By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Personally, I don’t care too much about the ebb and flow of popular culture. The box office records, number one singles, and reality show drama just don’t hold my interest. However, when selecting social media content for my practice, I do want to know what is popular so that I can drive traffic to my office online, and ultimately, patients to my practice. There are a number of tools I use to know what is popular. I’ll look at the Twitter trending list, use Google trends, or take note of what people are talking about on Facebook or Google+.
You may have seen some recent buzz about “Google Glasses,” officially called Project Glass by Google. While they have not been released yet, Google has created interest (and questions) by releasing intriguing pictures and video. I was considering posting something about Google Glasses, when I discovered a blog post written by Brett M. Paepke, OD, of FirstView Eye Care of Plattsburg, NY. I didn’t know Dr. Paepke personally, but was very impressed at the effectiveness of his blog post. So, since we are talking about “social” media, I reached out to him to find out more about more about his blog. He estimates he spends three hours per week handling all of the social media for FirstView Eye Care.
Whether you, someone on your staff or an outside company administers your practice’s social media, you should be familiar with social media best practices for creating content. This, combined with web traffic data, will allow you to improve the engagement over time. Dr. Paepka’s blog post demonstrates many of these best practices.
Here are some practices for social content creation:
1. Select an engaging topic. Dr. Paepka says that he uses patient questions, interesting cases in the practice, ophthalmic news, journal articles and interactions on Twitter and Quora, an online question-and-answer site, to select topics for the blog. The choice of Google Glasses is good because it combines general interest in a very current, high-tech phenomena with optometric expertise. Not only is the blog post likely to receive traffic from web searches on the topic of “Google Glasses,” but it allows Dr. Paepka to demonstrate both his understanding of vision and concern for the well-being of his patients.
2. Social Integration. One thing that grabbed my attention right away was that this blog post was a response to a question on Quora. This is smart because it signals to the reader that FirstView Eyecare is forward thinking. It also is a good move because a presence on Quora increases his practice web site’s search engine optimization. In addition to the blog Quora, Dr. Paepka says that FirstView Eye Care is active in Facebook and Twitter. From personal interaction on these sites, I can attest that he uses these skillfully.
3. Use images and video. We know that people are much more likely to spend time on a blog post if it appeals to them visually. Dr. Paekpa’s choice of both a high quality image of the intriguing Google Glasses and the concept video is much more likely to engage a reader than straight text. Both of these are easily embed-able in any blogging platform.
4. Keep it short, but not too short. You will notice that Dr. Paepka’s blog post is not a lengthy sermon. It is concise and hits his main points about the importance of optometric care. However, if a blog post is too short (less than 250 words) search engines will not assign it as high a priority. This post is wisely just over 300 words–enough to be found, but not so many that it will annoy patients.
5. Relatable tone. One of the facets of social media is that it has the ability to “humanize” you. This doesn’t mean that you have be unprofessional or share personal information, just that you can share your thoughts in a way that indicates that you care about your patients and your profession. Dr. Paepka makes this clear, right down to the smiley face at the end.
6. Web site integration. Ideally, a blog is perfectly nestled within the web site, just as FirstView Eye Care’s blog is. There is consistency at the top of the blog for information and the practice and appointment requests. The site has recently been optimized for mobile devices and a portal for patient use has been added.
At the end of the day, what all optometrists want to know about social media is whether or not it is effective. FirstView Eyecare has gotten a very good response from its over 1,000 fans on Facebook and is working toward increasing patient interaction. Dr. Paepka assesses social effectiveness primarily using the web site analytics.
I asked Dr. Paepka what else he’d like to share with optometrists about social media. I thought that his answer was excellent and wanted to end this blog post by quoting it in its entirety. It provides an excellent rationale for utilizing social media in your practice. It is not that you have to be social for your practice to survive, but it can help you in some of your practice goals:
“There seems to be a decent amount of misunderstanding regarding the value and purpose of social media in healthcare practices. While explaining their lack of involvement, I see and hear many providers say, ‘People don’t care what their doctor Tweets about’ or ‘I’d never go to a doctor because of their Facebook page,’ and I think this is the wrong way to look at social media. I think it’s more about creating top-of-the-mind brand awareness and interacting with people. Facebook, for example, is a much more powerful version of the old word-of-mouth referral; instead of that happy patient only being able to rave about you to someone they are actively talking to, that experience can now be broadcast to hundreds of their friends. A person may never go on Facebook to consciously search for a healthcare provider in their area. But if they recall your brand and possibly recall that their friend had a good experience, you’ve got a competitive advantage over everyone else in your community.”
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 currently immediate 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: Doc@BrightEyesTampa.com.