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- SMILE Provides Viable Alternative to LASIK
- Early Detection of Systemic Disorders in the Optometric Office
When I got out of optometry school in 2003, I remember being bombarded by advertising companies pitching Yellow Pages ads that would cost thousands of dollars for a half page. After doing a little research, I soon realized that print ads and mailers were not cheap, nor was there any reliable means to measure the return on investment.
In February 2004, everything changed when Facebook was launched. Now I could market directly to my patients for little to no cost! Soon, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, and many other social media platforms were available to the public. It was not long before large businesses realized the advertising potential of these platforms. They were no longer just for reacquainting yourself with your old high school friends. Serious marketing campaigns were launched by big corporations.
Having a social media presence for your office in this age of immediate digital access is vital. Everyone seems to talk about the millennial generation these days, and it is true that they are a growing force to be reckoned with. However, if you asked my dad (a baby boomer) to find the number for a local optometrist, he would pull out his smartphone just as quickly. It’s not only the millennials that have the desire for and the means to acquire this instant information—it is a part of the world we live in now.
In fact, I would argue that a social media presence is more relevant to your practice than is a website. A website is not typically as up to date nor typically as interactive as a Facebook page, for example. The good news is that you do not need to be a tech guru to get started on social media, nor does it need to cost you even a dime. Without any previous Facebook experience, you could set up your office’s own Facebook page in 15 minutes. Once it is set up, you can begin to make it unique, interactive, and, most important, up to date.
Most insurance companies have mobile apps, and any of those have the ability to link patients directly to your Facebook or other social media pages in a matter of seconds. Once you create your page, you may want to contact the insurance carriers you work with most frequently to inquire about using hyperlinks to connect to your pages.
You can even make changes to your social media pages from your phone and post photos almost instantly. Likewise, patients can interact with you and your staff just as easily. We have found the most success with Facebook and Instagram. There are several others to explore, but the breadth of my social media expertise so far resides mostly in those two platforms.
GETTING TO LIKE YOU
Patients really enjoy social media content. Patients love to “like” funny or informative posts. It is important to keep posts lighthearted; with too many clinical or purely informative posts, Facebook followers tend to lose interest. Content should be a mixture of lighthearted fun and personal interaction, along with some interesting “did you know” posts thrown in for good measure. Some of our best responses have been to video posts we have created discussing everything from keratoconus to what makes a good LASIK candidate.
Contests can be huge draws. Everyone loves a contest, especially when they have a chance of winning something! Be sure to post photos of the winners (after they sign a photo release, of course).
Getting your photos and post to go “viral” is priceless. When you post pictures of contest winners or photos of the 8-year-old that just got her first pair of glasses. Be sure to ask mom, or the lucky prize winner to tag themselves on your post, or to post their photo on their social media page and tag your office. This real estate on their page that all their friends and family will see is the kind of advertising you just can’t buy.
For a small fee, ads and posts can be promoted to target specific demographics that you select. Targets can be selected by several criteria, including geographic radius from your office, age, gender, and hobbies. Prices vary depending on how many ads you select to promote, how aggressively you want them advertised, and how long you run the ad campaigns.
FOLLOWERS ≠ DOLLARS
Although it is exciting to see the number of followers and interactions on your social media posts grow, social media followers—even the ones who are active on your sites—do not equate to dollars. In my limited experience, however, I have found that it is hard to create urgency with any type of advertising, not just social media advertising, to get patients in to your office.
The best you can hope for is to keep your presence known. Then, when patients do need eye care, you are who comes to mind. A social media presence is an excellent way to keep you and your practice in prospective patients’ minds, and, if you are creative enough, to keep them interacting with you.
Justin Holt, OD
• West Point Eye Center in West Point, Utah
• Specialist in contact lenses with particular interest in keratoconus and eyes with severe or irregular astigmatism
• Lectures throughout the United States and serves on the Utah Optometric Association Board of Trustees