If you are a private practice doctor looking for social media or SEO help reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the world has rapidly become more and more technology-dependent, the Internet has taken precedent over almost every other form of PR. Of course, there are very few advertising methods that are better than the spread of a good reputation via word-to-mouth. However, when running a small business, this is often very difficult, whether or not you are just starting up or have been around a long time. In both small towns and large cities alike, the means of advertising a private practice facility have changed.
This requires some adjustment in order to keep up with your competitors. Rather than getting out the Yellow Pages, it is far more likely for your clients to get online and try to search for clinics in the area. They are also likely to take to social media in order to ask their friends what doctors they would recommend or advise against.
In this computer-savvy society, consider social media to be the new-and-improved form of word-of-mouth. Most private practice doctors are not well-versed in social media, and haven’t yet adjusted to using it for advertising. If you are a private practice doctor and you are reading this, there’s a very good chance that you are in the same boat.
Here’s the good news – there are certain social media websites that are far more beneficial than others, for reasons that will be elaborated on in this article. For those sites, you can hire a social media expert who knows exactly how to utilize these sites in order to benefit a small business. At this point in time, there are very few private practices that are on social media, and even fewer that know how to use it effectively. What this means for you is that there is an untouched frontier for your usage, and if you are able to use that to your advantage, it will put you light-years ahead of your competition. By the time that everyone else catches up, you will already be an established authority on social media, and your future potential clients will definitely take notice of that.
But before we get into that, let’s first elaborate on which social media websites are worth your time, and the potential benefits that exist on each one. While each social network has its advantages and disadvantages, some clearly outshine the rest in regards to attracting clients and publicizing your business.
Facebook: Worth it or not?
As I’m sure you know, Facebook is an incredibly popular social network, and has been for several years. As of March 2013, Facebook has over 1.11 billion users (http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/). It is the behemoth of social media, and therefore, most businesses focus the majority of their attention and efforts on creating a successful and popular Facebook fan page or profile.
A Facebook fan page can be created for organizations, businesses, and celebrities, and it enables any Facebook user to “Like” that page. This allows those users to see updates posted by the business, and also lets them comment and post thoughts on the company and its promotions.
While at first this may sound admirable and effective, there are several pitfalls that lie in the Facebook business model, as well as in how easy it is for Facebook users to access and respond to content. In recent years, Facebook has altered its algorithm several times, making changes primarily to the way that content is portrayed within a user’s news feed. What this means is that certain posts are “ranked” higher than others, which causes those posts to be seen by more users. However, on the flip side of this, it means that other posts by businesses may not be seen by Facebook users at all – meaning that even if you have several potential clients who have liked your page, they may or may not see the Facebook posts that you make.
How does Facebook determine who sees your posts, and how to make them more widespread? They are heavily pushing the option to “promote” your posts, meaning that you pay a price (and not a cheap one) to push your posts to the top of a user’s news feed. This still doesn’t guarantee that every person who likes your page will see your posts.
While this may even seem beneficial to a large corporation, for a small business, it is often wasted money. Many businesses falsely think it is wise to pay for Facebook likes on their page, a service that is offered by several online websites (many of which are scams). These likes can be bought for cheap and with minimal effort. However, what’s the point? They aren’t organic, which means that even if you are able to boost your amount of likes by 1,000, they are often fake accounts that will hold absolutely no benefit for your practice. In all honesty, Facebook likes are wholly worthless.
There is another primary flaw in investing a large amount of time and money in Facebook promotion. Whenever a post is made on Facebook, it does not rank in Google search. What this means is that if you post something telling about an offer at your practice, a new update to your services, your hours of service or office location, or anything of that sort, it will not be indexed in search. Therefore, if someone searches for “Dr. Smith of Kenly” in Google (as people are very likely to do), it will not pull up any of Dr. Smith’s Facebook posts as results.
I am not discouraging you from running a Facebook page, and a successful page can obviously benefit your business. However, I do not recommend putting an immense amount of resources into it. There are other social networks that have a larger amount of benefits for a private practice or any other small business.
How to use Twitter to a small business’s advantage
The next popular social network to be discussed is Twitter. Twitter is a social network where users can choose other users to follow. This enables the user to read the “tweets” of those whom he or she has followed, as they appear in his or her timeline. A tweet is a post that is limited to 140 characters. As a result, each thought must be whittled down into a quick and concise post.
