Social media savvy is critical for practicing optometry in today’s digital world. Optometrists may expertly provide myopia control, treat ocular surface disease, or manage glaucoma, but how will eye care professionals who are not well-established be able to demonstrate their expertise and expand their patient base? In this first installment of Optometry Advisor’s Best Management Practices series, Sherene Vazhappilly, OD, of the Cincinnati Vision Group, outlines promotional strategies for building a brand in the age of social media.
An optometry practice must maintain a strong internet presence that reflects their brand’s values and goals — for most patients, an online persona sets the tone and supplements the in-person experience. The virtual experience can invite or deter potential patients from seeking services or purchasing ophthalmic goods. Researchers estimate that 74% of people use social media in their purchasing decision, and that number is likely to grow.1
But simply launching an Instagram account and hoping for it to take off is bound to be an exercise in futility. Social media savvy practice managers cannot maximize their visibility on hope alone. They must learn to tame the algorithms, keep up with shifting trends in online marketing and promotional strategies, and develop a playbook for managing ratings and reviews. Organizing these tasks is the first step. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Develop A Unique Selling Proposition
There are a few promotional techniques to consider when building an optometry brand, and they may vary depending on the type of brand a clinician decides to build. Multi-doctor practices, small 1-doctor practices, and corporate entities all involve different brand-building strategies. But regardless of the type of practice, some of the basics of building a brand still apply. You must:
- Define the brand
- Identify your intended target audience
- Build a brand identity
- Differentiate the practice from competitors.
Accomplishing these may require some trial and error. Defining the brand and identifying your target audience can happen behind the scenes, in a conversation with partners, managers, or clinicians. But building a brand identity that sets you apart from other practices will be forward-facing and require the creation of logos and taglines, selection of colors and typography for the website, and conducting extensive market research to show your targeted audience that you understand their needs and their interests.2 Consider what appeals to these ideal patients, and find a way to offer it that separates you from your competitors. This is known as a unique selling proposition, and it should ideally reflect the brand’s niche or area of expertise — does the practice specialize in dry eye treatment? Do the optometrists promote holistic health and wellness? Does the dispensary sell high-end, luxury frames?3 An abundance of marketing tools and software may allow social media savvy clinicians with a knack for marketing to create this social media in house, but skilled marketing teams can also provide a refined and hassle-free experience for those less inclined toward digital media.
When promoting a new or existing optometry brand or practice, there are a few strategies to implement from the onset. First, practice managers must create a business page on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Business and maintain a streamlined and cohesive presence. Doing so will ensure patients find accurate and up-to-date information during a Google search. A well-designed and user-friendly website will result in fewer phone calls, while simultaneously allowing more patients to find the practice and access care. The ideal site will free up staff for other essential duties.
Site landing pages must also include answers to frequently asked questions, such as how to book an appointment, insurances accepted, doctors’ fees, and areas of clinical specialty. This will not only save time for both the practice and the patient, but allow for rapid conversion once the site has answered patients’ lingering questions. Pricing transparency is particularly crucial, given the distrust many patients have expressed toward third party payors.4
Be Prepared to Constantly Reassess
Maintaining the site and monitoring for areas of improvement are crucial for allowing patients, and potential patients, to enjoy a hassle-free experience and positively promote the brand. Practice managers must seek feedback from patients and other colleagues regarding website navigability, presentation, and usefulness, and identify areas that need improvement. Repeated and substantiated complaints from users will require adjustments.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertising can also increase online traffic and pique interest among patients who may not have found a practice otherwise. Social media sites are developing tools to help practices reach an ideal audience on their platform, and practice managers can leverage this benefit to their advantage. Facebook, for example, allows practices to identify a core audience and target potential patients based on age, location, and other factors.5 Using these networks builds your social media savvy and can help you reach your targeted population.
