As was once the case with having a company website, participating on social media platforms has gone from being optional to becoming a necessity of doing business. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, YouTube and other sites have become a part of millions of consumers' daily lives, and optical retailers throughout the country have established their own profiles on these and other popular social media portals so that they too can participate in the conversation and drive business their way.
The following optical retailers told dba about their social media initiatives and listed their current social media platforms at the end of their answers: Daniel Stanton, CEO,
Stanton Optical; Alan Ulsifer, OD, CEO and president,
FYidoctors; Jonathan Rosin, M.D., co-president,
Rosin Eyecare; Mark Johnson, director of optical services,
Virginia Eye Institute; Timothy Gorin, VP, business development,
MyEyeDr; and Jamie Erhardt, account supervisor,
Emerging Vision, Inc.
Timothy Gorin, VP, business development,
MyEyeDr, Vienna, Va.
Which social media platforms have you been using since before 2013, added in 2013 and plan to add in the future? We have been very active using Facebook, Twitter and Yelp consistently for the past couple of years and recently added YouTube to the mix. Though we did have some pretty basic videos before this year on YouTube along with still images posted to Flickr, we did not have strong content designed to engage users. As part of a broader content marketing strategy, this year I produced some very unique branded videos which have been doing well for us, and we are in the planning stages of designing a new strategy to encourage even greater interaction. We especially like
Love at First Sight, which is unlike anything else out there.
What benefits do you receive from maintaining these social media platforms? Not only have these platforms provided greater visibility and branding, but they help drive both our customer service and promotions. While both Facebook and Twitter are more about messaging and engagement, they are also sometimes forums for complaints. As a best practice we never delete negative reviews or complaints but rather use these as a way to reassure patients that we are listening and want to actively resolve any problems. This transparency and responsiveness vividly demonstrates our commitment to customer service. We also include some playful posts along with contests and giveaways, such as a summer concert series we do each year with a local music venue where we give away free tickets to musical performances.
For Yelp reviews, it is a key metric to help us drive traffic to our offices (click-to-brick) along with providing a way to identify problem areas along with an opportunity to engage in the online conversation. Every office has its own Yelp page, and we monitor each very closely.
What are the challenges to participating in these social media platforms? The biggest challenge is providing fresh and interesting content that does not feel "spammy." We realize retail optical is generally a low-engagement business and there is not a lot we can do to bring folks in more often than every 12 to 18 months, so we are very careful about what we post and how often. Yelp is in a category all its own, of course, and we take every review, especially the negative ones, very seriously. We take special care to respond to every review of three stars or less and work to turn everyone around by doing whatever it takes to resolve the situation. There are also some reviews which violate Yelp guidelines, and we submit those reviews directly to Yelp for removal.
Yelp: (different links for each office)
Jamie Erhardt, account supervisor,
Emerging Vision, Inc., Melville, N.Y.
Which social media platforms have you been using since before 2013, added in 2013 and plan to add in the future? Sterling and Site for Sore Eyes added Facebook Ad Campaigns, Google+ and Wildfire Promotions in 2012. We had 357 submissions for Sterling's Mother's Day Giveaway. We also started including hashtags in posts—#SterlingSuggests and #opticalequipment.
What benefits do you receive from maintaining these social media platforms? We see social media as another way to connect with our customers and potential consumers. We get to respond to questions in real time, which makes for better customer service. We are also able to use the conversations that take place online as a learning tool for our stores. Additionally, social is a great channel to reach customers with sales, news and events.
What are the challenges to participating in these social media platforms? Response time. Social has set an expectation for its users that brands are online 24/7 waiting to respond. We have multiple people in place to make sure we are responding very quickly. Consumers want to feel heard, and we strive to make sure we're providing that level of service.
Site for Sore Eyes:
Alan Ulsifer, OD, CEO and president,
FYidoctors, Alberta, Canada
Which social media platforms have you been using since before 2013, added in 2013 and plan to add in the future? Before 2013 to present, we've used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (to a smaller extent). We will be increasing our media spend on Facebook in 2014 and will be adding Pinterest.
What benefits do you receive from maintaining these social media platforms? Currently they only serve as (supportive) SEO tools at the moment (as we have a blog that casts out to our Facebook and Twitter accounts that is updated in real time on our RSS feed on our website). Down the road, we will encourage our patients to "follow" and "like" us and use Facebook as a tool to interact, communicate and stay "present" with our patients. We will also use it as a tool to drive brand awareness and ultimately as a tool to help drive new patient growth.
