2020 reflections: putting the ‘social’ in social media

The role of technology and social media in 2020 - and looking towards 2021

hands holding phones

This year, I can confidently confirm I have spent more time on my phone and laptop than any other year.

If there’s one thing we can be sure about, in a time of uncertainty, it is the role of technology. It has played a pivotal role in our personal and professional lives; without it 2020 would have looked very different.

I’m sure, like me, many of you are pining for more social and physical interactions, which technology can’t replace. Instead of focusing on the negatives - extended screen use, fake news or delving into the realm of ‘doomscrolling’.

I want to take a look at how technology, and more specifically social media, has made a positive impact on our lives and uplifted our spirits in 2020, and take a look at how your practice can utilise this in 2021.

If this year is anything to go by, many of us will be entering 2021 with a sense of anticipation or unease, but one thing you can be certain of is how social media and technology has connected us with one another and created a source for stability.

This year has proven social media has an important role to play within business marketing strategies, and even more so in healthcare, by communicating clear and concise health information.

In a Hootsuite article, How to Use Social Media in Healthcare: A Guide for Health Professionals, Christina Newberry comments on the challenges of social media in healthcare and says “many people turn to social media for information in times of crisis. But to engage with the public for the long term, you need to regularly provide valuable content that educates and informs.” In this article there are plenty of top tips for health professional, so it is well worth a look.

An example of this on OT’s social media platforms is the success of a video we created on how to safely wear face masks with glasses. This video gained high engagement and was also used as a part of a wider campaign by the AOP. We intended this content to be informative and provide a useful resource for practices and professionals. Could your practice share content similar to this in 2021? Find out how one practice did exactly that here. 

Since the start of the year, we have spoken to range of optometrists, optometry practices and optometry students about how they have used social media to connect with one another.

In April, we discussed the rise of social media usage during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown as the public searched for ways to connect with each other online.

Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care came up with an uplifting and creative solution, launching ‘Leightons Social’ on their social media platforms, with the intention to bring virtual activities to its communities whilst in lockdown.

Sue Dover, director of marketing for Leightons, told OT, “We created Leightons Social from a position of considering what the right thing to do would be. As a family-owned business we are fiercely proud of that, with those family values resonating throughout the business. This was just an extension of that.”

Ms Dover addresses an important issue about the honesty and integrity of their social media content. The content aligned with their practices values and reflected what their patients wanted, thus creating an authentic and valuable resource for patients.

This year, optometry students also utilised social media to unite with one another to celebrate the end of the academic year in 2020. Hosted by the Plymouth Optometry Society, OpSoc, they created an event called 06/06-20/20, as part of OPFEST, to mark to the end of the exam season and raise awareness for their local sight-loss charities.

Optometry student, Caroline Mansfield, explained: “This event gave the students something positive to take away from our time under lockdown and was a special way to celebrate the end of the year together, even though we were miles apart.”

If you thought social media is only for Gen Z, think again. The impact of social media is far reaching within all demographics. One study reported that nearly 90% of older adults have used social media to seek and share health information. Ensuring all your patients young and old are taken into a consideration is something to consider in your content for social media in 2021.

If you’re managing or working in a busy practice, social media may understandably not be top of your priority list. You might not be fully comfortable in this sphere yet, and that’s ok.

Earlier in the year we spoke to optometrist Faye McDearmid about her priorities. She highlighted: “My comfort with using social media has only grown since – and the impact might surprise you. Recently I published a post with advice for preventing foggy glasses while wearing facemasks, and the next thing I knew I was speaking on a local radio station alongside someone in the NHS.”

As a part of this OT feature, Faye also filmed a bespoke video series for OT’s social. Hopefully this demonstrates how a small idea can grow into something much bigger, in a positive way.

As we look towards 2021, it’s worth giving a thought to your practice’s positioning online and on social media. In such times, there are many ways you can highlight what you’ve been doing to connect with your patients in an uplifting and positive manner via social media.