Social media presents a prime opportunity to market your practice, but missteps can bring major downsides. Here are five common mistakes–and how to avoid them.
- DON’T BE ALL BUSINESS. Share ample information about your products and services, but don’t forget to also share entertaining images and links, including those who show who you are personally.
- AVOID BEING BORING. Share unexpected and unusual information and photos that makes people stop and pay attention, such as surprising photos or facts.
- TIE MESSAGING TO BRANDING. If you make a point of being a socially conscious practice, you could include photos of your practice participating in local charity events.
- FOCUS ON FACEBOOK. Advertising on Facebook will give you the greatest result for minimal money spent, and it’s a platform that many, if not most, of your patients are on.
- AVOID RELIGION & POLITICS. Steer clear of political statements, or any statements that could be interpreted as denigrating any religious or ethnic group.
Maria Higgins, ODAs the owner of The Unique Technique, a business and marketing consultancy, where I am heavily involved in social media marketing for both clients and myself, I advise practices on how to use this new medium to communicate with their community and promote their practice.
When I was the owner of Unique Optique in Frederick, Md., I reached current and prospective patients using every free marketing tool available, especially social media. Social media offers the chance to connect regularly with your current patients, as well as attract new patients. Your patients' social media connections help spread the word about your practice. Before you, or one of your staff, post your next message, ensure you are utilizing social media best practices.
Here are five common social media mistakes, and ideas for a better plan.
Being ALL business ALL the time
Why it happens?: Businesses, especially medical ones, feel that it is unprofessional to post anything personal.
Why is it a mistake?: People will not/cannot connect to a business; people connect with people. People is YOU.
How to fix it once it happens?: People want to know about YOU. They don't really care about your new OCT or what frames you carry, until they need it. They are curious about YOU, what you like, what you do in your spare time, how many kids you have. Get personal. A good ratio is 20 percent personal to 80 percent business. For every four posts you do NOT about you, do one about you.
How to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place?: Don't be afraid of putting yourself out there. It is scary, but you can do it and you will get better at it.
How much does it cost to do it the right way?: It costs nothing at all, just a shift in perspective.
What it looks like when done right: Telling everyone I had Type 1 Diabetes was not comfortable for me, but it allowed my patients and prospective patients (especially diabetics) to connect with me.
Why it happens?: People are afraid to show personality, or be anything but the blandest of bland.
Why is it a mistake?: It is a mistake because no one wants to read vanilla content. It needs to be interesting and exciting.
How to fix it once it happens?: Never be usual or expected. Think outside of medical terms, posts and content. Don't be afraid to take a chance. Be fun.
How to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place?: Never post anything that doesn’t get some kind of response—a laugh, a groan, a yell.
How much does it cost to do it the right way?: It costs nothing.
What it looks like when done right: Here is a picture of a post I did that was racy, but funny, for The Unique Technique.
Using anything other than Facebook advertising
Why it happens?: Optometrists usually do not know the best advertising possibilities.
Why is it a mistake?: Business owners seem to throw money at advertising without knowledge of what works. Take the time to research the best options.
How to fix it once it happens?: Use Facebook marketing and advertising.
How to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place?: Facebook gives you the biggest reach as the most commonly used social media. It also has the most flexibility of any media advertising.
How much does it cost to do it the right way?: It is the cheapest of any advertising at $0.25 per 1,000 people reached. You can advertise events to your followers and friends for free.
What it looks like when done right: Unique Optique's third anniversary party:
Making political or religious statements unless it is brand-specific
Why it happens?: This is the opposite problem of being afraid to share. Some people are tempted to state their personal beliefs on their business pages.
Why is it a mistake?: It is a mistake because it can cause alienation of groups of people whom you may want as patients.
How to fix it once it happens?: You have two choices, either embrace the statement that you are making as part of your brand and run with it (example: Chick-fil-A) or do not mix business with politically or religiously charged statements at all.
How to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place?: Stick to your brand in ALL cases. For any marketing question you have, recite your mission statement to yourself, revisit your culture statement and ask yourself if this statement meshes with the representation of your brand.
What it looks like when done right: At Unique Optique, we chose to publicly support Pride and gay rights, but it was part of our brand. We were a funky, high-end, high-fashion boutique, and part of our mission was to welcome all. The more unique the person, the more they found acceptance with us. For us, this was brand consistent.
Using poor quality photographs or photographs stolen from the internet
Why it happens?: It is super easy to steal images. Right click, save as.
Why is it a mistake?: You can be cited and fined by the owners of the pictures. And it just is not cool to steal another person's work.
How to fix it once it happens?: Stop doing it. Only use pictures that you have a right to use.
How to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place?: The only pictures you have a right to use are:
How much does it cost to do it the right way?: The cost can vary from free to thousands of dollars to hire a commercial photographer. The best practice is to hire a professional photographer to take the photos you need. Hire them for a day and take all the photos you need (staff, you, everything about your office, all your frame lines, all your equipment, etc). Discuss the usage of the images with the photographer so that you have the correct permissions. Use them for your web site, your advertising, your social media campaigns and anything else you may decide.
What it looks like when done right: Here is an example of one of the photos that my photographer, James Atkins, took that we used for the home page of our web site. More patients commented on this photo than any other media campaign. It was the best money ever spent.
Maria Higgins, OD, owns The Unique Technique, a business and marketing consultancy. She formerly owned The Unique Optique in Frederick, Md. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in Review of Optometric Business.