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How to build your practice through social media

Optometry Times JournalVol. 11 No. 5
Volume 11
Issue 5

The global population in 2018 was reported at nearly 7.6 billion. Of that, 42 percent-3.2 billion people-were categorized as active social media users.1

ODs need to learn the language of social media-how to brand themselves, says Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD, at SECO 2019 in New Orleans.

Whether for an OD’s own professional development, her practice, or simply a passion, the right branding message is a necessity.

Dr. Shen Lee focused on three key areas she has found critical to her success on social media platforms with both her professional profile and the profile for her primary eyecare practice, Vision Optique:

• Getting social and engaging
• Utilizing the power of hashtags
• Linking all online traffic to practice website

Before becoming active on social media, Dr. Shen Lee suggests ODs begin to create content that will connect with their audience, and bring benefits to them and their brand. ODs should spend time to identify their messages and to learn where the audience is for those messages.

“You want to be where they are. You want your message to be seen on the platforms that they’re on,” she says.

Previously by Alex Delaney-Gesing: How to see 50 patients a day at your practice

As of last year, the top five social media platforms in the United States include:2

• Facebook
• Instagram
• Facebook Messenger
• Twitter
• Pinterest and Snapchat (tied)

For ODs with a practice website, Dr. Shen Lee recommends designating one staff member who is an active social media user to check up on platforms regularly-particularly Facebook and Instagram Messengers. Responding to messages in a timely manner can help boost ratings.

Dr. Shen Lee operates three social media accounts-an individual profile (@DrBridgitte) and two optometry businesses (@VisionOptique and @iTravelCE). By maintaining consistent postings, offering quality content, and using the right hashtags, she has grown her global following to over 100,000.

“It’s not that you need to create an account-it is absolutely essential to study and engage in social media for any business,” she says.

Related: 3 strategies for social media success

Power of hashtags
When posting on social media, Dr. Shen Lee recommends using specific hashtags to reach the desired audience and to support optometry on the global healthcare platform.

Insert hashtags such as #optometry, #optometrist, #SoMe (social media), and any other specific terms relevant to health care-related topics. For anyone searching those hashtags, it will bring the individual back to eyecare and healthcare professionals, Dr. Shen Lee says.

Hashtags should be used when creating and growing a brand. Using the name of a brand or speciality area in each post will make it easier for patients and a targetted audience to follow.

A list of specific  eyecare hashtags have been submitted by Dr. Shen Lee since 2016, and most are tracked by Symplur as a result of her learning journey on how to help opotmetry become part of the global healchare social media.3 See the box for recommended tags to use.

The more social media movement from professionals using specific message tags, the better chance the terms will be tracked and increase its viewership, Dr. Shen Lee says.

Incorporating popular generic hashtags can also help with increasing engagement-hashtags used more commonly on social media will increase engagement with a wider audience.

Appealing to audiences
Drawing in a targeted following should be only part of an eyecare professional’s social media goal. Keeping and growing that base is key, according to Dr. Shen Lee.

A practice’s website plays a major facto. While each site has its own specific language, the content needs to incorporate something visually appealing-an attractive image, powerful logo, or information on specialized areas of focus (whichever hashtags that will be used when posting on social media).

To build a practice’s brand, Dr. Shen Lee recommends using three main platforms:
• Facebook
• Instagram
• Google

For professionals looking to build their personal brands, use LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, she says.
Include a link back to a practice website on all social media platform homepages (usually located in the Bio section).

“That link should always go back to our website. That’s how you raise your search engine optimization (SEO) on Google ,” Dr. Shen Lee says.

Related: 5 marketing tips to grow a practice without breaking the bank 

For all accounts, consistant upkeep is necessary. Dr. Shen Lee recommends designating one team member at the practice who has the highest social media following (on any platform)

That individual should be in charge of creating "Albums" to make it easier for patients to search for a specific topic a practice specializes in. Ensure daily check-ins on messages. The “Event Page” tool on Facebook can promote new products or upcoming social events.

Make your post images fun and attractive, Dr. Shen Lee says.The easier it is to navigate, the more engagement and followers an account will gain.

Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post. Don’t include all 30 hashtags in the body of the post, Dr. Shen Lee says. Place a few key terms in the body of the message and place the rest in the comments below.

“If the message is too busy, people just scroll past it,” Dr. Shen Lee says.”Keep it clean.”

Dr. Shen Lee and her staff use Hootsuite to pre-schedule their posts. “It’s all about organization,” she says.

Related: Blog: Mission statement is key to a successful practice

“Twitter won’t bring you much business in terms of patients in your chair,” Dr. Shen Lee says. “It’s good for professional development or branding.”

Shen Lee uses her professional Twitter profile (@DrBridgitte) to promote global understanding of #optometry and #eyecare conferences.

Think of LinkedIn as your resume, Dr. Shen Lee says. The platform allows for users to upload and share their published articles, studies, interviews, and blogs.

“The goal is to make it easy for people who are searching for you to understand who you are and your specialties,” Dr. Shen Lee says. “Get your name out there in the industry.”

Share professional and educational articles that pertain to your areas of interest-topics that you want your patients, colleagues, and other professionals to know, Dr. Shen Lee says.

Related: 3 strategies to grow your practice

Google My Business
ODs can sign up for an account on this platform to verify and manage their online business profiles. They are able to see insights on what people are searching for in their area-including local eye doctors and see which search terms are used to find their practice-allowing them to manage their online presence across Google (Search, Map).

Turn these key terms into hashtags, Dr. Shen Lee says. These tags can be incorporated in posts across all social media platforms.

“A hashtag is applicable not just on one platform but on multiple,” she says, “and with all traffic-Google controls all online traffic.”

Specific hashtags like #optometry and #eyecare should be included in all posted content, according to Dr. Shen Lee.  “You can be looked up and researched easier.”

Related: 6 tips to address, survive one-star online reviews

Online reviews
ODs want five-star reviews on Google, Dr. Shen Lee says. Always reply back to reviews, positive or negative.

Dr. Shen Lee recommends assigning one team member at a practice to reply. For positive reviews, a generic reply is typically given. For negative reviews, she and her business partner review all responses prior to posting. Also for negative reviews, contact the patient to resolve it offline. If offline discussion is not possible, then "be courteous and factual,” Dr. Shen Lee says.

Ask patients who positive experiences to post five-star reviews to bury the negative feedback.

Read more by Alex Delaney-Gesing


1.We Are Social/Hoot Suite. Global Digital Report 2018. Available at: https://digitalreport.wearesocial.com/. Accessed 2/22/19.
2. Statista. Most popular mobile social networking apps in the United States as of October 2018 by monthly users (in millions). Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/248074/most-popular-us-social-networking-apps-ranked-by-audience/. Accessed 2/22/19.
3. Symplur. Healthcare hashtag project. Available at: https://www.symplur.com/healthcare-hashtags/regular/. Accessed 2/22/19.

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