By Judith Lee
Reach into this online toolbox–where many tools are free–to increase your marketing power and save you and your staff time.
Social media is seen as a no- or low-cost way of marketing your practice’s optical goods and services to large numbers of present and potential patients. While that is true, ODsoften overlook a hidden factor: Time is the true cost of social media marketing. Someone (OD or staff) has to put in the time to maintain and update the multiple social media platforms on which you have pages or entries.
Here are 10 tools that can simplify the chore of consistently updating all of your social media platforms–and limit the time spent on this task to 15 to 20 minutes a day. These tools will allow you to consolidate your marketing messages. For example, you will be able to send out an update about a special event on four social media sites with one click. Most of these tools offer a free basic service (adequate for most practices), or you can select a paid upgraded service.
1. http://www.hootsuite.com – (FREE) With Hootsuite, you can post up to three social media accounts, or entries, at one time; in just one click, I post to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There’s a built-in shortener, which saves a trip to bit.ly (see below). You can schedule your messages ahead of time, perfect for a busy practice that is posting useful eyecare information. Just assemble your info, divide it into posts, schedule it for posting through the next day, week or even month.
2. http://www.nutshellmail.com – (FREE) This free tool plops the social media (SM) “happenings” right into your e-mail inbox. Nutshellmail goes to your SM accounts, picks up the posts, and delivers them to you in an e-mail digest, as many times as you’d like each day. For instance, I get my Nutshellmail every day at 11 am. It’s easy to scan the posts, and reply or re-tweet right from Nutshellmail.
3. http://www.tweetdeck.com – (FREE) Tweetdeck turns your desktop or laptop into a real-time browser, connecting with contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google Buzz and more. You can post to multiple accounts, monitor and manage conversations, integrate with LinkedIn, view YouTube videos. This is an ideal tool for practices that are accelerating use of social media.
4. http://www.socialoomph.com – (FREE) This one is for “tweeps” who know that Twitter can be a huge time-drainer. The free version of this tool allows you to schedule tweets, track keywords, practice mentions and retweets (essential for building your following), shorten URLs, and save and reuse drafts. The paid version offers auto-follow and auto-direct message, also a boon to follower-building.
5. http://marketmesuite.com – (FEE) This tool isn’t free, but it’s affordable. For $5.99 a month or $34.99 a year, you get a dashboard of controls for multiple users that organizes social media: schedule posts on Twitter and Facebook, monitor your accounts and mentions, auto-respond and block Twitter spam. Intriguing to practices is the geo-locate feature to target Twitter users in your area, making it easier to geographically target messaging.
6. http://argylesocial.com – (FEE) This tool is for practices with an advanced social media program active in more than “the big three” social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). The fees start at $149 a month, which enables management of 10 social media accounts, all in the same place, and users can see what the others are doing. For a large social media program, this investment could avert confusion and/or embarrassment.
7. http://www.Timely.is – (FREE) A great way to schedule tweets, this free tool reminds you when your queue is empty. Choose how many times a day you want to be tweeting, and Timely.is will keep you on track. The tool even offers some “sage sayings” to tweet if you run out of tweet-fodder.
8. http://www.Twilert.com – (FREE) Enter your keywords (your name, practice name, common eyewear/eyecare terms). When those terms are tweeted by anyone, the posts are collected in a digest and delivered to your e-mail inbox. I have my Twilerts delivered once a day, but you can receive them more often. Saves time spent on monitoring the social media sites you have accounts with.
9. http://www.cotweet.com – (FREE) This is a handy tool for managing multiple Twitter accounts (personal, one for the practice, one for your optical, etc.). Manage up to six Twitter accounts for free, and invite other users as well–a simple way to ramp up Twitter action to market your practice.
10. http://www.bit.ly – (FREE) Used to shorten URLs before including them in posts, bit.ly also has a tracking feature that counts the click-throughs on bit.ly URLs. If you are measuring social media, this is a great addition to your metrics, as it allows you to see how many people clicked on the link to your practice’s web site.
Social Media Marketing | LinkedIn
This is the largest and most active social media group on LinkedIn.com with over 195,000 members and 20 special interest subgroups. You can use this resource to learn strategies for better marketing your practice via social media.
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Judith Lee is a social media marketing and communications specialist with 20+ years covering health care. You can follow her on Twitter, connect on Facebook, and on LinkedIn. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org.