Article

RULES OF ONLINE ENGAGEMENT

These eight tips will make it easier for you to get your patients’ attention online.

Marketing can be one of the most challenging aspects of any company. Today, it isn’t sufficient to just provide excellent services, we also have to educate our consumers and promote our business. This also holds true when it comes to a private eyecare practice.

Fortunately, in this day and age, we have access to many different marketing avenues. We can engage our potential patients via direct mailing, television, radio, billboards, letter-writing campaigns—the list can go on and on. One extremely effective resource, which often goes untapped, is an effective online presence.

You would have a difficult time finding anyone who, in the last six months, hasn’t sent an email, performed an online search, or participated in some form of social media. But we shouldn’t rely solely on anecdotal data. Organizations that track these statistics state that there are more than 3.2 billion internet users in the world (International Telecommunications Union, 2005; 2010; 2014). In the United States, 78% of the population has at least one social media account (Statistica, 2017). WhatsApp, a very popular social platform, is just one application that sends more than 42 billion messages a day, 1.6 billion pictures a day, and more than 250 million videos a day (Ng, 2016).

So we know that nearly everyone is online, but how do we get their attention? Let’s be honest, your target audience does not log onto Instagram to learn about your contact lenses. They are online to hear about Aunt Susie losing her job or a celebrity’s recent scandal. For this to be successful, you have to find ways to shift them away from their current focus.

Can this be done? Yes! To get people to change their focus, you have to engage in something called “Distraction Marketing.” You need to effectively distract them from what they are looking at to get them to see what you have to offer. It can be difficult, especially in a crowded marketplace. However, when you have an effective plan, it can be done. Keep reading for tips on how to accomplish this.

DISTRACTION MARKETING 101

Just like any offline social interaction, getting someone’s attention has much to do with relationship building. You can’t just jump into a conversation and start talking about how wonderful you are; people need to learn a little about you first. Think about it this way: After a first date, 99.9% of people are not ready to get married; the same holds true for social media. The potential customers just “met you”; they are not going to purchase a $2,000 procedure when you just distracted them from Aunt Susie.

Developing online attention-grabbing techniques is something that has been studied extensively. Many experts agree that an effective sales campaign starts with developing a relationship with your audience. You have to engage with your audience first and then consider the sale second.

As eyecare professionals, how do we engage with our audience? By offering value. We have to give our audience a reason to want to listen. If we can provide some level of value, not only will they listen, but they will potentially come back for more.

The next few sections will outline specific ways to effectively engage your target audience by offering value. Each topic listed is accompanied by a third-party tool and an action item to help you get started.

  1. Create Visual Content
  2. Use a Blog
  3. Use Humor
  4. Share Industry Information
  5. Get Fans Involved
  6. Access Your Network
  7. Provide Social Proof
  8. Get Personal

1. CREATE VISUAL CONTENT

Social media is a visually-based platform with much competition for attention. If you can develop a way to create interesting/original content, you are well on your way to getting on people’s radar. The first tip is a great one for beginners and, for that reason, we are going to stay away from promoting anything eye-related.

Professional Tip Canva is an app that makes designing professional-looking images simple (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Use the Canva app to design professional-looking images.

Action Item Have your staff or family members come up with five to 10 inspirational quotes. Use Canva to add backgrounds and visuals to those quotes.

Relationship-Building Benefits Because you are not focusing on eyes, you are opening your target to a much larger audience. This method enables your current followers, such as friends, family, and maybe even a few patients, to become your sounding board. They see something they like, they share it with their network, and you begin to get recognized.

2. USE A BLOG

A blog is an informal place on your website that you constantly update with new material for your readers. Sending people to your blog is a great way of getting users off of social media platforms and onto your website. In the last tip, we were just trying to get people’s attention. When it comes to a blog, now we can start to show off our expertise.

Professional Tip Ripl is a design app that allows users to make animation graphics.

Action Item Poll your patients to find out what issues are important to them. This could be done using exit interviews or just informal conversations from the exam chair. Using the information you’ve collected, create 20 to 25 blog posts addressing the various issues. Then use Ripl to create infographics advertising those posts. Every few weeks, place your newly designed Ripl graphics on your Facebook page with links back to your blog article.

Relationship-Building Benefits This technique provides educational content to your followers. This type of education is very effective because we know that the content is relevant. Remember, this was created by polling the real concerns of your patients.

3. USE HUMOR

Everyone loves to laugh. The best part of humor is that it can also serve as an amazing teaching opportunity. When done correctly, audience members don’t even realize that they are being taught something or being exposed to marketing. This technique allows you to show the lighter side of your business while at the same time educating those looking at your products and services.

Professional Tip Meme generators allow users to use templates or custom pictures to make humorous images that are spread all over the internet (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Use a standard template or customize your own to create humorous memes.

