Tips for getting started with social media

A successful social media programme is a valuable tool for building an ophthalmological practice.

Howard Larkin

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2017

Caroline Anderson

With more than 1.8 billion unique monthly users worldwide, if Facebook were a country it would be the largest in the world—and it’s growing by double digits every year. That creates big new opportunities for ophthalmologists to engage with patients and strengthen their practices, ESCRS Social Media Manager Caroline Anderson told the Practice Management and Development Workshop at the XXXIV Congress of the ESCRS in Copenhagen.
Social media is interaction among people in virtual communities and networks. Major channels include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Which one is best depends on what you want to do and who you want to reach, Ms Anderson noted.
Facebook is good for reaching new patients and engaging existing patients on a popular platform. It can generate referrals and helps establish a Web presence even for practices without a Website. Content doesn’t have to be exclusively about ophthalmology, but can be about current events, holidays or days of remembrance. It’s also a good place for positive patient comments.
YouTube has about one billion unique users monthly, and is a good place for patient education videos about your practice, procedures and new technologies. Videos need to be of reasonable quality so they are enjoyable and easy to watch, she said.
Twitter is one of the easiest social network to get up and running, and can increase practice visibility, allowing you to showcase the personality behind your brand, and generate traffic to your Web site that can generate referrals. It’s also useful for following professional and academic developments, Anderson noted. Ms Anderson linked to an article by anaesthesiologist Edward Mariano MD on using Twitter. He says he finds articles he misses in PubMed and other medical online search engines.
LinkedIn is the largest professional social network, and supports networking opportunities, news updates from companies and influencers, and is good for researching companies and individuals you may be considering working with, Anderson said.
Opening a Google+ account helps your practice get more traction on Google by placing your location on a map in search results. Google+ communities also can be helpful for reaching out to patients and advocacy groups.

A successful social media programme does take effort

Take your time and be careful
Anderson also shared tips for engaging patients on social media, including:
• Effective outreach requires time to create and maintain content. Take on only what you can handle.
• Know what content is sharable, maintain patient confidentiality.
• Determine appropriate social media channels, look at their unique attributes and environment, and how they fit with your goals.
• Brainstorm and develop how you can participate and create an engagement calendar.
• Respond to questions and comments immediately.
• For negative comments, don’t get into a fight and take the conversation offline.
• Incentivize – but don’t pay for – reviews. Many positive reviews outweigh a few negative reviews.
• Use photos and videos where possible – they increase engagement.
A successful social media programme does take effort, Anderson said. However, it can be a valuable tool for building a practice and staying on top of professional developments.

Caroline Anderson: