Too busy to handle your social media marketing? Or just not sure what to post or how to effectively engage your audience through social networking? This week we spoke with Jim Shumate, founder of OD Social Net – a social networking agency that works with optometric practices.
New Media OD: Tell us about your company, OD Social Net, and what type of services you provide.
Jim: We think that physicians of all types need help marketing their practices. Social Net is starting with Optometrists and has plans to reach dentists and other specialties. I have over 20 years of eye care marketing plus small business coaching and was a partner in a software development and web marketing firm. So starting with Optometrists is a natural.
We take a holistic approach to solving the marketing riddle for a practice. It is important to identify your target audience and build a plan around connecting with them. If the physician lacks providers, then we supply staff training, web marketing, and social networking as needed. We have a great new service for building online reviews that we are very excited about bringing to Optometry.
New Media OD: From a marketing perspective, what type of posts typically elicits the greatest response from previous or potential patients?
Jim: My view is that social networking status posts are best handled by the individual Optometrist and his or her staff if they are trained and have time. It’s that personal touch that makes the connection just like in face to face networking. That being said, having a core of valuable posts provided by your social networking agency gives you consistent visibility augmenting your personal posts. An agency is also great at building the followers and providing special effects such as slideshows, infographics, banners, and other extras.
New Media OD: With so many social network platforms, what sites should an OD definitely be on and why?
Jim: Choosing strategies and networking platforms depends upon your goals. Certainly for Optometrists, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest represent logical choices. Each has a different demographic of followers. Visuals and personal contact are the strengths of Facebook and every Optometrist should have a Facebook business fan page. Twitter lets you reach people at a much faster pace and reaches a different audience. Pinterest lets people see what your interests are and is a great place to park eye related information for their reference.
Google+, Foursquare and LinkedIn are second tier platforms but each does have a value. It really is all about time and money.
New Media OD: Discuss some ways social media can be integrated into other marketing channels, such as email, website or even direct mail.
Jim: Good question.
Web marketing and social media are attraction strategies and build your brand so that people will want to contact you. Websites should clearly communicate your brand and engage the reader. Having your social networking buttons on it is important. Most Optometrist websites don’t do a very good job of grabbing local searches for eyeglasses which is a fixable problem.
Email is an excellent tool for building your Facebook fans from your current patient base. Email and direct mail tend to push a message so I like to call them attacking strategies. Both are valuable in maintaining relationships with older patients who may not be digitally savvy. They should carry the branding and image developed for the website.
Author: Steve Vargo, O.D., M.B.A. frequently writes and lectures on using technology and digital media for marketing eye care practices. He also practices optometry in St. John, In., where he lives with his wife and 2 sons.