Ditch the Sales Pitch: Social Media as the Gallery Wall

One of my favorite experiences is walking into a new gallery opening to view a collection of art. Especially one in which a rich context is given for the work being viewed — one in which you can trace a little golden thread weaved throughout the conceptual space. Those ideas will follow you when you leave, provoking thought and conversation days and weeks afterwards. Recently some of my favorite gallery spaces have been online — on social media.

I subscribe to the model of social media as a platform for content curation — a gallery wall on which to hang relevant and related information to inspire curiosity and build connections. This certainly isn’t the only viable use for social media, but I think it is a powerful idea that is being underutilized. And I feel strongly that a sales pitch doesn’t belong on social media, so I’d love to suggest an alternative. The big trend right now is content creation, but content curation should be just as important to your business strategy. This is particularly true of platforms like Twitter and Pinterest. The limited character count and space isn’t particularly well suited to original content, but is most powerful when you offer short insight into what a reader will find on the other end of a link. In that sense, there is a little bit of creation involved in the process as well–you’ll have to create a framework for your audience to interpret the information you are sharing for it to be truly valuable. The idea of curation as authorship is worth exploring further — and for that I‘ll point you to Maria Popova’s thoughts on the matter.

Content curation is valuable to all parties involved. Your audience will be grateful that you’ve taken the time to wade through the massive amount of information available to find the most pertinent and intriguing content that meets their interests and needs. Do a good job of curating and you’ll build trust among your audience and develop credibility within your industry, all while developing a rich community. That should be a sufficient number of buzzwords to grab your attention. Remember, the key is to provide some context for why the information you are collecting and sharing is valuable. If you can’t draw any insight from it yourself, you‘re throwing it out there for everyone else will only contribute to the clutter.

Here are a few simple tactics to help jumpstart your curation career:

  1. Only share information that you find valuable yourself.
  2. Offer some brief but insightful context for the information.
  3. Be sure to attribute information properly.
  4. Don’t collect everything! Make sure the information is pertinent to your audience. Be focused and filter out the garbage.

Risky Business: A Social Media Warning Label

In a virtual world where social media puts customers on the same plane as CEOs, branding can get pretty interactive — which is helpful when there’s a whole community of supporters behind your cause and your brand. The approach can work one of two ways:

  1. Start a following and count on customer feedback to organically spread your brand or,
  2. Regulate feedback into positive (but predictable) channels.

Here’s how it looks:

A ridiculous request

One hotel hit the virtual jackpot when a story shared by one of its customers went viral. When a guest booked a room using an online form, he jokingly requested that the hotel staff place three red M&Ms on the counter and a photo of bacon on the bed. The hotel fulfilled his ridiculous request, much to his amusement and surprise. The photos he posted of their customer service went viral, giving the hotel national coverage.

Customer voices matter more with a social media megaphone

The gamble? Social networks have just as much volatile potential as they do a positive one (remember the national outcry when Twinkies went away?). Recently, a national coffee chain saw an outcry from customers about its rewards program policies. When certain members started seeing emails about losing points, they took to Twitter with 140-character complaints. Surrounded by immediate responses, these customers expected open communication from their favorite brand. When they began to distrust their store, unhappy customers sent up virtual warning flares for all of their followers to see.

Unhappy customers sent up virtual warning flares for all of their followers to see.

Instead of trying to let their winnings ride, some organizations have intentionally shaped their social connectivity to enhance positive feedback channels from users. Individual companies or collaborative apps give users the option to favorite or share what they see and like—and then make a purchase almost instantly. Shoppers happily spend their time and money without thinking about the virtual apparatus they use. As a result, shopping becomes social as shoppers interact and browse each others’ virtual closets.

A small worthwhile risk

Happy customers and bigger followers happen when high customer service standards work with a virtual experience that focuses on positive feedback. It’s a gamble worth testing out.

