Use social media as a marketing tool for your practice

Adding a social media aspect to your marketing approach may be a necessity for continued growth in today's technology-savvy world.

Patient referrals have always been an integral part of any eye clinic’s marketing program. Traditionally, these referrals might have come about while chatting at a social gathering or on the phone with a trusted friend. Now, however, social networks are the places where these interactions take place.

The average person spends 6.9 hours per month on social networking sites, and 56% of Americans have a social media profile. According to Constant Contact’s 2011 Small Business Attitudes and Outlook Survey, 73% of small businesses and organizations have started using social media marketing, and 62% of those not using it expect to start marketing through social media within the next 12 months.

If practices want to stay vibrant and continue growing, they have to be current not just with medical techniques and treatments, but also with everything in the realm of running a business. This includes using practice management software and electronic medical records, as well as engaging in social media for marketing purposes. Matossian Eye Associates has developed multiple channels of social media and Internet presence that are increasingly mentioned as the point of referral for new patients.

Creating a social media presence

Our first step was adding a blog to our website. Each of the 12 doctors, as well as the senior management and technician teams, take turns writing two blogs per week. They have freedom to choose whatever topic they feel is relevant in a very broad sense, and a grid is kept to track all of the previous blog topics. For the most part, these blogs are used to educate patients and the public on all facets of the eye. Supplemental blogs are written to cover special events within the practice.

Cynthia Matossian, MD

Cynthia Matossian

Additionally, we have established accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn to reach out to current and potential patients, disseminate news and direct more traffic to our website. The status updates focus on upcoming Matossian Eye Associates screenings and fairs, awards won by our doctors, publications and presentations made by our physicians, and patient testimonials.

Press releases are housed on our website, and links are shared through our social media channels. We also use Quick Response codes on newsletters and promotions for anyone who has a smartphone. Finally, we use hashtags to categorize topics for search engines, making it easier for anyone who may be searching something general, such as cataract or glaucoma, to find us.

Our Internet presence is also heavily linked to our patient education program. We use the Echo program (Eyemaginations) to share 3-D animations to educate patients on disease processes and empower them to make more informed decisions. The graphic presentations help them visualize which part of the eye is being discussed, allowing them to better understand the warning signs of various ocular diseases and respond appropriately if necessary.

Topic-appropriate videos are emailed to our patients following their visit and can also be shared via social media profiles. In 2012 we sent out 1,739 videos, 578 (33.2%) of which were viewed by patients. Over the same time period, we posted 14 videos on Twitter, which translated into 202 views. Six videos were posted on Facebook, and these were viewed 212 times and shared 48 times. All of the educational videos, whether emailed to a patient or shared via social media, can be forwarded by viewers. Each time the video is forwarded, it is tagged that it originated with our practice. We make sure that all of our blog posts and status updates can easily be shared so that we reach the largest audience possible while maintaining an identifier for our practice.

Impact on our practice

The first time patients visit our practice, the intake form asks them how they were directed to our offices. As our social media campaign has increased, we have seen a steady increase in patients indicating that they found us through this channel. When speaking with patients, they more frequently report that they were recommended by a friend or family member, then searched for Matossian Eye Associates on the Internet and finally made an appointment because they were impressed with our online presence.

In the past, the verbal recommendation would have been sufficient. Today, there is a middle step, and it is necessary to make a favorable impression if you want the patient. We have also seen an increase in younger patients, who use social media almost exclusively.

Our online presence increases our visibility and name recognition but also lends us a certain amount of prestige. Our social media campaign has been instrumental in demonstrating that we are a cutting-edge practice that is up-to-date with all technology and in spreading that reputation beyond our current patient base. We always try to direct traffic back to our website, where visitors can view videos of our physicians, as well as patient education materials. They can see the services we offer and our level of expertise and determine whether we can help them effectively.

We now have a part-time staff person who spends 16 to 20 hours per week managing our Internet and social media presence, and we feel that the benefits of this work more than merit the salary involved. Social media is relatively inexpensive compared to more traditional forms of marketing and advertising. Additionally, it allows us to provide public health messages while observing professional boundaries and maintaining patient privacy.

Getting started

It may seem daunting to hire someone and engage in so many different venues from the get-go. My advice is to start a little at a time, and do not make the staff investment immediately. Get physicians on board to write blog posts, and take advantage of information already written, such as EyeSmart and “Topics of the Month,” generated by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. These are accurate and interesting educational posts that have already been prepared, making it easy for you to share the information and credit the original source. One staff person can allocate a few hours each week to start, or you can outsource this aspect of your marketing.

The days of hardcover dictionaries and searching through phone books are long gone, and practices that cannot stay current will have difficulty surviving. Social media is the means by which people connect and share information, and it is vital that your practice is not left out of the party.

References:
This is how much time you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. Mashable. http://mashable.com/2012/11/28/social-media-time/. Posted Nov. 28, 2012. Accessed March 4, 2013.
Spring 2011 attitudes and outlook survey. Constant Contact. http://www.constantcontact.com/small-business-week/survey.jsp. Accessed Feb. 28, 2013
For more information:
Cynthia Matossian, MD, can be reached at Matossian Eye Associates; email: cmatossian@matossianeye.com.
Disclosure: Matossian is the founder, owner and ophthalmologist for Matossian Eye Associates.

