealth of tools offered by social media.

FROM THE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
Jim Thomas

Of all the reasons for your practice to engage an audience through social media websites, such as Facebook, YouTube, Yelp or Twitter, perhaps the most compelling is this: Word-of-mouth referrals remain one of the most effective marketing tools in any optometric practice, and patients who use social media can instantly broadcast a single word-of-mouth referral to thousands of potential patients. (Some social media experts are now finding the phrase "word of mouth" more inviting and accurate than the term "viral marketing.")

While social media is just one of many marketing tools to consider, it does have a place in most, if not all, practices. (See "Is It Time for Your Practice to Connect?" on September 2010 issue for insights on how your colleagues are benefitting from social media campaigns.)

But before I jump too far ahead, this is a good spot for clarification: Hundreds of articles describe social media, and many can be more confusing than helpful. However, Brian Solis offers one of the most succinct definitions of social media in his book Engage! (John Wiley & Sons, 2010): "Social media is any tool or service that uses the Internet to facilitate conversations."

Social media offers advantages vs. other forms of marketing. First, there are no limits on creativity, so you can design a marketing program that truly represents the personality of your practice. Second, many social media sites and tools are inexpensive, if not free.

A starting point

Where do you begin? Aside from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter — and your practice's website and blog — here's an abbreviated list of popular social media websites to explore:

► LinkedIn.com is a business-oriented social networking website good for communicating with colleagues.
► Delicious.com allows users to save web bookmarks and share them with other Delicious users.
► Digg.com offers users the ability to discover and share news.
► Flickr.com is a site to post and share photos.
► Reddit.com is another newssharing site where users vote on what news is popular.
► StumbleUpon.com allows users to discover websites based on personal preferences.
► Yelp.com offers users a medium to share reviews of local businesses.

In the coming months, Optometric Management will offer a series of social media best practices. In this regard, we invite you to share your experiences with us by e-mailing james.thomas@wolterskluwer.com. OM



Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010