3 Web Metrics Doctors Should Be Watching More Closely

We work with doctors and health care practices around the country, and there are a couple basic metrics most clinics don’t watch closely enough. If they did, it would change the way they built their site and the type of content they shared. Here are 3 metrics doctors and administrators should be watching more closely:

1. Mobile Device Usage

Like every industry, I think health care understands that more people are using their site via mobile devices than ever before. In reality, our experience is that nearly 1 in 4 visits is now mobile. That’s a lot of mobile visitors, and the number grows every year. This number is startling because so few doctors in the ophthalmology/optometry space have responsive websites that work well with mobile devices. Ask your web provider what your mobile device percentage is, and take a look at your website on a phone or tablet. If, like many doctors, you are getting 25% mobile visitors and your site is impossible to use with a mobile device, you are creating a poor experience for a bunch of current or prospective patients. It might be time for a web redesign.

2. Keyword Search

Your web analytic report can tell you the exact words people search to find you. If you need a quick and easy place to start understanding your market and what people think of you, this is where you look. Some people spend $10,000 on a “market study,” and they can be helpful. But start with your keyword list and see what words people type when they end up choosing your link. You might find that people are choosing you for reasons other than you think.

3. Top 5-10 Pages

Again, not rocket science — You should know the top pages on your site. These are the pages people are natively drawn to, the ones they send to friends to read, the ones they bookmark for future reference. These pages are working for you, and if you understand why, you can improve your overall site. Perhaps the content is great, perhaps the menu option or link is compelling, or perhaps a tool you include is helpful. Figure it out. If you combine keyword search with a look at your top five pages, you’ll have a nice start to updating your web strategy in a way that gets results.

Social Graces: 9 Keys to Using Social Media in a Practice Setting

Social media has changed the landscape of the Internet, and it has changed the way in which many industries conduct business. Health care is no different. Increased connectivity and peer-generated education have made it more important than ever for practices to expand their expertise into new mediums to help patients achieve their best possible outcomes. In the modern world, this means learning an entirely new approach to patients’ education, marketing, industry interactions, and management of the practice’s word-of-mouth messages. At the heart of this new challenge lies social media. This article is designed to help you get started using this tool effectively at the practice level.

Key No. 1: Understand What Social Media Really Means

When many people think of social media, they think of Facebook. Although it certainly is a great and important example, Facebook does not define the medium. A working definition of social media that helps create action at a practice level is as follows: social media is the ability of people to connect in ways that were never possible before and to share stories and content that create conversation and define their experiences. There are a couple key points here. First, social media enables people (your patients) who would never meet in real life to talk to each other about you. It connects people in meaningful ways, ways that were not possible just 10 years ago. This means that your patients may come into your practice with a knowledge of the industry—and you—that they could never have had without these new tools. Some of the information patients receive may be false and may make your job more difficult. Second, social media allows people to share stories and create a collective experience. In other words, Internet users are beginning to define businesses without the influence of traditional marketing. They are sharing stories that will define you. This obviously matters greatly to your practice.

Key No. 2: Be Authentic

Many people believe that, because they have created social media outlets, qualified leads will follow. Remember, most social networks were not created for conducting business. Simply having a Facebook fan page is akin to a guy in a suit and tie sitting in a corner at a fraternity party. He makes people uncomfortable. He is not there to party, and worse, everybody knows it. Make your postings relevant, real, and maybe even unpolished.

Key No. 3: Commit Time and Resources

As you jump into the work of implementing social media at the practice level, it is vital to remember that social media is social. It takes time and commitment to foster results in the social arena, just as it takes time in real life to create and nurture family relationships and friendships. There are no shortcuts, so plan on dedicating at a minimum 8 to 12 hours a week to your social media endeavors. Larger clinics may have staff members manage their social sites, but understand that a doctor’s presence within social media adds great value and will be crucial to your practice’s long-term success. For starters, commit one or two staff members to dedicate 2 to 3 hours each week to managing your social media and expand from there.