Action Item Think about a few things around the office that are funny to you, your staff, and/or your patients. Remember that you are trying to get people’s attention, so take advantage of the opportunity to talk about your products and services.

Relationship-Building Benefits The effectiveness of entertaining your followers cannot be overlooked. If you can make people laugh, there is much more opportunity for them to remember you.

4. SHARE INDUSTRY INFORMATION

Whether talking about products, techniques, or legislation, our industry is constantly changing. When you take the opportunity to educate your patients on these adjustments, this makes your company look like you are on top of everything. While your intentions may be in the right place, it can be difficult to find time to constantly update your social media channels.

Professional Tip Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to schedule posts and monitor various social media platforms in one place.

Action Item This is going to take some time, so be patient with this tip. First, spend time collecting content. A great place to get ideas would be a company like AllAboutVision.com . This site covers everything eye-related from the perspective of patients. Spend a weekend laying out 80 to 100 posts. Then, use Hootsuite to schedule those posts out every three to four days. This will give you a year’s worth of content in a weekend.

Relationship-Building Benefits This method takes educating your followers a step further. Not only are you being considered a thought leader and content curator, but you are consistent with your updates. Your followers will appreciate and begin to respect the fact that you are constantly keeping them “in the know.”

5. GET FANS INVOLVED

Nearly everyone wants to feel connected to something. When you can create that opportunity with your practice, this can go a long way toward obtaining real fans of your company. Some effective ways of doing this include featuring people and their stories on your social media platforms, offering gifts or prizes, asking trivia questions, singling out a fan of the week, and using “fill-in the blank” posts.

Professional Tip SurveyMonkey is an online platform that allows users to post customizable surveys on their social media platforms.

Action Item Think of a really simple question to poll. While this platform will help you tabulate and work through the data collected, this could also just be used as a platform to purely create some interest. The more people participate, the more people will be exposed to your brand. Post your question and responses to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Relationship-Building Benefits When you open your audience to surveys, they feel like they are directly involved in the decision-making process of your office. This can give patients a small sense of “ownership” in the practice, which will go a long way.

6. ACCESS YOUR NETWORK

When you are first starting out with social media, it is likely that you don’t have a large following. Because so many people use these platforms, it is quite possible that you know someone who does. Do you have a friend or family member who has a large following? Leverage his or her network for your marketing efforts.

Professional Tip Facebook Live is an application within Facebook that allows you to host live video broadcasts.

Action Item Find someone in your network who has a sizeable following. Once you have someone in mind, schedule a time for him or her to do an office walk through. Depending on the person’s level of influence, offer him or her something for his or her time. It could be as small as lunch, or you could offer sunglasses, contact lenses, or even some sort of in-office procedure.

Relationship-Building Benefits This method is a great way of connecting your followers to people to whom they may not ordinarily have access. This will be the case especially if you are able to attract someone famous or a local celebrity. This also has a way of increasing your own credibility as they realize that the celebrity trusts you with his or her eyes.

7. PROVIDE SOCIAL PROOF

Your potential patients want to hear about you, but a recommendation holds much more weight when it comes from an unaffiliated party. This is the reason why sites such as Yelp, Zoc Doc, and Healthgrades are so successful. People feel like they can trust the information provided from people who have already done business with you. Unfortunately, those platforms do not allow you to control the content that is posted. For this reason, it’s great to create your own social proof site.

Professional Tip YouTube is a free video sharing website.

Action Item Create a YouTube channel for your testimonials. You can start off by having family and friends talk about how much they like your services. Videos should be no more than one to two minutes in length. Provide links to these videos in your emails, posts, or other marketing tools. Note: Be sure to obtain written permission from the person providing the testimonial.

Relationship-Building Benefits This method gives your patients access to unfiltered reviews. These reviews will help them better understand your business from another perspective.

8. GET PERSONAL

The best way to develop a relationship with people online or offline is to make a personal connection with them. This can be accomplished quite easily between you and your patients. Pull the curtain back and let your patients see more of you than your practice. Occasionally, share something about your life, your family, your pet, etc. Fans respond well to personal posts.

Professional Tip Instagram is a free image/video sharing application (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Share an Instagram image to show your patients the “human side” of your practice.

Action Item Create snapshots about what goes on around the office. A good place to start is during the celebration of staff birthdays, lunchtime at the office, or participation in community events.

Relationship-Building Benefits Allowing your viewers to see the “human side” of the office creates a special bond between you and your patients.

IT’S TIME TO GET STARTED

While you may not use every tip to kick off your social media presence, taking some of these steps will have considerable influence on current and potential patients. They will get to know and like you, and you will tap into networks that you didn’t even consider. All of which will grow your practice. Good luck! CLS

For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references and click on document #257.