Article Date: 12/1/2011

I Pulled the Plug on My Website
social media

I Pulled the Plug on My Website

The author now directs people to his Facebook page. Should you follow his lead?

Justin Bazan, O.D., Park Slope, N.Y.

I pulled the plug on my practice website. It was a quick death. It took only a few keystrokes and with a click of the “okay” button, it was over. So, why did I pull the plug on my practice website? The answer is, in terms of marketing my practice, the website was dying a slow painful death and needed to be put down. Before I did so, I tried to find a single person who thought shutting it down was a good (not even great) idea. Nobody thought so.

My think tank thought my website wrist slash would be digital death. Why? Because as a practitioner, you have to have a website, they said. Their reasoning: “You need to be online because that is how people find you.” I totally agree.

But then I asked myself, “Does my website do anything better or different than my Facebook page?” The answer was a resounding “no.” In fact when I asked myself, “Does my Facebook page do anything better or different than my website?” The answer was a resounding “yes.”

Let me be very clear. I still and will always have my domain, www.parkslopeeye.com. That domain is mine. I rent it out yearly. But when you key in www.parkslopeeye.com on your keyboard, you are re-routed to my Facebook page.

The Facebook top 10

So, why did I decide the move to Facebook (FB) instead of sticking with my own custom practice website? Here are my top 10 reasons:

1. ALL VISITORS WHO HAVE NOT PREVIOUSLY “LIKED” OUR FB PAGE ARE IMMEDIATELY EXPOSED TO “BOOK NOW!” AND “YELP” BADGES. The FB page tells them to “Book Now!” which leads to a great number of people actually making appointments. Even if they are not ready to book, they now know they can make an appointment 24/7/365. If they need to learn more about us, they have immediate access to our Yelp user reviews.

No doubt, many are wondering: “Can't my website do that?” The answer is kind of. However, on FB, people who have yet to like our page, which we could assume are prospects, see these two badges, which is ideal for converting them to patients. People who like us already, probably our patients, see all the comments on our wall, which is better for building loyalty. This, of course, leads to more profitable marketing opportunities than the website offers.

2. MY FACEBOOK PAGE IS FRESH. The content grows. It's new everyday. A lot of it is user driven, so it has the potential to grow beyond the content we publish. My website content was static, and it would be an insurmountable task to create as much new content as what now appears on FB.

Why care about current content? Static content often goes stale. It can make your practice seem out of date and out of touch. Forget stale, be engaging.

3. MY FB PAGE IS FREE. My practice website was not free. Design and maintenance services cost a lot. We shifted the money we saved to our “entertainment budget.” That is, the money now goes to parties. We use FB to invite guests and promote and chronicle these events. (See also reason number 9.)

4. I'M IN CONTROL. I can set up and maintain my FB page with minimal effort. There are a few tricky tasks but help is readily available, and the skills required are quickly learned by most internet-savvy users. Most of us have to pay someone else to make even the most minor changes to our website. So we enjoy control and savings.

5. SEARCH ENGINES NOTICE MY FB PAGE. Want to be found online? Continually put out content that others love and that is keyword rich. FB posts offer the opportunity to create such content. I use “Google Alerts” to let me know when google indexes my content. I'm amazed at how often it picks up on our FB content.

6. YOU CAN KEEP THE ESSENTIALS. You can take the important content from your website and put it on your FB page. So, our contact info, online appointment book and practice pictures are all there.

Once that website content is on FB, it tends to become more useful and interactive. For example, where you were able to list your address on your website, FB provides an interactive map of the area around your office, helping to ensure people can easily get to their appointments.

7. AN ENGAGED FB FAN IS LOYAL. Simply stated, FB fans are more loyal than website visitors because FB offers social interaction. People pass, share, like and comment — all spreading the word. Unlike content on your website, things on FB get passed on and often end up in front of a potential patient's eyes. This is a great way to build loyalty.

8. NEARLY 1 BILLION PEOPLE HAVE FB ACCOUNTS. That means computer users are comfortable using FB and comfortable navigating it. Most websites are not intuitive, and people can become frustrated trying to find what they need. FB is familiar. Heck, many of us spend a lot of time there.

