Pinterest and Instagram are two social media platforms that are gaining traction in the optical industry because they offer ODs free, easy and fun opportunities to visually communicate with prospective and current patients. Optometry and eyewear have an inherent connection to that which is visual, so photo-sharing and visual bookmarking sites like these are natural choices for practices to reach out digitally to a broader audience. With a little set up and a smartphone, your practice can engage on these sites with minimal effort and increase your marketing reach.
I know what you are thinking, “Another social network to add to your already overloaded marketing efforts?!” But for the right practice, and the right audience, getting active on these channels could be worth the minimal effort required to make it happen.
Pinterest, a Visual Bookmarking Tool
Pinterest is a visual bookmarking tool with over 100 million active users who can discover, save and organize visual content such as products, ideas, images or videos onto a personal “pinboard." A user “pins” an image to a board which is organized by category or topic. This image, or “pin," is actually a bookmarked link to a website, so when the user clicks on the pin, it brings them to the page of the original website for more information. Users can search for pins, follow other users and boards and create pins from anywhere on the web.
There are two ways an OD can use Pinterest. The first is to set up a business profile for the practice, create relevant boards and pin away. The goal here is to gain followers and create an active page that others will want to follow and re-pin. When someone follows you, your pins will show up in their feed. You will also want to follow others who pin images that are relevant to your topics, so you will have a continual supply of content in your feed to re-pin.
To set up your Pinterest Business Page, visit Pinterest’s Getting Started For Businesses Page and follow the instructions to set up a profile for your practice. There are lots of helpful tips here, too.
Once you have your profile set up, it’s time to select some boards to start with. The ability to keep your pins organized by category is the essence of Pinterest. Get creative with the titles of your boards to attract users to follow them (users can either follow your entire profile or select individual boards to follow). Some ideas of board topics you can start with are: “Eyewear We Love," “Fun in the Sun," “Optical Humor,” “Eye Didn’t Know That Trivia” or “Celebrity Eye Glasses."
Don’t limit yourself to optometry-related topics. You can (and should) create boards on any topics your patients, and prospective patients, might be interested in such as health and beauty, fitness, parenting, inspiration or fashion. Get your staff involved and let each of them choose a board that reflects their personality, as well. Follow other Pinners. Pinterest is a social media site, so to create engagement you want to follow and be followed.
As a general rule, anytime someone follows you (you will get a notification of new followers), follow them back. Keep an eye on the interests of your followers as a way to learn about these people, including what most interests them.
The second way to use Pinterest is the add-a-pin button to add “pin-able” content to your website. This would have the best results with shareable content such as images of eyewear or informative articles that others would want to remember and share. The best part about this option is that any time a user clicks on those pins, they will be brought to your website. So, when your followers re-pin these pins, their followers or others with similar interests can find those images, click on them and end up on your website. According to Pinterest, the average pin gets 11 re-pins. You can learn how to add Pin buttons to your website on Pinterest’s Pin It Button Page.
If you use Pinterest for business, you can set up Pinterest analytics to see which pins people like and re-pin from your profile and your website, and which ones are bringing traffic to your site.
Instagram, for Mobile Photo and Video Sharing
Instagram is a mobile photo and video sharing app with over 400 million active users that allows you to take pictures and videos (up to 15 seconds) and share them on a variety of social networks (including Facebook and Twitter). The platform offers photo editing tools, like filters and borders, to enhance the images and uses a hashtag system to help users find and attract others with similar interests. You can follow other users’ feeds and geotag, or place an electronic tag that assigns a geographic location to images and videos, and can connect to other social networking sites.
The best part of Instagram is the ease of use. Once you have downloaded the app and have set up your account, all you have to do it take a picture with a smartphone or tablet, choose a filter, add a caption and some hashtags (#), post and you are done.
If your practice has an optical dispensary, your eyewear selection is a natural source of inspiration. You can also use before and after shots of happy customers, photos from events and community engagements, staff and office shots and anything else you find online that is share-worthy. As with Pinterest and all other social media networks, you want to gain followers and follow others to create engagement.
Saugeen Shores Family Eye Care has begun to incorporate both Pinterest and Instagram into their online marketing, outreach and patient communication. As you can see, they promote and link all of their social media profiles on their website homepage with a social media icon bar along the top right of the page, right under the "request an appointment online" button.
Here is a screenshot of the Saugeen Shores Family Eye Care Pinterest page which currently has 28 boards and 42 followers. As you can see, the profile page includes their practice logo, address, website link and a brief description, along with their statistics and boards.
The Saugeen Shores Family Eye Care Instagram page is kept active; currently it has 92 followers.
The Eye Center at Jackson also is getting started with Pinterest and Instagram.
The Pinterest and Instagram platforms are visual, so they give your practice a chance to show off its personality. Not only do they offer an additional channel to integrate your existing marketing campaigns (you can post graphics from any campaign here as well), but they can capture and share the essence of your brand, your staff and the experience your patients have in your office.
Before embarking on a marketing strategy with either of these platforms, you want to know if your patients and your target audience use them. If your practice is located in a hip and trendy neighborhood which draws a younger generation of clientele, the likelihood of success is better than it would be for a practice located in a quiet retirement community. As of September 2015, 67 percent of Pinterest users were under 40, and 85 percent were female. In fact, 42 percent of online adult women in the U.S. use Pinterest. As of June 2015, 90 percent of Instagram users were 35 or under, yet the percentages for men and women are more balanced.
IMPORTANT Editor's Note: A reviewed and signed HIPAA marketing release form is required before featuring any patient, or any patient's HIPAA-protected information, in marketing material, including those on social media like Instagram and Pinterest.
Nancy Rausman is the managing editor at EyeCarePro and is responsible for providing ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies and digital marketing. This article first appeared in Review of Optometric Business.