Key No. 4: Get a Plan

You have set aside the time to manage social media. What next? Many practitioners think to themselves, “I have a personal Facebook page. I will just create one for my practice and run it the same way.” This approach can produce very negative results. As in real life, social media relationships are not all the same, so you need to know why you are conducting specific activities online. For example, do you want to generate new leads? Run a promotional contest. Do you want to educate people? Write a blog, use Twitter to share interesting articles with your patients, or create a YouTube channel with educational videos.

What are you trying to accomplish by incorporating social media into your practice’s marketing plan? Make sure your social media plan clearly and succinctly answers this question.

Key No. 5: Understand the Tools

You have set aside the time, and you have a plan. What tools do you want to use? As discussed in Key No. 1, social media is much more than Facebook. If you want to blog, hundreds of tools are available, each offering different features and benefits. There are dozens of networking sites, hundreds of platforms for contests and promotions, and perhaps five or six good sites for sharing video; the list grows daily. Get to know the tools available and choose the ones that best fit your goals. (Because there are too many tools to explain here, jump to Key No. 8 if you are overwhelmed.)

Key No. 6: Implement Your Plan Across the Practice (Not Just on the Internet!)

At the practice that I manage, our Web sites exist as a static place on the Internet, where they function like an ad in cyberspace. People visit the sites, read some of the information, and then call (one hopes). Social media is vastly different. A major reason to invest time in social media is that you wish to be active in the conversations about you that are taking place on the Web. Right now, someone may be posting a review of you or your practice on Yelp or Google Reviews. Do you know what he or she is saying? You should. If someone says something negative, you want to be able to respond. If someone gives you a rave review, you want to thank him or her. If someone offers great feedback, you want to take it to your team and implement the change.

This is the point at which social media intersects with real life, and you and your team must approach every day knowing that each patient could be reviewing you right now. Social media presents an opportunity for you to ask your best patients to offer positive reviews about your practice across your social channels. Remember, your patients are telling your story; you no longer have control of the message. Getting your team to turn real-life interactions into social interactions is important.

Key No. 7: Learn to Measure

How do you know your social media efforts are working? I hope you are already asking this of your traditional marketing; social media is much trickier. Do numerous Facebook “fans” or individuals’ “liking” your practice mean you are a success? If your videos have been viewed 5,000 times, are your patients better educated? What do you do with bad reviews? What do you do with good reviews? Learning to measure your results and change course to achieve your goals is vital to any marketing effort but especially social media. A major reason is that, with social media, you are dealing with real people rather than print ads. You need to have a plan, commit the time, know what you want people to do, stay on message, and keep moving forward to be successful.

Key No. 8: Practice and Experiment

One of the best parts of social media is that you can practice your engagement with people and experiment with new tools relatively cheaply. Our practice decided to run a Facebook contest. We got it up and running, ran the contest, gathered results, measured our outcomes, and moved forward—all in 45 days. When you try new things, you learn. When you learn, you get better. You practice surgery, experiment with new lenses and tools, talk with colleagues, perform research, and gather new skills as a doctor. You will need that same innovative attitude for social media. One size does not fit all, so you will need to find the approach that works best for you.

Key No. 9: Get Help

You are not a social media expert. If you do not want to waste your time and resources, get some help. Find someone on your staff who can head up a social media initiative for your practice. Ask your marketing team’s members if they can create a robust plan, study the tools, and take action. Alternatively, partner with a new team to move forward with social media.

Conclusion

Across the Internet, conversations are taking place about LASIK, about cataracts, and about you. Many of these conversations do not include doctors, members of your staff, or anyone who will guide the discussants to your doorstep. If you follow the nine keys presented herein, you will be able to join the social media conversation with confidence and meet your goals: driving new patients to your practice, educating them, encouraging them, connecting them, and celebrating their stories.

 


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.