Social Media

Social Media Meet-Ups: Share Education and Fun–In Person

By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD

Typically I use my Review of Optometric Business blog to cover such topics as how to improve office productivity, market the practice and efficiently stay informed on optometric topics. All of those are extremely important, but let’s face it: sometimes you need a little fun and to blow off steam with friends.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend that combines both education and fun: the meet-up. Over the last several years, social media meet-ups have become a fixture at major optometry meetings. The concept is simple: People who know and share information online make a point of getting together in person. It is really that simple. Typically these meet-ups are sponsored by companies who find useful the exposure and chance to talk with doctors.

Left to right: Alan Glazier, OD, founder of ODs on Facebook, John Warren, OD, of RevolutionEHR and Cindy Braden, also of RevolutionEHR at the recent ODs on Facebook Social Media Meetup.

At the recent American Optometric Association meeting, Alan Glazier, OD, held the “ODs on Facebook” Social Media Meetup. It was sponsored by Marco and RevolutionEHR. Dr. Glazier and I are no strangers to holding meet-ups. I previously organized one in 2010 at the AOA meeting in Orlando, and Dr. Glazier has organized several successful meet-ups at Vision Expo East and West.
Why attend a meet-up? There are lots of reasons:

People you know – At every meet-up I attend, I talk to people I have known online for years, but have never met in person. This is fantastic because we have a lot to talk about, and it strengthens our online relationships.

People you don’t (yet) know – By definition, people who come to meet-ups are social. And they love to meet people with similar interests. You will come away from any meet-up with connections to a cadre of optometrists.
Free drinks and food – Just like in college, events with free beer and something to eat attract more attention. So take advantage of them! Whichever your preference, it will make the time and conversation more interesting.
Get questions answered – Have you been thinking about making a change to the practice? Want to improve your online marketing efforts? Meet-ups attract people who are knowledgeable about many aspects of optometry and they’ll be interested in talking to you about your questions.

Chris Sarakaitis of Marco and Mary Lou French, OD, of Children’s Eyecare in Orland Park, Ill, at the recent ODs on Facebook Social Media Meetup.

Work with a sales rep – Don’t forget to show some love to the companies that are footing the bill by sponsoring the event. Quite likely they offer a service or product that you are

interested in. The relaxed environment allows for longer, more real-world conversation than is always possible on the showroom floor. Take advantage of it!

Hatch a new plan! – The combined forces of online and offline friends in a comfortable environment are unstable. That mix often inspires attendees to brainstorm and shake things up. It is likely that during the meet-up you and your buddies will come up with a new way to do things. This could be as small as a change in your office script, or as large as a new business venture.
Undoubtedly, as online communication becomes more important, meet-ups will continue to grow. These will become standard events at all major meetings.

Since you are reading this, you are definitely the right kind of person to attend a meet-up. Fortunately, Dr. Glazier is working on the next one at Vision Expo West at the Palazzo. The time and date have yet to be established, but join ODs on Facebook for the details.

Do you meet-up with online connections in person from time to time? If so, how and where do you meet? If not, why not?

Want to Hold Your own Meet-Up?

? See if anyone else you are connected to online is planning a social media meet-up. If so, join forces, don’t compete.

? Establish who your primary audience is, such as ODs on Facebook or another group.

? Decide on a platform to use for invites and RSVP, such as Facebook or

? Contact potential sponsors to cover meeting space, food, drinks, etc.

? Consider a theme or event to interest people.

? Set the time and place. Try not to conflict with other popular activities your group may be interested in.

? Promote. Promote. Promote. Then promote more. People can’t go to an event they don’t know about.

? Have a good time at the event and don’t stress about details like attendance and food. Just make sure everyone has a good time.

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD,of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Fla., is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. He is a member of the American Optometric Association, and is past president of the Hillsborough Society of Optometry, as well as chair of the Children’s Vision Committee of the Florida Optometric Association. To contact him:

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