Social media marketing to benefit your practice

In a modern world fueled by technology and consumerism, social media has fast become a primary marketing tool for businesses of all sizes, across every industry. While the eyecare and optical sector has historically shown hesitancy in this space, the clear benefits have begun to sway practice marketing strategies – and for good reason.

April Petrusma.

Social media is no longer a simple networking platform. Applied correctly, it is one of the most effective communication and marketing tools for businesses, offering the ability to market to a wider demographic than ever before.

It’s a vital tool for all staff – including the optometrist, optical dispenser, practice manager and optical assistant – to be familiar with because all parties can contribute to the practice’s social media presence in different ways.

When considering social media, some might argue it isn’t the right tool for an optometry practice. This is often due to the mindset that not everyone who sees your posts will be looking for an optometrist or new glasses. But it’s not about the hard sell or the here and now.

Social media is a form of ‘push’ marketing and for our industry, it’s not intent-based but is all about consistency and timing. Yes, you might be displaying to people who don’t need your products or services at a given time, but if consistent enough, you’ll be the first in mind when they do need an eye test, new sunglasses or a frame update.

Social media isn’t simply about growing a social media presence or selling a product, it’s ultimately about brand awareness, increasing traffic to your website and keeping you connected with patients and the wider industry. It’s an opportunity to interact with people outside the confines of your practice walls. It can help new patients discover you, keep current patients engaged and, most importantly, grow your practice.

Tried and tested tips to maximize social media when marketing your practice:

• Visual content is a must. A striking image gains attention and is likely to engage twice as many people than a text-only post. If you have a knack for photography, you can use photos take on a smartphone. Alternatively, purchase stock images online or post professional brand assets provided by suppliers’ marketing departments.

• Social media for optometry practices is most effective when it’s interactive. Check your account regularly and swiftly respond to comments, messages or reviews. This works best if it can be factored into the day and delegated to a specific team member like the optical dispenser or practice manager.

• Share expert information relating to your expertise. You may think a post about eye health won’t appeal to everyone, but your audience will see you as an expert in your field and will likely think of you first when they need an optometrist. Simple things like sharing information about how to take care of your eyes, eating for eye health or how to select the right frame can go a long way.

• Showcase your products by regularly posting images of new frames. Short of a window display or a browser walking through the door, there are limited options to put products in front of people. Social media allows just that, and is an excellent way to inform existing and future patients of new stock. Don’t be overly salesy with your content. Remember, it’s more about educating and building authority. If every post is a ‘buy now’, you risk disengagement and a perception your posts are advertising and just another commodity.

• Ask questions to encourage people to interact and feel valued by sharing an opinion. While driving engagement, questions are an easy way to discover what people think, and act as a form of market research for your business. This could be as simple as showing a frame in two colors and asking which is preferred.

Social media marketing can be time consuming but – with a clear plan and strategy – can become one of the easiest and cheapest marketing tools for your practice. There are many apps you can download to help with timelining and post scheduling, so you don’t feel like a slave to your smartphone. Social media is here to stay and if you want your business to progress with the world around it, now is the time to evaluate your marketing strategies.

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