Status Update: Social Media Strategy Draws Business for ECPs

There’s no secret to navigating the online landscape. Social media advancements are in constant flux, which can be challenging for many eyecare professionals. Yet many practitioners are embracing that change and utilizing a range of social tools to generate exposure for their practices and reach potential patients.

In a recent session of the weekly online radio talk show, the Power Hour, host and creator Gary Gerber, OD, founder of the practice management company, The Power Practice, called upon Alan Glazier, OD to pinpoint pieces of advice for listeners on strategizing, in Gerber’s terms, “all those things you’ve probably been avoiding like Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.”

Glazier, whose social media contributions include the optometric networking group, “ODs on Facebook,” e-newsletter, the Eyegregator and a book published on the topic, "Searchial Marketing," dispensed a few tips on stepping out of the shadows of the internet into the social networking scene.

(Google) Location, Location, Location

As a practicing OD in Rockville, Md., Glazier felt that traditional marketing was leaving holes in his practice’s pockets. Instead of panicking, he asked himself a question—Where are the people? The answer, he said, was Google.

The time-honored phrase, “location, location, location” must be adapted to modern audiences, and with Google now functioning as a search engine, social network, email system and GPS, this site is where every practice, and any business, needs to be.

He took his hunch and turned it into a business philosophy. In his book, Glazier describes in detail not only how to be found by internet searchers with key words and phrases that involve the products and services offered by your business, but advises those starting their social media strategies to think about the way in which online interaction can raise their searchability.

“The whole game is getting recognized for the products and services you want to be found for by Google, so you get higher in Google—that was my game, and it worked,” said Glazier. “You have to interact in the right way and be social be to higher in search; social [media] is what brings you up in search.”

Being social in the digital realm, Glazier said, is “like being social in real life,” so for those who are uncomfortable with the concept, some coaching may be necessary. The finesse required in an online approach to communication is not only for courtesy purposes, but because Google catches on if you’re trying to use tactics to manipulate your position on the site, Glazier said.

“Be socially acceptable and draw an audience. Don’t be annoying and don’t directly push things to people. Google knows when you’re trying to game the system and they adjust their algorithm.”

Key ways to get potential patients to find your practice on Google, Glazier said, are obtaining a listing on Google maps, setting up a Google+ profile and participating in other social sites that will raise your search ratings organically.

“There are places you want to make sure you’re listed,” said Glazier, who, in the show, went on to speak about sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. “These are all places you have to have a business presence—and anywhere that’s mobilely tied-in as well—that’s going to boost your ratings.”

Social Means Mobile

Mobile applications have proven their prevalence in many areas of day-to-day life, and according to Glazier, they’re a good place to focus some time and energy for eyecare practices, too. His practice, present on Facebook and Google+ as its full name, Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, also goes by the alias “EyeInfo” on sites such as Twitter and the video-sharing app, Vine.

Vine, which allows for ultra-quick video posting (seven seconds or less), has seen a growing community among small business owners and, in optometry’s case, can be used for posts as simple as day-to-day moments in an optometrist’s office.

In fact, his own practice’s very first post on Vine last summer was a POV shot of a phoropter with the caption, “The most annoying question in health care… ‘Better one or two?’ Welcome to EyeInfo’s Vine.”

The commonalities that happen within a practice are all shareable moments, and don’t have to be limited to video-sharing apps, either, said Glazier. “You can tell your staff to do six-second videos of patients trying on glasses and put that on YouTube,” Glazier said.

Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app acquired by Facebook in April 2012 for approximately $1 billion, is another prime example of this. With its 137 million users and vast popularity among the “younger crowd,” eyecare practices can “change, transform, post and share” ordinary moments that happen within an eyecare practice’s walls, said Glazier.

And Pinterest, another social site that is particularly useful for sharing images, is referred to by Glazier as “a search engine of images” where people “see things they like and find things they didn’t know they were looking for”—a perfect place, it seems, to gain new followers, and thus, new patients.

Is Facebook Dead?

One of the questions Gerber inquired about, which has been on the minds of many business owners and personal account holders alike, is whether Facebook has the attention-grabbing power it promised in the past. With all of the newer, younger apps debuting on the digital stage and “fewer and fewer and people, [particularly] teens” using the veteran networking site, the prospects can be overwhelming.

He described Facebook as a “one trick pony” due to its general sharing capabilities and comparatively less useful mobile applications, but believes the future of Facebook will not fade any time soon. “It’s peaked and is on a downslope, but it’s still going to have a good audience,” Glazier said of the site, and pointed out some new tools that have emerged on Facebook over the past year that are worthy of ECPs’ attention, like Story Bump and Interests lists.

“Story Bump” allows status updates that are getting more engagement or “likes” to remain in followers’ News Feed longer, or get “bumped,” so browsers won’t miss a successful story posted by a practice earlier in the day, and “Interests” lists give users the opportunity to identify companies or pages they like and have Facebook recommend related content.

The Power Hour concluded with a basic but important piece of advice Glazier gives his listeners and followers, which he refers to in his book as Glazier’s Rule.

“People often ask me, ‘how do you do the social media thing?’ The bottom line is you have to create interesting content. Write blogs, write tweets, create videos, put articles up on your website. Put content out there and share it. You can never create too much content, as long as your content has more value to your audience than to you.”

Social Tips for Shy Eyecare Professionals

In the Jan. 15 Power Hour session, Alan Glazier, OD pointed out a timeless truth: “If you’re not a social person in real life, unless you find an internet alter ego, you’re probably not going to be social online.” Another option for those shying away from Facebook is LinkedIn, the professional networking site which has started to become, in Glazier’s words, “more of a social network than a fancy Rolodex.”

“Business pages are on the rise for LinkedIn,” he said. “People who aren’t on Facebook because they’re uncomfortable using it… can use [LinkedIn] because it’s more professional. Everyone is on there, even if they don’t use it.”

Alan Glazier, OD.  
Post-specific tagging functions, notes, reminders and a “skills” section are some features the site has recently introduced that allow professionals to “be more B2B,” he said. Glazier again turned Power Hour listeners’ attentions to Google: “Getting endorsements [on LinkedIn] shows people and Google what you’re an expert in.”

An additional concern facing ODs, Glazier pointed out, is how ODs can use Twitter to benefit their practice’s visibility.

“Twitter is a great way to gather information […] and different opinions quickly,” Glazier said. From “the people that give information to the people that make you laugh,” the status updating site is useful for eyecare professionals.

“Create content that has more value to the people you’re talking to than to yourself or your business. When you give away your valuable knowledge that way, people appreciate it.” Beyond the 140-character tweet, another venue that has the potential to boost eyecare professionals’ social media status is blogging, which, Glazier said, can be used in accordance with other social sites.

“Start a blog. Write a two paragraph article on anything. You’re a professional, an expert…If you like what you see, write another. It’s an online diary of information. Then you can flip a switch and make it live once you’re comfortable with it.” When a blog is ready to be shared, Glazier said, it can be mentioned on Twitter and other sites, thus starting an interaction and, ultimately, marketing for your practice. “Spread your knowledge around and make people think about you and think about getting eyecare,” he said. “You don’t have to be everywhere. You need a place to create content and a place to share it, and if you have those two things, you’re doing better than most people out there.” ■