Your website can not interact with other websites. With a FB Page, you can. Log on, and use “Facebook as a web page” and start treating your FB page like your FB profile. That is, pretend your business is a “person” and get out there and make friends. Then play nice, be cool and be helpful. I know it sounds overly simple, but it works. Don't forget that a FB page allows you to ID the people who like you. In short, a fan is much more valuable than an unidentifiable website visitor. Once you know your fans, you can reward them.

9. I CAN CREATE AND MANAGE EVENTS. I had no easy way of using my website to create and manage an event. I had no easy way of sending invitations to people who I knew had in interest in keeping in touch with us. We had our e-mail list, but our website did not aid in our event planning. FB does. In fact, it has a wonderful event application that helps us and others spread the word about our events. Our most successful events have all stemmed from a FB event invite.

10. I BELIEVE WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU IS MANY TIMES MORE POWERFUL THAN WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT YOURSELF. We let our advocates do our advertising for us. We use our FB wall as a place to easily re-broadcast our Yelp user reviews. We use our FB landing page for non-fans to help send prospects to our Yelp page so they can use our Yelp user reviews to decide whether they are going to become a new patient.

Why leverage user reviews? Many great eye docs in our area provide different experiences. It is our goal to match a patient's expectations with the experiences provided by those docs. This formula has the best chance of keeping everybody happy. I just want people to find out about what kind of experience we provide, and then decide whether it's the experience that patients want.

Website remorse?

After I made the switch, here are the issues that kept my dream team advisers up at night:

But why not just stick your social media channels onto your website? You can just show your twitter feed, FB wall posts and have a Yelp badge.
Yes, you could, but unless you are able to do something better or in addition to what you can accomplish on FB, there's no point in going this route.
Why not have both?
We used to promote our website, FB, Yelp, Linkedin, Google, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. It was overwhelming. By narrowing the platform to the channel that helps build our practice the most, we've improved the odds of people ending up there.
What if FB becomes unpopular or goes out of business? Don't you lose everything?
I don't think FB is going anywhere soon. But when it does, I will probably have already been working with the new shiny toy. All the content gone? That's okay. Most of the content we generate is time sensitive, so it becomes irrelevant quickly. The major goal of social media is to always create more content. If it's gone, let it go.
You don't own your content.
I'm okay with that. Again, content is disposable. It's meant to be timely, consumed, digested and sometimes recycled but not necessarily permanent. Wall posts are nothing special, and you should not be concerned with who owns them. You will always be able to make more. Also, most of the content on FB is hosted elsewhere. Videos, pictures and articles all can be backed up in the cloud or on local hard drives.
If you draw attention to your Yelp page, you might lose those patients (and prospects) who read bad reviews.
This is true, if you have a ton of bad reviews. Luckily, Yelp alerts you to issues, and you can fix them and hopefully prevent them from occurring again. For example, if 10 people post that you don't smile, well you must not be smiling. Smile more.
You will lose prospects because people do not trust making appointments online.
I have not found this to be the case. In fact, the response has been amazing.

So far, so good

I'd rate the early results of my website-to-FB transition as outstanding. Not one person has asked about the vanquished website. Sure, people told me it was cool when it was there, but nobody has been vocal about its absence.

Have we experienced a tremendous increase in business due to the change? It's hard to make a direct link to it. We have been lucky enough to be growing. Has it been positively effecting my business? Absolutely. Gaining new patients and keeping existing patients is what it is all about. Making my primary URL lead to my Facebook page has allowed that to occur.

In summary, by making my primary URL point to my FB page, I was able to increase web traffic. The more people who saw it, the more potential they had to use the online appointment book to schedule an appointment. The more people who are exposed to Yelp, the more potential patients know whether we are the best place for them.

Willing to pull the plug on your practice website? A platform such as FB can be a great replacement. You know, I also pulled the plug on the practice phone. Stay tuned. OM

Dr. Bazan is in private practice at Vision Source Park Slope Eye. He is a co-founder of Peripheral Vision, a social media group for optometrists. To join, visit www.facebook.com/peripheralvision. Please send comments and questions to dr.bazan@parkslopeeye.com. Or send comments to optometricmanagement@gmail.com.


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2011