I continue to monitor optometrists' use of Facebook as a practice marketing tool by asking for a show of hands during my lecture presentations. While admittedly a very rough, non-scientific poll, I'm now estimating the percentage of ODs who use FB for business to be about 50%.
If you are in the group that does not have a Facebook business page or has one but rarely posts anything, here is why you should change your ways: it's free marketing that can easily reach thousands of people!
Social media overview
If you are new to social media you may find it overwhelming as you hear about the growing number of social sites. How do you decide whether to use Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and so on? I'll make it easy for you; select the one that more of your patients are using on a daily basis and that would be Facebook. There are over a billion users! Many of your patients check their Facebook news feed several times per day, on their computers, iPads and smartphones. This is not just a fad; it is a change in social communication and it is not going away. You can look into the others later, but start with Facebook.
Facebook can actually be very good for your practice because it gives you an up to date image and it allows you to connect with your patient base and the general public on your terms. Most practices need more patients very much and FB is a great way to market your services and products.
Different than a website
I believe you need both an excellent practice website and an active practice FB page. They are different and both are extremely important to your marketing plan. Here is one major difference: your website requires people to actually seek it out. A viewer must do a Google search and find you or otherwise know your web address and type it into a web browser. The person must click on your web address and want to visit the site. With Facebook, you get to push your content out to the viewers and it appears on their Facebook newsfeed. That is a huge advantage!
Your FB posts are seen by people who have "liked" your page, which is FB terminology for clicking on a button. Think of these people as subscribers to your page and your practice. Your practice reaches many more people, however, when any of your fans likes one of your posts or comments on a post. In those cases, all of their friends will also see the post. So you may have a few hundred fans who like your page, but you can reach thousands more!
Your website is still important because it can offer so much more than a Facebook page. It is the primary source of information about your practice and it provides a much more robust platform with many more features than Facebook. Use your website for people who want to find out more about your practice and use FB to push out updates, news and greetings to your followers so they keep thinking about you.
How to get more "likes"
It turns out that it is extremely easy to get people to like your page. All you have to do is ask them. Most people who are active users of Facebook like many pages and they are happy to comply with a click. When a person likes your page, all of his friends instantly see that "like" as a post on their newsfeed, so you get some immediate publicity. Facebook is so powerful because it builds upon other people's networks of friends.
Once you have established your practice FB page, simply train your staff to ask each patient who visits your office if they are on Facebook. This could be at the same time they are confirming the patient's email address, which is fast becoming the preferred method for communications and appointment reminders. If the patient replies that he is on Facebook, the charming receptionist simply says "Great! Our practice is also and we are trying to get more likes; would you please visit our page and like us?"
Many practices have signs made up asking patients to log onto the FB page and "like us". You can also run a contest for a free pair of designer sunglasses. Just monitor new likes for two weeks and enter those names into a drawing. Of course, you can take a photo of the winner and post it on Facebook!
What to post
Facebook posts are short by nature. It should be a quick headline or sound bite that will be of interest to your patients. The best FB posts have a photo, a video or a link to go along with your text. You can certainly share facts about eye care from educational websites like allaboutvision.com or the AOA or consumer publications, but I think the most interesting posts are ones that are unique to your practice. Just share what is going on and take a photo with your cell phone to go with it. Maybe it is a new frame or sunglass line, maybe you have a new instrument, perhaps you went to a conference, or put a photo of a new staff member. Try to mix it up and just use your judgment about what people will find interesting and make your practice look good.
I recommend that you appoint a staff member to manage your practice Facebook page. Select someone who understands social media and work with him or her on developing the right content on a frequent basis.
By the way, I could always use more likes on my practice page and by doing so, you will automatically see our posts, which you are free to use. If you like my page at https://www.facebook.com/GailmardEyeCenter, I'll return the favor and like yours!
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.