What are the challenges to participating in these social media platforms? In no particular order: full-time resources to devote to social media (including both strategy, insights and execution) and funds for add-on initiatives to drive growth/awareness. Getting clinics to understand the value of social media and getting them to encourage their patients to follow, like us, etc. Getting our clinics to understand the pitfalls of having fragmented social media (i.e. having their own Facebook pages) versus the value of having a corporate page with individual location pages (e.g. like Starbucks). As we have low brand awareness in general in Canada (as the majority of our clinics operate under their own names), we don't have a lot of customers "seeking" us on Facebook.
Jonathan Rosin, M.D., co-president,
Rosin Eyecare, Chicago
Which social media platforms have you been using since before 2013, added in 2013 and plan to add in the future? We embraced a social media campaign beginning in 2011 with Facebook and Twitter. With the help of a social media consultant, we designed campaigns to build "Friends" and then "Likes" on Facebook.
What benefits do you receive from maintaining these social media platforms? As our count increased, we began running Facebook advertisements with fairly strong calls to action. These were targeted to a very specific demographic that we identify as our core customer. Our overall experience was lackluster in terms of a dollar return on our investment although we did have a lot of fun seeing our "Likes" rise.
What are the challenges to participating in these social media platforms? The challenge is to be monitoring and responding to comments on Facebook and Twitter on a timely basis in order to foster the social nature of these sites. This turned out to be labor intensive. We also participated in two Groupons which were somewhat more successful from a dollar return on our investment but had little effect on our standing within the social media circles. At this point we believe that while social media efforts can be a lot of fun in terms of interacting with patients and prospective new customers, it is unreasonable to expect a large dollar return on the time and money that is required to stay relevant.
Daniel Stanton, CEO,
Stanton Optical, Palm Springs, Fla.
Which social media platforms have you been using since before 2013, added in 2013 and plan to add in the future? Prior to 2013, Stanton Optical was using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. The social media sites were not being updated on a regular basis. In January 2013 we hired two new people in our marketing department. In addition to writing content for web pages, press releases and blog articles, our new SEO copywriter was tasked with keeping all our social media sites updated with fresh content. New social media sites for 2013 include Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram. Our content writer uses HootSuite to schedule daily posts to Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Pinterest and Tumblr are updated weekly. Instagram is fairly new to us and not being used that much, but we plan to use it in the future for online photo contests, etc.
What benefits do you receive from maintaining these social media platforms? Our LinkedIn account is used for B2B connections and updated one to three times per week. All our other social media accounts are used for B2C communications. We are looking for key influencers and brand ambassadors via our various social accounts. It is time-consuming, but we are starting to connect with some of our fans and followers.
What are the challenges to participating in these social media platforms? Our biggest challenge is finding time to research and post new and interesting content to all our social media marketing sites. We were using additional social sites but that proved to be too time consuming to keep them updated. We find it's a better use of our time to post better content to fewer sites. Besides the Facebook page for our corporate store in Palm Springs, Fla., we also have individual pages for each of our 30 Stanton Optical stores. While we will continue to update our main Facebook page and other social media sites in house, we just hired an outside marketing firm for help keeping the content fresh on the individual store pages.
Mark Johnson, director of optical services,
Virginia Eye Institute, Richmond, Va.
Which social media platforms have you been using since before 2013, added in 2013 and plan to add in the future? Since 2011 we have been utilizing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These social media sites have been very beneficial for Virginia Eye Institute as they are great tools to get information out about new products, new sites, new doctors and activities. In the future we plan to look at many others with our marketing firm to see which ones will be a great fit for VEI.
What benefits do you receive from maintaining these social media platforms? We have found it a great way to get information out about new sites, doctors, events and promotions. Social media is an efficient and inexpensive way to market a practice and reach tens of thousands of people very quickly. It is also very exciting and fun to get something to go viral, which gives you the feedback of what interests different groups of people.
What are the challenges to participating in these social media platforms? It is important for any practice to consider having a policy in place on how different things are handled with the practice's social media sites. This policy should have different components such as who is responsible for keeping it updated, what type of content is posted and how different interactions are handled.
We always must remember that social media is an interactive tool for both the host and visitor. It is important to keep it positive and do your best to turn every negative comment into a positive one. For example, a patient may post a complaint on your Facebook page. The practice will have to make a decision on how the complaint is replied to. You will have the option to reply via another posting on Facebook or contact the patient directly. There could be benefits to both ways of replying. If your reply to the patient complaint/concern is educational it could benefit everyone to post it.
The biggest challenge of utilizing social media is keeping it updated and fresh. You want to keep your followers interested. Look at other businesses' social media pages for ideas. Think outside of the box!