Patient referrals have always been an integral part of any eye clinic’s marketing program. Traditionally, these referrals might have come about while chatting at a social gathering or on the phone with a trusted friend. Now, however, social networks are the places where these interactions take place.

The average person spends 6.9 hours per month on social networking sites, and 56% of Americans have a social media profile. According to Constant Contact’s 2011 Small Business Attitudes and Outlook Survey, 73% of small businesses and organizations have started using social media marketing, and 62% of those not using it expect to start marketing through social media within the next 12 months.

If practices want to stay vibrant and continue growing, they have to be current not just with medical techniques and treatments, but also with everything in the realm of running a business. This includes using practice management software and electronic medical records, as well as engaging in social media for marketing purposes. Matossian Eye Associates has developed multiple channels of social media and Internet presence that are increasingly mentioned as the point of referral for new patients.

Creating a social media presence

Our first step was adding a blog to our website. Each of the 12 doctors, as well as the senior management and technician teams, take turns writing two blogs per week. They have freedom to choose whatever topic they feel is relevant in a very broad sense, and a grid is kept to track all of the previous blog topics. For the most part, these blogs are used to educate patients and the public on all facets of the eye. Supplemental blogs are written to cover special events within the practice.

Cynthia Matossian, MD

Cynthia Matossian

Additionally, we have established accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn to reach out to current and potential patients, disseminate news and direct more traffic to our website. The status updates focus on upcoming Matossian Eye Associates screenings and fairs, awards won by our doctors, publications and presentations made by our physicians, and patient testimonials.

Press releases are housed on our website, and links are shared through our social media channels. We also use Quick Response codes on newsletters and promotions for anyone who has a smartphone. Finally, we use hashtags to categorize topics for search engines, making it easier for anyone who may be searching something general, such as cataract or glaucoma, to find us.

Our Internet presence is also heavily linked to our patient education program. We use the Echo program (Eyemaginations) to share 3-D animations to educate patients on disease processes and empower them to make more informed decisions. The graphic presentations help them visualize which part of the eye is being discussed, allowing them to better understand the warning signs of various ocular diseases and respond appropriately if necessary.

Topic-appropriate videos are emailed to our patients following their visit and can also be shared via social media profiles. In 2012 we sent out 1,739 videos, 578 (33.2%) of which were viewed by patients. Over the same time period, we posted 14 videos on Twitter, which translated into 202 views. Six videos were posted on Facebook, and these were viewed 212 times and shared 48 times. All of the educational videos, whether emailed to a patient or shared via social media, can be forwarded by viewers. Each time the video is forwarded, it is tagged that it originated with our practice. We make sure that all of our blog posts and status updates can easily be shared so that we reach the largest audience possible while maintaining an identifier for our practice.

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Impact on our practice

The first time patients visit our practice, the intake form asks them how they were directed to our offices. As our social media campaign has increased, we have seen a steady increase in patients indicating that they found us through this channel. When speaking with patients, they more frequently report that they were recommended by a friend or family member, then searched for Matossian Eye Associates on the Internet and finally made an appointment because they were impressed with our online presence.

In the past, the verbal recommendation would have been sufficient. Today, there is a middle step, and it is necessary to make a favorable impression if you want the patient. We have also seen an increase in younger patients, who use social media almost exclusively.

Our online presence increases our visibility and name recognition but also lends us a certain amount of prestige. Our social media campaign has been instrumental in demonstrating that we are a cutting-edge practice that is up-to-date with all technology and in spreading that reputation beyond our current patient base. We always try to direct traffic back to our website, where visitors can view videos of our physicians, as well as patient education materials. They can see the services we offer and our level of expertise and determine whether we can help them effectively.

We now have a part-time staff person who spends 16 to 20 hours per week managing our Internet and social media presence, and we feel that the benefits of this work more than merit the salary involved. Social media is relatively inexpensive compared to more traditional forms of marketing and advertising. Additionally, it allows us to provide public health messages while observing professional boundaries and maintaining patient privacy.

Getting started

It may seem daunting to hire someone and engage in so many different venues from the get-go. My advice is to start a little at a time, and do not make the staff investment immediately. Get physicians on board to write blog posts, and take advantage of information already written, such as EyeSmart and “Topics of the Month,” generated by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. These are accurate and interesting educational posts that have already been prepared, making it easy for you to share the information and credit the original source. One staff person can allocate a few hours each week to start, or you can outsource this aspect of your marketing.

The days of hardcover dictionaries and searching through phone books are long gone, and practices that cannot stay current will have difficulty surviving. Social media is the means by which people connect and share information, and it is vital that your practice is not left out of the party.

References:
This is how much time you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. Mashable. http://mashable.com/2012/11/28/social-media-time/. Posted Nov. 28, 2012. Accessed March 4, 2013.
Spring 2011 attitudes and outlook survey. Constant Contact. http://www.constantcontact.com/small-business-week/survey.jsp. Accessed Feb. 28, 2013
For more information:
Cynthia Matossian, MD, can be reached at Matossian Eye Associates; email: cmatossian@matossianeye.com.
Disclosure: Matossian is the founder, owner and ophthalmologist for Matossian Eye Associates.