That thing the kids are talking about these days… It could help bring your practice patients and additional revenue.

You’ve probably heard about one of these social networking websites in the media: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace. Those are just three of dozens of social networking and information sharing websites on the Internet today.  So, should you and your practice “plug in” to these social networks?

This is a great time for optometric practices to ride the wave of social networking.  Joining most social networks is free, and provides you exposure to thousands of people in your local community and beyond.  In essence, you can begin to market your practice and its services online – via social networking – for no cost.  Beyond marketing, it’s important to communicate the value you and your practice provide through your services and in the community.  So, how do you communicate value using this type of technology?

Practices can use social networking to announce new frame lines or the importance of lens technologies. Have you added Emilio Pucci or Fendi to your frame collection?  This would be a great opportunity to post a “tweet” on Twitter.  Or, educate your patients and potential new customers on the importance of UV protection and children’s eyewear via Facebook.  These are just a few examples to help promote your practice on social networking.

Social networking will bring you patients and referrals with little to moderate effort.  If you’re looking to get started with social networking, I highly recommend this guide I found from Transitions that shows you how to get your practice on Facebook.

Is your practice already immersed in the social networking world? Leave us a comment and share advice or tips for those looking to dip their toe into the water.

Good luck and happy Social Networking!

10 Responses

  1. Matt N.

    How do you think electronic medical records or personal health records can leverage or capitalize or collaborate with social networking or marketing?

    • Dr. Hom,

      Thanks for your continued participation in this topic!

      EMR and Social Networking can come together nicely when marketing your practice. Here are a few key marketing messages to convey via social networking:

      1) Less Paper – More Green! – “Our practice utilizes Electronic Medical Records software to minimize paper files and documents.

      2) Accuracy with Prescriptions – “Our practice is completely committed to providing quality care. By using electronic medical records and ePrescribing your medical prescriptions arrive at your pharmacy 100% legible.”

      3) Safety in Prescribing-“We are concerned about your safety. When creating prescription orders in our electronic medical records system, the doctor receives alerts about potential harmful interactions and drug allergies.

      4) Instant Patient History – “Within a few moments of accessing your electronic medical records, our doctor(s) can quickly see a history of your eye health, review previous eye issues, and move forward to diagnose any new troubles with your eyes.”

      5) Instant Patient Communication-“Thanks to our new electronic medical record system, we do not have to spend time looking for your chart when you contact us.”

      By using social media to connect with a wide demographic, and incorporating EMR, it shows to the public you are “keeping up with the Jones’ ” regarding technology. This goes to add another level of credibility to your practice and services. This is critical to make your practice stand out amongst the others in your immediate area.

      • Matt N.

        Interesting statement here “…By using social media to connect with a wide demographic, and incorporating EMR, it shows to the public you are “keeping up with the Jones’ ” regarding technology….”

        How do doctors use social media confidently, safely, and within HIPAA requirements?

      • Dr. Hom,

        This is a very good question as well. HIPAA is a very sensitive issue.

        One example I can reference are Eyefinity’s eWeb Extra websites. These websites, or any optometric practice’s other website, should include a basic HIPAA privacy policy link and document on their website. This complies with HIPAA requirements. As for the use of social media, I would suggest putting a similar statement on a Facebook page (this could be included under the “Info” tab). Twitter only allows 140 characters in their tweets. To reduce your risk to violate HIPAA, ensure key individuals have the “authority” to update social media pages that represent your practice. These individuals should be familiar with HIPAA and not share patient information over social networking outlets.

        Simply mentioning you incorporate technology inside and outside your practice is critical to establishing your brand and credibility as a cutting-edge optometric practice.

    • Matt N.

      Thanks for that reply.

      Additionally, I hear about the stability and integrity of operational issues and business policies of some of the more prominent social networking companies. What is your opinion of how reliable these avenues are in pursuing a social networking philosophy? In other words, if for some reason a doctor doesn’t like Facebook or some other venue, how should the doctor respond? Quit it altogether or regroup?

      • Regroup and try something else – don’t quit. For instance, maybe a blog is not the right way to go for some doctors, as it can be time consuming to produce and update content on a regular basis. Instead, try something like Twitter, which acts as micro-bogging in 140 words or less. I would suggest adopting a policy of trial and error towards social media. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and then adjust. What’s important to remember there’s no harm in trying to broaden your marketing and communication endeavors. And, these social networks are free so the only cost to you and your practice is a little time.

        Dr. Hom – could you share what has worked and what hasn’t worked for you in the world of social networking?

      • Matt N.

        I’ve not used social networking for an optometric practice but for a consultation practice.

        Some of my clients have done so as I asked them to and they have had good (but not wild results). As we discussed before, social networking is just a part of the plan but not the sole plan for marketing for a practice.

        The primary method that has garnered a significant amount of revenue or prevent loss of revenue is confirmation of appointments by text messaging. Now that Google Voice and Yahoo SMS can both send text messages from your computer, this has simplifed the process significantly. Studies show that a reply is four times more likely with a text message than from a telephone call.

        Other methods work but they may take a bit longer to realize returns.

  2. This is a post is wonder nudge for some that wonder about this. On another venue, I asked this same question.

    I think before there is a headlong rush to social networking for practices, it might be prudent to see who is using twitter. Twitter released its own figures that just under 50% of all Twitter users are between the ages of 15-24. Only 8% of its users are over the age of 40.

    Like Twitter, Facebook is another venue for social network and is even more popular than Twitter with over 100 million users. Facebook reports that the fastest growing group of users are women of all ages.

    If doctors understand their own markets, then the social networking paradigm could well be their major marketing effort and can easily reduce the marketing budget significantly from traditional methods.

    In summary, I don’t think social networking can replace doctor marketing efforts. I think it’s complementary to personal contact/selling, in-office marketing through newsletters and email blasts and traditional advertising.

    • Dr. Hom,

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to read and respond to this post!

      You’ve provided valuable information regarding Twitter and Facebook demographics, as well as their number of users.

      I agree – traditional marketing efforts are effective. Today’s optometric practices must be willing to explore and learn about new, cutting-edge technologies that could augment their marketing efforts. Social media definitely complements, not replaces, “tried and true” marketing tactics.

      We look forward to your continued comments on future blog posts!

    • Along this line, ideopia.com, a rich medial ophthalmic industry advertising company is doing an online survey that any OD can access at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8TQJBJY . I know the folks there and they are good people.

      Disclaimer: I have no fiduciary interest in this.

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