Like it or loathe it, social media is now a hugely important part of customer interaction, for brands and opticians alike.
When a consumer decides that they require a sight test or some new glasses, the first thing they do is jump online and search for something – practice or frame – that tickles their fancy.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – each serve a slightly different purpose, but they are all essential tools that should be combined with your business’ website in order to attract and encourage consumers through your door.
All too often I hear phrases such as: “Social media has nothing to do with optics,” or “It’s a waste of time.” There’s also: “I don’t understand it,” and “It takes too long when I could be doing other things.” No excuses please.
There are no two ways about it. Practices need to be communicating regularly, consistently and effectively on social media because that is where your customers are. Customers will no longer discover an opticians because they walked past your practice. Today they find you on Instagram, for example, and from the images they see, decide whether they want to visit your practice or Specsavers.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a regular presence...so that your name and the unique reasons for why potential customers should visit you are constantly visible"
How to use social media
You should start by thinking about who you want to target. Once a target audience has been identified, you can then begin to think about what content will interest them and where they will be looking to consume this content.
If you attract their attention online, they will probably visit your website to find out more about what products and services you offer, so make sure that your website is up to date, attractive and gives the correct information – it does not need to be all bells and whistles.
Many opticians worry about content. What are you going to say on Facebook and what pictures do you put up on Instagram are both common concerns.
I think that’s easy – you have a store full of frames and patients coming in and buying spectacles and sunglasses, so take some pictures and share them on social media. Failing that, all of the frame brands that you carry should have stock photographs available of their collections that you can use, so essentially they can provide you with the content.
I can assure you that being active on social media does not need to take up a lot of your or a member of staff’s time. There are apps available, such as Hootsuite, where you can schedule posts ahead of time, allowing you to actually plan and schedule all of your posts. This also means that time could simply be allocated once a week, or even once a month, for social media activity.
It's fun, not frightening
Using social media channels may feel daunting at first, but once you start, it is easy and very enjoyable. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a regular presence, maybe once or twice a day on Facebook, the same on Instagram, so that your name and the unique reasons for why potential customers should visit you are constantly visible.
Above all, make sure that your communication has a recognisable ‘voice’ so that people equate your style with your store and that when they eventually come into practice, they feel like they know you.
And, if you really do not want to do it yourself, there are plenty of companies and individuals who will handle your social media effectively for you. It does not need to be expensive, and the rewards are very quickly evident.
Have fun. Social media was designed to be enjoyed.