Consider Reviewers’ Points of View
Patients will likely have something to say about a practice, and it is important that reviews, both positive and negative, are available for other patients to view. Although only 1 poor review has the power to negatively affect a practice, it is important to permit some to demonstrate legitimacy; after all, it is highly unlikely for a practice that sees hundreds or thousands of patients per year to satisfy every single individual. However, patients may be more inclined to notice negative reviews that repeat a similar concern. When a patient voices a valid and legitimate concern on social media, the practice manager must address it to the best of their ability — a practice may not be judged strictly on its ability to satisfy patients, but on its ability to right wrongs and overcome adversity.
Practice owners and managers must not be afraid to ask for reviews, especially when the patient has expressed appreciation, support, or loyalty to the brand. Their review of the brand will bring other individuals who align with a practice’s philosophy and are looking for a similar product or experience to the webpage.
Promote Events and Sales to Followers
Practices that are social media savvy will use various platforms to offer special promotions and sales. This can interest new customers, build brand loyalty, and keep returning customers interested. Patient to patient referral discounts, special frame sales or trunk shows, or social events with raffles and prizes are all optometry practice-building strategies that may be promoted with social media. Practice managers, or designated associates, can take time to capture candid photos of individuals enjoying in-person events sponsored by the practice, as these may be reused for website content and to promote future events.
While it is important to show patients enjoying or benefiting from their experience, practices must display valuable, organic, and original content on their social media sites. Stock photographs of models that do not reflect the real-world experience of a product or service should be avoided. Video and photo content is a useful and easy way to educate current patients, attract new ones, and increase traffic to an online space.
Partner With An Influencer
Practice owners and managers can find new audiences by partnering with social media savvy influencers. Finding local influencers that align with an optometry brand and audience and collaborating with these individuals can help clinicians reach potential patients and draw attention to their practice. Inviting these trusted people of influence to experience an eye exam or select frames at the dispensary firsthand, while documenting the experience through videos or photos, will give patients an overview of the practice, highlight the different eye care services available, and promote any optical goods the practice may offer.
A variety of content is necessary to bring different audiences to a practice webpage, and it can vary depending on medium. Facebook and Instagram may be the best platforms for a combination of photos and short video content. Tiktok is exclusively intended for short videos, but YouTube allows for longer and more educational video content. Sales, promotions and events can be advertised on Facebook, Instagram, Google business profiles, and the practice’s website.
Don’t Abandon Conventional Promotion
While building and maintaining a strong social media presence are crucial for a practice’s survival, more traditional forms of promotion should not be discounted. Email lists, physical newsletters, and word of mouth are all valuable ways of promoting a business that cannot be underestimated. When used in conjunction with targeted social media strategies, these tried and true methods of advertising can elevate a brand’s credibility, enable patient retention, and increase patient volume.
Using a combination of creative effort, consistency, and a mix of organic and paid content can help to build an optometry brand in the age of social media. The way patients communicate, obtain information, and use technology is changing rapidly, and practice owners and managers must keep up with the times — or pay someone to do it for them — or risk losing patients. Practice owners who are well-established and anticipate retirement in the near future may not need to demonstrate social media savvy, but for everyone else, social media is no longer a convenient tool for promoting a practice — it is an essential part of an optometry practice’s survival, akin to phoropters and slit lamps.
- Social media for optometrists: 10 eye-opening ideas + tips. Web FX. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.webfx.com/industries/health/optometrist/social-media/#
- A comprehensive guide to marketing and branding for optometry practices: an introduction to marketing and branding for optometry offices. The Branded Agency. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://www.brandedagency.com/blog/optometry-marketing-branding
- Duncan Z. Five tips for building a better practice brand. 4OpticalPrism. Published August 1, 2021. Accessed April 12, 2023. https://opticalprism.ca/five-tips-for-building-a-better-practice-brand/
- Masterson L. Survey: trust in health insurance plans dips to all-time low. Healthcare Dive. Published September 25, 2017. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/survey-trust-in-health-insurance-plans-dips-to-all-time-low/505767/
- Greaney G. Why social media marketing is essential for your optometry practice. imatrix. Published May 7, 2021. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://imatrix.com/blog/optometry-social-media-marketing/