What Are Reasonable Expectations For Your Practice Facebook Page?

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NEW YORK—Average Facebook business pages have fewer than 500 fans and, due to recent changes in Facebook, their "reach" has decreased, creating more of a need for purchasing Facebook Ads.

But while Facebook is a critical part of your online marketing plan, many optical practice owners are discouraged by the results they see from these efforts. The problem is, many business owners don't have reasonable expectations of Facebook's efficacy in bringing in new business and don't really understand where its true value is found.

Here are a few areas where false expectations for social media can lead small business owners to have unfounded doubts about Facebook and some examples of what true success means.

Number of Fans
A recent study by Kissmetrics found that most businesses in the e-commerce industry have 500 or fewer fans on their Facebook pages. According to our experience at EyeCarePro, this statistic holds true in the optometric industry as well.

We tell doctors that ODs who expect to have 1,000 fans or more should lower their expectations, and focus on really engaging the fans they do have.

Don't get me wrong, it is possible to get to 1,000 fans but you have to invest a LOT of time and energy to get there and work hard to be the exception.

We have a few clients such as Sevigny Eye Care or Dr. James Bedsole Eye Care that break the rules and have succeeded in creating social communities that regularly interact and engage with their pages. Their secret is that they are constantly coming up with creative and entertaining ways to engage and create an office brand that is out there being social and fun. In addition to the social media efforts and campaigns we provide, they go above and beyond to produce additional content, posting photos and updating their fans, and you can see the fruits of these efforts. Both of these practices enjoy interacting and engaging their fans, and they do so for the sake of creating lasting relationships and establishing their name.

Most practices we work with don't have the resources to invest in this type of effort, yet many of them still have successful pages, with a smaller number of devoted and engaged fans. Again, the key to success is engagement and fun, regardless of the number of fans you have.

Reach
If you are noticing that your posts are reaching fewer fans, don't fire your SMO company. This is a widespread issue which Facebook is admitting to, conveniently offering Facebook Ads as the solution. According to a Facebook spokesman, the overall organic reach of Facebook posts from brands is in slow decline. "We're getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you're a business is to pay for it," he said.

In fact, Facebook is changing its whole tune about acquiring fans. What used to be a way to reach more people through free distribution (getting more fans) is now encouraged as a way to make your advertising more effective. Fans are still important but you can't guarantee you are going to reach them unless you create really engaging content and unfortunately it seems put a little money into getting your posts promoted to users through Facebook ads. You can read more about this trend in this AdAge article.

In our experience with clients, Facebook ads definitely do have an impact on user reach and the weight of that depends on how much your practice invests in the ads. We had two practices run a back to school campaign on Facebook that included an ad. One practice spent $50 and got 28 likes. The second practice spent $200 on the ad and got 106 new likes. According to our social media specialist, Sabina Fonseca, "Any practice that doesn't collect emails or have a patient communication tool should run Facebook ads to promote campaigns. In addition to that, Facebook ads are helpful simply because your posts get noticed more by people within the target range you establish."

We have another practice, McCormick Vision Source which is running a Facebook ad now. They have almost 500 fans. They're spending $5 a day, for a week and after four days have already gotten 40 new likes, with only $28 spent so far. The nice thing about Facebook ads is that you decide your budget and your target audience, so you can really pinpoint your efforts to be affordable and effective.

New Patients
Many ODs think that Facebook isn't having any impact on their bottom line because they don't often see a direct correlation between Facebook activity and a new patient in the door. The fact is, this is not what social media is really there to do. SMO's greatest strength is in nurturing trust with potential patients and promoting a brand as a leader in the industry. Its role is an important part earlier in the sales process, in the getting-to-know-you phase, the social aspect – not the sales aspect. In fact, another recent study by Custora which looked into direct online sales during the holiday season, found that social marketing was responsible for only 2 percent of direct online holiday retail sales (meaning users who bought directly from Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter posts).

What was significant in this study, however, was the increased traffic that social brought directly to the business website. Again, this shows that the impact of social media is often indirect, so you may not be able to correlate the user with the end sale, but there is no doubt that you are gaining exposure and trust along the way.

Search Engine Impact
Another indirect benefit from engaging social media is the search engine weight it carries which can boost your ranking on internet searches. Social, particularly Google+, is becoming a more and more important ranking signal for the search engine algorithms, and this increases with the amount of activity and engagement you create on your page.

Without recognizing the strengths and reality of how Facebook can impact your business, it is easy to brush it off as a fail if you aren't seeing direct results on revenue.

Nevertheless, the real impact that an interactive Facebook presence is having on your bottom line is in establishing your reputation and your relationships behind the scenes. Keep your goals not on numbers but on engagement because that is where the real social value lies.

 

Nancy Rausman is the managing editor of the EyeCarePro blog and Optometry Web Newsletter. She is responsible for providing ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies and digital marketing.