Social Media 101
By Anthony J. Lombardi DC
By Anthony J. Lombardi DC
Social media is the most effective form of promotion in business practice today.
Social media is the most effective form of promotion in business practice today. And guess what – it’s free. For those who are just starting up a practice, this article will show you the importance of starting an online community. To my colleagues who have been in practice for several years: it is time to embrace social media and jump on the bandwagon to ensure you don’t get left behind.
What is Social Media?
Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, defines social media as “including web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue between organizations, communities, and individuals.”
What does this really mean? Basically it allows us to communicate with our current and future patients over the Internet. It helps us create a presence online where people receive information right at their fingertips. We are able to educate and shape perception right away.
Three Top Sites You Can’t Ignore
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These three small words are dominating how we view business today.
These are the platforms where people are growing in educating themselves about their health, their treatment and how they perceive you, their health-care provider. By showcasing your business on Facebook, Twitter and/or YouTube you are shaping people’s perception through the sharing of articles, videos and links.
Think of it this way: traditionally, if two people are having a conversation in a room, and one person recommends a certain chiropractor to someone else, that person will follow up on that referral and may, subsequently, tell another person about what a fabulous treatment they experienced.
Today, with the overwhelming presence of social media, that one person who had a fabulous experience with the chiropractor will now tell hundreds of their closest Facebook friends instantly about what a great experience they had during their treatment. It’s not a matter of if you start a social media network – it’s a matter of when.
From a chiropractor’s perspective, using social media can provide a number of great benefits, including building awareness, creating or encouraging community involvement, and providing enhanced customer service.
To shed a professional light on the topic of social media, I interviewed two cultural authorities: Minter Dial, a professional speaker, coach and consultant on branding and digital marketing, and Jeff Brown, the Founder of Alpha Social Media Inc.
Using Social Media Versus Not Using Social Media
I asked both of our experts to answer the question: What would you tell chiropractors and businesses that refuse to, or are hesitant to, embrace social media today?
Brown says, “Patients will continue to grow, experiment and use other means of communication. Businesses that do not embrace newer methods of interacting with their patients will lose their voice. Their marketing message can be lost in communication channels that are not used as frequently.”
Dial explains, “In health-related matters, it is obvious that patients are extremely active online, always looking for answers, engaging in conversations with others and, to a lesser degree, testing medical services. In this respect, any medical service that wishes to participate in that conversation will, at the very least, understand the needs and concerns of that potential patient.”
In my practice, I am driven by the ever-evolving online community. The online presence I’ve created is working for me even during times I am away from my practice. I constantly share new information and patient testimonials as they become available. At the time of writing this article, my practice has a Facebook following of more than 1,700 fans in addition to about 500 Twitter followers. Both Facebook and Twitter provide my clinic with at least five new patient referrals per month.
Brown tells his clients that social media enhances what you are already doing. Social media can give your business greater visibility and attract new patients. It can also help you keep in touch with your current patients.
What are the Greatest Errors DCs Make in Social Media?
The two main errors both Dial and Brown see businesses make in social media are the following:
Not knowing why they are doing it.
Ideally, you are looking to create a culture among your followers. What is a culture? I like to define it simply as a group of individuals who share a common interest. As a DC, you need to identify the culture of your target patients and appeal to, as well as nurture, that culture.
Being too corporate.
One of the negative things a business can do in social media is to practise one-way communication. Think of it this way – it’s similar to when someone is talking at you, rather than engaging you in a mutual conversation. Here the business broadcasts its message out, but fails to listen to its patients.
As chiropractors, we need to provide constant opportunities for our online community to be heard. For example, I polled my Facebook fans on the question, “Would you be open to requesting patient appointments over text messaging?” More than 70 per cent of responders thought it was a great idea! Now patients are able to request appointments and receive appointment reminders via text messaging.
It is also important to show your online community that your culture enjoys promoting and helping others, including those in your profession. I frequently recommend other local practices through social media. This shows the public you are helpful, while at the same time confident and secure in your own business practice.
Food for Thought
As with anything in practice, social media requires commitment and the results can be rewarding. Based on my experience, making any social media activity successful requires a certain mindset and, more importantly, a consistent approach.
If social media is designated as a promotional tool in your practice, it will likely struggle to succeed. On the other hand, if social media is viewed as a way to provide valuable, customer-centred interaction, its chances of success are greatly improved. It’s all about finding ways to drive and derive value from your fan base.
Have a question for our experts? Keep the conversation going with Jeff Brown on Twitter @4JeffBrown or Minter Dial @mdial.
Dr. Anthony Lombardi is a private consultant to athletes in the NFL, CFL and NHL, and founder of Hamilton Back Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic. He teaches his fundamental EXSTORE Assessment System and practice building workshops to various health professionals. For more information, visit www.hamiltonbackclinic.com .