Be sure to create separate personal accounts to guard your privacy outside the office.
Agustin L. Gonzalez
If you start listening in on a party conversation you will soon hear
about Facebook this, Twitter that and online reviews. For you, as for many
small businesses, social media has become the preferred way to inexpensively
allow your patients to interact with you and your office.
The magic of social media is that it can connect you with patients and
prospects, whether you are looking to find new patients or looking to motivate
and engage your existing ones. All of this activity causes people to notice
your office, but what is the best way to interact?
You may know the names, but it is especially important to know the
basics about which social media networks are which and what is particularly
noteworthy about them. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the top three social
media outlets with which you should be familiar and where your office should
have a presence. Each of these has unique features and services that will help
you and your office establish an online reputation and presence.
If you do not have an account on these three major social media
networks, you should consider registering. Even if you do not have immediate
plans to use any of the networks, signing on will help make sure you reserve
your company’s name in case you decide to use the sites in the future.
A word to the wise: Most social media experts recommended that you keep
your professional and personal online presence separate. This allows the
privacy to share family photos and other personal things with just the people
you have chosen and “friended” or “follow.” This will also
allow your customers to see only things that relate to your office.
Facebook is by far the world’s largest social online network. With
more than 750 million registered users globally, it exceeds the population of
the U.S. by about 400 million. Facebook’s uniqueness is not limited to the
amount of subscribers, it is multimedia-friendly; Facebook members interact
with each other by using text posts, pictures, audio and video.
Facebook is simple and straightforward to use. Users sign up for an
account, and other users make a connection with your account by
“friending” you. In other words, when people who know you find you or
your office on Facebook, they then request to be your friend, a process known
as friending. As the request is accepted, both of you then have access to view
each other’s profile information, status updates, photos, text and such.
Privacy settings allow you to control and limit who can see what information in
The most important social aspect for your office is “groups”
and fan pages. Groups is a way to allow like-minded people to join together and
share information through a public message board system. Fan Pages work
differently by allowing a business to set up an information hub that other
users can become “fans” of. It is easy to search for a business: you
would do this just as you search for a friend on Facebook, and simply rather
than friending you would “like” them, giving them a vote of
Anyone with a Facebook account can build a Fan Page. You do not have to
be a rock star or an actress to have fans on Facebook. Most importantly, you do
not have to be accepted to be a fan.
These pages have become the preferred method for individuals and
organizations as well as micro and global businesses to reach Facebook users.
It is easy to use this format to quickly share information and educate your
fans on your business. If you are a Facebook user, you should also set up a Fan
Page as soon as possible, if only to keep your company’s name reserved for
Twitter is one of the simplest-to-use platforms and fastest growing
social media networks. With an estimated 400 million users with global reach,
the uniqueness of Twitter is that, unlike Facebook, the account follower/friend
relationship is not a two-way relationship. In other words, you do not have to
wait for someone to approve your follow request and vice versa.
Twitter users are limited to messages of 140 characters or less. These
messages can include status updates, pictures and online webpage links to other
media sites. Unlike Facebook, your “tweets” are viewable by anyone,
including those not following your account. Even non-Twitter users can still
For instance, my Twitter account is
www.twitter.com/odphysician (@odphysician is my Twitter
“handle”). Even if you do not have an account, you can use that link
to see all of my updates. Messages can be further disseminated to other users
not in your network of followers by a “retweet” or a sharing
capability by those who do follow you.
When you follow someone on Twitter, you will be able to see any status
updates, comments and notes in real time. Be careful, as having a lot of
followers can often create a bit of “noise,” especially if those
people you follow are frequent users.
Twitter also allows the ability to search for updates by a certain term
or phrase. This search capability spans the entire public
“Twitter-sphere” and, thus, is not limited to being found by your
followers. This search is done by the use of “hashtags.” You can
attach a hashtag to your message so that it can be viewed by others outside of
your network. I suggest searching #eyetips as an example of the use of hashtags
in Twitter by eye doctors.
LinkedIn is the third of the big three with approximately 100 million
users. LinkedIn is a more professional social network. Individual users’
profiles showcase the equivalent to an online resume or curriculum vitae. Like
Facebook, connections are based on friendship and working relationships and are
established among confirmed users. The site allows for you to see the
relationship you have with other users in a tier system.
Just like you would have a personal profile, offices, businesses and
organizations often have profile pages that outline the who, what and where of
their operations. The two biggest benefits of LinkedIn are the community area
and the questions areas.
LinkedIn is driven by interaction according to areas of expertise. Many
LinkedIn users are willing to share and help with advice or by answering
questions in their area of expertise. Using this site can help establish you
and your office as experts in a subject field.
Social media can play a major role in establishing your brand and
reputation. The best way to describe social media is to think of it as
interactive Yellow Pages. Your office pro?le on these sites can help boost
awareness about your office, as you can share pertinent information about your
services and yourself. Additionally, your office activity and profile on social
media sites can be made public and indexed by search engines, thus creating one
more way to make sure you or your office surface as the answer when someone is
searching for an expert or a solution to their eye or vision problems.
For more information:
- Agustin L. Gonzalez, OD, is in private practice in Dallas and serves
as adjunct faculty at InterAmerican University. He can be reached at