Social media: steps to success
How to harness the power of online communities within optical practice
08 April 2022
Everyone working in optical practice knows the power of word-of-mouth. Whether it is a parent who recommends the practice to their coffee group or an elderly patient who praises thoughtful service at a festive gathering, reputations are built on recommendations.
However, in the digital age practices need to consider online interactions as well as in-person conversations.
OT talks with experts about how to harness the potential of social media to foster engagement with existing patients and reach new audiences.
“Social media is a very powerful tool for telling the story of your practice, and to communicate with your patients and community,” she shared.
As well as reminding existing patients of the practice between appointments, social media can be used to showcase new services and products.
Social media is a very powerful tool for telling the story of your practice
Brown shared that a successful social media strategy is built on contributions from every member of the practice team.
For example, front of house staff might hear great feedback that can be shared on social channels, dispensing opticians could capture photographs of customers collecting new glasses while optometrists can share relevant clinical insight for social media posts.
For those starting out on social media, Brown recommends picking one platform and focusing on this.
“Think of your target market and do some research into which platform they’re most likely to be on,” she shared.
In terms of pitfalls to avoid, Brown cautions practices from posting generic content and relying too much on resharing posts.
“It’s great to support other businesses and groups, and it can be tempting to reshare good content all the time but make sure you create as much of your own content as possible,” she said.
Head of omnichannel at Hakim Group, David Barker, shared that there has been a “seismic shift” in how people and brands interact in recent years.
“An active social presence can be a key element in building authentic connections with your existing audience, reaching new people, and ultimately building advocacy for your practice,” he emphasised.
“There are often hidden skillsets in a practice team, from writing to photography, so using those different abilities is a great way to create better social media content,” he said.
Barker highlighted that people gravitate towards social accounts that feel authentic.
“Practise getting your tone just right. Whether it’s casual and funny or formal and friendly, find a voice that can show who you are. Audiences want to see real people behind your social profiles,” he observed.
Practices should avoid focusing on quantity over quality in their social accounts.
An active social presence can be a key element in building authentic connections
Barker shared that consistency on social media is “far more important” than volume.
“If one or two posts a week is what you can handle, just make sure you are doing that consistently, and that what you create is of the best quality possible,” he advised.
Planning and scheduling posts can help practices to maintain consistency.
Barker also emphasised the importance of listening to a practice’s audience, noting that social media is designed to be a two-way conversation.
Conversations around a practice’s products and services can provide insight into what people are looking for, which can then shape the business’ communication strategy.
Yvette’s top tips
- Prepare as much as possible. Use a content calendar and always organise your content in advance
- People like people. Feature your team and your patients, as this is what people will connect with most
- Create video content. Video content gets the most engagement, so create your own. It can be as simple as just using your smart phone and while speaking on camera isn’t for everyone, the more you do it the better it will become.
David’s top tips
- Focus on a few key messages. Your social media profiles are often your first contact with a possible new patient so make sure that you are consistently calling out the things that make you distinct
- Be specific and intentional. Make conscious decisions about who you are trying to communicate with as an audience. The content you create then needs to reflect that speak to that target audience effectively. It’s great to grow a large following, but if that audience isn’t relevant to your practice then it’s likely not going to be very beneficial
- Learn about paid advertising on social. According to Hootsuite, the average organic reach for a Facebook post is 5.2%, meaning “only 5% of your followers may ever see your posts if you don’t put any paid budget behind them.” So, while having good social profiles works well to communicate to people actively searching for you, if you want to reach wider, more targeted audiences it would be good to consider paid options.
Staying safe on social
Head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP, Henry Leonard, shares his advice for avoiding the legal pitfalls of social media.
Practice staff should remember that anonymity is difficult to maintain on social media, and be mindful of how comments made in a personal capacity could reflect on the organisation.
To keep people engaged, it’s important to monitor and make use of the practice’s social media channels regularly, but try to keep communications focused and professional, and don’t post content just for the sake of it. If you don’t have much time to devote to social media, it may be better to focus on a small number of social media channels, rather than posting items infrequently on a wider range of channels.
When posting about a topic which can be controversial, such as blue light blocking lenses, myopia control or coloured filters for visual stress, ensure you’re familiar with current sector guidance on these topics.
If the practice receives a complaint or a negative review, the practice owner should respond promptly by asking the individual to contact the practice so their concerns can be addressed. Organisations which post reasonable responses to negative reviews are often viewed in a positive light by potential customers, but it is extremely important to avoid commenting publicly on any concerns raised, or disclosing any personal information relating to the complainant. If you’re not sure how to respond to a negative comment, contact [email protected] for advice.