Dawn Bearden, OD
Pembroke Pines and Sunrise, Fla.
generate new patients.
When Dawn Bearden, OD, found her practice dwindling, she sought guidance from James Burgin, a branding strategist she had worked with in the past. Together, they worked out asocial networking strategy that allowed her to market her practice on a tight budget. At the onset, Dr. Bearden didn’t even know what online social networking was, but after a tutorial with Burgin, she launched a blog and got onto Facebook. When Twitter became available, she created an account to alert followers to new blog postings and new YouTube videos of patient testimonials. Here is her path to practice revival through social media.
Two Facebook Accounts: Dr. Bearden originally launched two Facebook profiles, one for herself, and one for her practice, but found the one she launched for herself to have the most traction. She currently boasts around 600 friends on her personal profile page, and has about 100 fans on the page she created for her practice. Her patients, she guesses, are drawn to her personal profile more than her practice profile because her personal profile allows them a chance to get to know her in a way they aren’t able to during their office visits. They are able to see, for instance, that she is an accomplished photographer and has roots in New Jersey.
Monitor Wall Daily: Since her personal page is just that, personal, non-practice-related friends and acquaintances are on that page as well. The good part is many a patient has come to Bearden through a friend-of-a-friend who heard about her through a mutual connection on Facebook. The perilous part is she has to watch what appears on her Facebook bulletin board, or wall. Says Dr. Bearden: “I’m always conscious my patients are there.” She logs onto Facebook on a daily basis, scanning her wall, and other content, to ensure nothing offensive, such as an off-color joke, has been posted by a well-intentioned friend.
Strategize Personal vs. Professional: Figure out from the outset whether or not you want to blend the personal and the professional. After all, it’s not like you can de-friend your patients from your personal page if you change your mind.
Patients Can Pose Questions: Be careful with the content that appears on your wall, but use your wall as a communications tool. “I like to answer questions on my wall because it shows patients they can ask me a question and I will answer,” says Dr. Bearden. In addition to the wall, a key advantage of a Facebook page, she says, is the ability it gives friends to send her messages. Dr. Bearden says Facebook in-mail has eased communication with patients. “People will send me a private note saying their child is having an eye problem,” she explains. “They feel like they have a personal line to me.”
Local Breeds Loyalty: Build a Twitter following by becoming a follower of businesses in the cities you operate in. Their followers may note that you, too, are a local business, and choose to follow you, as well.
Dollars and Cents of Social Network Marketing
Dr. Bearden, who used to advertise occasionally in local coupon booklets, now only markets through online social networks. “I got no return on investment with those,” she says of money spent on conventional advertising such as the coupon booklets. “With Facebook and Twitter, you’re more recognizable. One time, I was sitting at the front desk, and a lady came up to me and said, ‘You’re the doctor from the Internet.’ They feel like they know you before they ever meet you.”
That’s added up to quantifiable gains. Dr. Bearden estimates that, while coupon booklet advertising would cost her $100 to $500 per ad, and nab her “one or two patients, if I was lucky,” social networking provides her with four to six patients a month, “which is an infinite return on investment because social networking costs me nothing except my time!”
Dr. Bearden says her YouTube testimonial videos are a draw for patients. “My YouTube videos are all over the internet, so sometimes a patient will find my web site via a YouTube video and then make an online appointment on my website or blog,” she says. About 12-14 percent of her appointments are made online for her Sunrise practice; about 10 percent of her appointments are made online for her Pembroke Pines office. Social media is essential to creating an accessible presence online, she says: “Today, people go online to find everything. If you are not online, you are not going to get found, or they will find your competitor who does have a strong online presence and then go to them. My goal is to have a strong online presence and get found.Thatis what social media does for me.”
Dr. Bearden says the return on investment for social networking is as good as it gets. “Between my two offices, I probably make 100 percent return on my investment each month,” she says. “I invested money once, and it keeps generating more and more patients through the power of relationship-marketing and the Internet.”
Dr. Bearden’s social networking experiment was so successful, she and Burgin launched The Eyecare Edge, an online business to help optometrists grow their practices through social network marketing.
Dawn Bearden, OD, is a primary care optometrist with offices in Pembroke Pines and Sunrise, Fla. She lectures on practice promotion and social networking. To contact Dr. Bearden: firstname.lastname@example.org