ORLANDO, Fla. — To truly understand the importance of social media to a company, one should first know the audience and what drives their social media habits, according to two speakers at the O&P World Congress.
Karen Lundquist, MBC, director of communications for Ottobock, and Linda Williams, MBA, director of consumer engagement for Ottobock, presented tips to create a successful social media presence. They acknowledged that social media engagement has grown more complicated during the past few years, while consumers have a growing variety of practice options to choose from, which has affected the decision making process.
“Things are speeding up. Every 60 seconds, 170 million emails are sent; every 60 seconds, there are 700,000 Google searches conducted; there are 500,000 Facebook posts,” Williams said.
Previously, patients may have only had one or two practice options to choose from, and often may have selected a practice recommended by their primary physician or surgeon.
“Maybe a surgeon would say ‘here is who you need to go see.’ And the patient did that, they didn’t consider anything else. Now there are so many different ways to gather information. First, they do a Google search, and that decision making process begins online. Maybe they are searching for prosthetists, or maybe the town and city they are living in. It could be pages of information and it can be overwhelming. People probably aren’t going to scroll down more than two pages of results. What will they find? Hopefully information that you have put out there, maybe your website or your Facebook page or your LinkedIn profile,” Williams said.
Potential patients may find not only the information a company has posted online, but also links to other sources in which the company is mentioned.
“They are going to find information that other people have put out about you,” Williams said. “Maybe you are part of the Amputee Coalition referral network. Maybe a patient has a blog and has written about you. Maybe there is a YouTube video that your patient took at your practice.”
Patients are looking for “social proof, people like themselves who have had success with you,” Williams said. If you want to see online what potential patients see, Google yourself and your competition, she added.
After a potential patient sifts through the information they have found, primarily online, they may call a practitioner and become a patient. A good or bad experience may become a happy hour conversation or the next day’s Facebook post.
“We live in a world where people are excited about sharing their opinion. Maybe they’ll stay with you for a long time, so they’ll go from simply having an opinion to being a passionate brand ambassador for you. And that means they’ll be happy to share that experience multiple times over multiple venues,” Williams said.
When patients share, the information becomes part of somebody else’s information evaluation process.
If a business has no website or other web presence, and if it doesn’t appear in a Google search, then people “won’t talk about you and you won’t be considered,” Williams said. “You have to evolve or become irrelevant.” To evolve, Williams said to create a “living, breathing” marketing strategy that includes social media.
Start with a goal
To grow your marketing plan to take advantage of social media opportunities, a business owner should establish a goal, Williams said. That may be to increase revenue or referrals or to attract a specific type of patient. If the goal is to add 20 active patients, find out what their interests are, what they like to do, and where they live. For example, to add more young athletes to a practice and one already has a social media presence, follow associations like Amputee Coalition and the Challenged Athletes Foundation on your Twitter page, or add them as friends to the Facebook page.
After establishing a goal, review the practices’ strengths and decide how to align them with the desired goal. Create a message that resonates with potential patients by using an integrated marketing strategy that incorporates “offline” tactics, like signage, in-person events, and media relations, as well as online tactics, including an active web presence: a website and targeted and frequent social media messaging.
Engage and measure
It only takes a few moments to make a good first impression, whether it is in a practice or online. To engage current and potential patients find out their interests and questions they might have. In the office, ask how they heard about the practice and use the language they use.
“One of my favorite a-ha moments was when I realized a lot of people with limb loss talk about their ‘leg man.’ Here I was, writing ‘prosthetist’ and ‘orthotist’ and they’re talking about their leg man. Really tune your ear and use the words they are saying,” Lundquist said. “They don’t talk about having weak quadriceps, they talk about their leg giving out. You want to be able to translate some of the language we use into the language the consumer uses.”
Online reach can be measured with several analytical tools already supported on social media sites.
“When you measure, you want to be able to measure and quantify trends so you can take advantage of them,” Lundquist said, for example, the percentage of patients who found you on Google.
Facebook provides a pages viewed analytics tool, as well as the “like” button at the bottom of each post that can help track the interest generated by a particular topic or post. A business can establish a YouTube channel and monitor the comments made on videos to learn what people are most interested in seeing. Twitter can let one know if a reader retweets a tweet, and how far the tweet travels through cyberspace. Google Analytics measures website traffic.
Lundquist suggested using these tools at least quarterly, and at most, monthly. A business owner can determine from these tools who is paying attention to the practice online, how often, what time of day or what day, their location and other demographic information, and use the information to better tailor a message.
Have a conversation
Lundquist likened the social media conversation to starting a conversation at a cocktail party. Generally, people just don’t talk to one person; they go around and talk to many people.
“So when you throw that conversational ball out there, you want to give them a chance to throw it back. Asking a question [on your Facebook page or Twitter] is a great way to do that.”
Most big stories break on social media before the mainstream media, so engage with timeliness, Lundquist said.
“Find a great story and share it and curate social media articles and share them on your website. These are often the ones that get reposted the most and expand your reach.”
Williams added that Facebook is the best place for people to share their own stories and suggested that business owners commit to posting regularly.
“Facebook has an easy advertising tool. It can help grow your page and promote it; once your likes go past 30, you can access the analytics for free,” she said. She said spending about $25 a week advertising on Facebook to promote the page and stories will grow your page quickly.
“As the site grows, you’ll see more interaction, but it is up to you to start that cocktail party conversation,” Williams said. “Post at least two times a week.”
Lundquist stressed the importance of using video as part of a company’s messaging.
“Your work is about motion, and video lends itself perfectly to documenting the results of your practice. We can take pictures of active people all day. Your patients might like to share their stories with you so set up ways to invite that and share.”
Engaging fully and frequently on social media can take time, and a small practice may not be able to use these tools as often. Williams suggested hiring someone, even part-time, to oversee social media campaigns.
“You tend to want to give this to somebody who is young and just out of school, but you need someone to own it and who can understand your business. You need someone who knows marketing strategy. Man the page, all the time.” — by Carey Cowles
Disclosure: Lundquist and Williams are employed by Ottobock.