Article Date: 5/1/2012

When I Do an Online Search for You, What Do I Find?
o.d. to o.d.

When I Do an Online Search for You, What Do I Find?

Always be engaging and responsive to patients, even when it requires a substantial online presence.

BY Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

What would you think if I told you that I read something bad about you on Facebook, Twitter or Yelp? Your first reaction is probably disbelief, then fear, and then you're probably going to scramble to see whether you can find the posting. While we'd all like to believe that everyone has something good to say about us, that's not always the case. Right now, everything from kudos, recommendations, legitimate complaints, potentially damaging complaints and even malicious attacks are out there for the entire world to see.

Having a website is not enough

Just having a practice website isn't enough anymore to cultivate your reputation. You need to regularly manage your online reputation. That is, you need to monitor what the online world says about you and your practice, as well as respond appropriately to any complaints to ensure your business is not unknowingly damaged by negative comments.

Even if you have never listed your information on Yelp, Yahoo Local, Google Places or other online business directories, it doesn't mean that your practice isn't visible online, nor are you immune from the comments of an unhappy patient. Because your reputation is critical to the success of your practice, be proactive in the way you manage your online reputation. And when it comes to responding to and engaging your patients, I recommend you handle this personally.

Monitor the situation

To begin monitoring you and your practice's reputation, enter your practice's name into an online search engine. This simple “vanity search” will help identify where you're listed and what's being said about your practice. Be sure the practice information (location, hours of operation, etc.) is accurate and complete. You can also set up a “Google Alert,” which e-mails or texts you when your name or your practice's name are cited online.

Get active

Secondly, stay very active online — and do it now. There's not much you can do to remove negative posts, so your only real option is to post more interesting and positive content about you and your practice. The end result is that the negative gets pushed down and thus, further from the information regularly read.

Next, encourage patients to write reviews about your practice. (You may even provide an incentive.) It might seem awkward at first, but this is today's version of asking a patient to refer friends and family. Make it easy for them to click a link and write a review.

Respond, even to the critics

And, last but not least, respond to any negative comments and reviews immediately. Don't ignore what's being posted online about your practice.

The truth is, both good and bad reviews are going to show up sooner or later, and most people understand that no matter who you are, you can't please everyone all the time. Just be sure you're not the last to know what patients are saying. OM

Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: May 2012, page(s): 2