By Dina Ammsso
April 12, 2012

When integrating social media into your practice, the main goal is to create familiarity. The way to keep patients coming to your practice's door is to create an environment which they understand or are familiar with. What is the best way to do this? Encouraging social media engagement with patients outside of the office! Whether your practice chooses to engage patients using Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, or Yahoo Local, social media engagement can be a rewarding experience for not only your practice, but for patients who need answers to their eye care questions and concerns.

Use As Many Relevant Social Media Platforms As You Can

Having an active engaging presence on multiple social media platforms puts your practice in a better position than a competing practice who is just on Facebook. Conversely, if your practice just has a presence on Facebook, a competing practice may gain a better online reputation. Since maintaining social media engagement on multiple platforms can be time consuming, you may want to use a social media dashboard. You can learn more about social media statistics and social media dashboards in our previous blog post here.

ROI Of Social Media

Wondering why social media is so important for creating visibility for your practice? Check out this Facebook page about the ROI Of Social Media. Use this information to create content that patients will find engaging. The news will spread and so will your practice's name for being a thought leader in your industry. It is a great way to provide key information for patients that they can pass along to their peers for FREE! For example, if you create a post about a sale or event at your practice, a patient that likes your page may view that content and even share it with others. Social media allows you to post content for and gain word of mouth referrals at no cost.

Let Patients Know About Your Social Media Presence

Creating postcards that you can leave at a point or purchase with your Facebook URL, Twitter handle, etc is a great way to get patients to learn more about you in the social media realm. Some practices create cards that say "Like Us On Facebook", "Follow Us On Twitter" along with promotional offers in order to give patients an incentive to be engaged. Make sure to train your staff to remind patients that you are on Yelp, Google Places, and Yahoo Local in order to allow them a chance to reflect on their experience while it is fresh on their minds. Just make sure that you and your staff are also trained to perform well with patient care so that the experience is a positive review.

Another great way to encourage positive reviews is to have a tablet like an iPad or Nook displayed at the front of your practice. The tablet can have shortcuts to your practice's Yelp, Google Places, or Yahoo profiles where patients can easily choose to review your practice. Having a tablet ready for patient reviews encourages them to leave you a review. Another option to generate reviews for your practice is to provide patients with an electronic receipt and have URLs to review sites on the receipt. Make sure to leave a note thanking patients for taking the time to review your practice and for their business.

Remember, the goal of social media engagement to not only boost your online reputation and SEO, but it is about sharing relevant content that patients care about. The purpose of those online reviews is to not only help your practice, but also a chance for patients to tell their peers about a great place to go for their eye care.

Start Some Polls

Use Poll Everywhere to engage with your patients. You can customize polls and return messages that can allow patients to give you feedback about your practice and also guide them to any of your social media assets or review pages.

Use QR Codes

QR Code stands for Quick Response Code. It allows for a type of bar code that can direct patients to your practice's website quickly and easily with a smartphone. There are many ways to distribute QR codes to patients. One option is to place a QR code in a display. For example, Maui Jim's display will provide consumers with a mysterious QR code. Where does that QR code take them? It takes the consumer to a promotional part of your practice's website that offers them insider deals on Maui Jim's brand in your practice. The catch for patients is that in order to redeem the deal, they have to "like" you on Facebook. This can be applied to any promotional deals that your practice offers.

Get Your Employees Engaged

It is important to train your staff to provide exemplary patient care. Give your staff incentives such as gift cards or prizes to help your practice engage patients. Ask your staff to provide weekly updates on ways they have contributed to your practice's social media engagement and track social media numbers every week to see how they are performing.

Social media engagement isn't just important, it is fun too. Remember to have fun and give patients content that you care about!