The Top ‘Can’t Miss’ Ideas for Social Media in 2012
By John Sailer: Senior Editor
With smartphones overtaking feature phones and tablet use rising at an unprecedented rate, it’s become a requirement that anything you do on the web must be viewable on a mobile device:
“As phones and tablets continue to grow, it is more important than ever to make sure your main online presence [website, blog, apps] is mobile friendly,” said Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, president of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Fla.
“Mobile!” agreed Sheila Haile, marketing director of ClearVision Optical. “With consumers buying more items through their phones than ever before, this is an extremely important aspect to consider moving forward.”
“The need to have social media sites ‘mobile ready’ will increase,” added Kathryn Simpson, marketing coordinator of The McGee Group. “Making sure posts are formatted for a mobile phone will be essential.”
An integral part of any social media platform for years, blogs continue to plug along as a way of not only providing information but generating business as well:
Richard Hom, OD, MPA, of Family Eye Care in Tulare, Calif. and GrandRounds4ODs.com recommended having “a blog of original content that is linked to as many social media channels as you have time available.”
Haile observed,“More and more consumers read online, and how and what people read online will continue to evolve,” so she also suggested that having a blog continues to be a “can’t miss” idea for 2012.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so keep a close eye on the metrics of those you are reaching. Knowing their demographics is imperative for a successful social media campaign:
“Monitor, monitor, monitor,” said Dean Browell, executive vice president of Feedback Agency, the social media agency of record to The Vision Council. “Whether it’s ad spends in social networks or your community activity, pay attention and adjust accordingly for maximum effect. Watch the demographic differences,” he said. “Different demographics use different channels and at different times. People aren’t just signing up for social accounts. They are choosing where they’re spending their time and engaging. Pay attention to what your targets want.”
“Measurement shows how a social media page is growing and succeeding, as well as how it can be changed to better reach an audience,” added Simpson. “Knowing how to attract more followers and making sure they are getting the information they need is what will make social media marketing worthwhile.”
“If you happen to have a good following on any of your social media platforms, take advantage of measuring how much influence you have on your followers,” said Rob Tomas, customer relations specialist at VSP Vision Care. “Sites like Klout+ or PeerIndex can help analyze how well we reach out through our social media.”
“Metrics are absolutely vital,” concluded Hom.
EXPAND WITHIN TRADITIONAL SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS
Most social media initiatives already include the use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but experts suggest drilling deeper into these sites to take advantage of their lesser known features:
For example, “For Facebook users, a great method to meet new friends is its Ask Questions feature, which allows you to formulate a question and tap into the 800 million users on Facebook,” said Tomas. “For LinkedIn users, engage in conversations by joining Groups that interest you or you find useful in bettering yourself in your industry or career. You can also follow professionals in groups that seem influential in group discussions.”
In addition, Jane Mazur, vice president of global vision care communications for Bausch + Lomb, suggested, “Use Facebook Insights to learn more about your fans and ensure your marketing efforts [and tone] reflect this audience.”
“For hardcore twitterers who like sharing thoughts and opinions, consider the use of hashtags (#) to control how to feed your tweets,” added Tomas. “Re-tweeting news to friends and family on Facebook, for example, can be fed by typing #fb. Re-tweeting pertinent articles to LinkedIn can be fed by typing #in.”
MAINTAIN MULTIPLE MEDIA
In addition to these social media sites which have quickly become commonplace, others are proliferating as well. It’s important to be selective about which ones you choose and use them well:
“Focus,” implored Haile. “Select which channels work and focus on those. Maintaining multiple channels poorly doesn’t work.”
“For people who have multiple social media sites, consider using an all-in-one app on your smartphone, pad or computer to view your social feeds all at the same time,” said Tomas.
Bonilla-Warford recommends, “Going smaller. As the proliferation of apps and sites with overlapping features continues, many of these will fail or be acquired in the near future. Social media ‘dashboards’ are becoming less useful the quicker things change. For both long-range strategy and short-term efficiency, select just a few key areas of social media and be effective.”
Let’s face it. Sometimes there’s barely enough time to manage your practice let alone add social media to your list of responsibilities. Here’s your chance to enlist your social media savvy employees:
“Get your staff involved,” suggested Mazur. “Empower them to help manage your social media presence, create content and respond to inquiries.”
“If you think you don’t have the time to engage in social media, perhaps you should be tapping the expertise of your staff,” said Kate Renwick-Espinosa, chief marketing officer for VSP Global. “Whether it’s your office assistant or optician, find someone on your staff who has a passion for social media, set some basic ground rules and policies, determine the right channel for your practice and let them run with it. Your employees can help you connect with existing and potential patients through fun and genuine online interactions.”
Encouraging reviews, positive ones of course but negative ones as well, will not only drive traffic to your door but will also demonstrate to potential patients how you react to all types of consumers:
“The importance of having a diversity of other people express their appreciation is becoming more significant, both for social proof and search engine rankings,” said Bonilla-Warford.
“If your patients are happy, invite them to spread the word,” said Mazur. “Place your social channel links or Yelp locations on appointment cards and office materials.”
Renwick-Espinosa explained how both positive and negative reviews can benefit your practice: “It’s important to claim your business on online review sites and encourage your patients to share their experience. Yelp is one of the leading review sites with more than 22 million reviews and over 200,000 people searching for ‘optometrists’ every month. By claiming your business and monitoring the activity on your listing, you have another way to engage with patients. They may become advocates for the experience your private practice delivers, and their review may attract new patients.”
She continued, “Don’t be intimidated by negative reviews. Consumers expect to come across bad reviews online. If you’re searching for a restaurant review and everyone is perfect and rated five stars, you’re likely to be suspicious that it isn’t credible. As a business owner, you can set yourself apart by how you respond to a negative review. Instead of fearing negative reviews, treat them as an opportunity to let your customer service shine by addressing the issues head on as soon as possible. Find out what went wrong and reply directly on the site. By righting the wrong publicly you will build credibility of your customer service and gain trust with others who are reading the reviews.”
GO TO THE VIDEO
Video remains among the most popular media on the web, so be sure to continue using it if you already are and definitely start if you haven’t already:
“Get your practice on YouTube,” said Alan Glazier, OD, owner and founder of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care. “Make some short videos. They are free and easy and can bring many benefits.”
“Add video or slideshare to enrich content,” added Hom.
A FEW MORE ‘CAN’T MISS’ IDEAS
Some social media suggestions defy categorization but are helpful nonetheless. Here are some final tips from our web-savvy optical leaders:
“Add your social media links to all of your web properties,” said Laurie Bergman, AOA social media manager.
“Use social email marketing more effectively, like Demandforce, Smile Reminder, Websystem3, etc.,” said Glazier.
“Over 250 ECPs and 150 practices already have a presence on Google+,” said Bonilla-Warford. “Major improvements have been made, and the positive effect on search engine ranking is undeniable.”
“Don’t be distracted by the savvy users. Doing something cool certainly makes you feel good, but be careful that you’re only targeting a very savvy few,” said Browell.
While these are the top ideas our social media mavens of the optical industry suggest for success in 2012, there are plenty more. Choose the ones that work for your practice and come up with some of your own to make sure that you take advantage of the techniques that will surely help you build your practice like never before.
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