I have seen several small businesses become very successful on Twitter. In order to do so, it is often to a small business’s advantage to write tweets that stand out in a crowd. Most users follow at least 200 other Twitter accounts, and most accounts tweet several times a day (or several times an hour, depending on the user). As a result, tweets are constantly flooding a person’s timeline at a very quick pace. Therefore, in order to be memorable, it is best for a company to advertise its products and services in a smart, witty way. If you are merely tweeting generic posts once or twice a day, you are not going to build up a following.
Many companies find it to be beneficial to hire a social media consultant to run their Twitter accounts, as most private practice doctors don’t have the time to send out several tweets a day. In fact, there aren’t many private practice doctors on Twitter at all.
What are the benefits of having an active and successful Twitter account? To begin with, if someone follows you on Twitter, you are not required to follow him or her back. This means that you can keep your following relatively small if you would like and still acquire a large amount of followers. Twitter also makes it very easy to broadcast to a rather large audience. The act of tweeting itself is extremely simple – after all, you only have 140 characters to say something, and that’s it. It is a basic software that doesn’t require overcoming a steep learning curve. Also, with the use of hashtags, your tweets can be categorized so that many thousands of users may be able to access them. Every single tweet can be made public for anyone to see, thereby bypassing the algorithm headaches that Facebook induces. As of June 2013, Twitter has over 210 million users, ranging all over the world. (http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-active-users-growth_b50145) Therefore, due to a culmination of features and benefits, Twitter is a great way to reach a broad audience.
However, the main problem with Twitter for a small business’s advertising plans is that tweets are also not indexed in search. Therefore, no matter how clever your tweets are or how large your following is, your tweets will not pop up when someone searches for your practice or for doctor offices in the area. While your profile may be found in search, it is still not very effective.
Google+: Is anyone even on it?
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been harping a lot on the importance of search rankings and SEO. The truth is that being ranked high in search for relevant keywords is the absolute best marketing that a private practice can invest in. More people are going to search for your business in a search engine such as Google than to look for it on social media. If you are ranked on the first page of Google for keywords or phrases such as “Optometrist in Los Angeles area”, you are going to receive an influx of new client interest.
So, how does one improve his or her search ranking? You may be tempted to hire an SEO agency or company, as there are many who offer “improved search rankings” in a very short amount of time, for a steep price. I would definitely advise you against that. These SEO agencies are often offering these false expectations and raising hopes for no reason. Most SEO companies do so through purchasing false linkbacks and producing reused and recycled content. With Google’s new and improved algorithms, these practices are highly frowned upon and lead to very severe repercussions. Therefore, by hiring an SEO agency, it will likely hurt your search rankings due to the outdated resources and tactics used.
The best way to improve your search rankings is to also use social media. Logically, Google+ benefits its users by giving them several resources that can help your ranking in search. It provides incentive for Google+ users to be active and post often, as it will inevitably help small business users to become strides ahead of its competitors in terms of search.
Google+ offers numerous ways to create content that will rank in search. These include Google+ communities, Hangouts on Air, and Google+ posts. Google+ communities can be thought of as online groups that are focused around a specific topic or interest. Small businesses can therefore create a community for users to join in support of their business. The moderator of the community can create several sub-topics or “message boards” where he or she can foster engagement. For example, your private practice could have a section for questions and concerns, one for reviews and patient testimonies, one for promotions, and so on. In these categories, both the moderator and community members can post and engage with each other. Communities are also ranked in search for their respective keywords.
The next resource that Google+ has to offer is the Hangout on Air (hereby referred to as HOAs). HOAs are video chat calls between up to eight people that can be made public, so that it can be shared and viewed by a large audience. HOAs also have special features, such as the ability to take questions from viewers. After the video call is complete, HOAs are converted into YouTube videos. YouTube videos are yet another form of content that can rank well in search.
The last option is the simple Google+ post. Google+ posts differ from Facebook posts and tweets because they do rank in search, often much better than other results. A private practice could post about anything and everything, including new scientific research, up-and-coming technology, or even about an event or restaurant in your local area. The possibilities are endless and these posts can help your small business become indexed in search for a variety of keywords.
There are social media experts who know Google+ inside and out and would be happy to help you get started at beating out the rest of your competition. If you are interested or have any questions or concerns, please contact email@example.com.
Not all social networks are created equal
As you can see, some social media websites hold a lot more value than others. While it is surely advantageous to have a presence on as many websites as possible, your time and efforts are better spent on websites such as Google+ than on Facebook.
By taking the initiative to start exploring social media and its potential benefits for your private practice, you will be among the first to do so. As a result, by the time the rest of your competition catches onto the prosperous results, you will have already established your stake in search and social media.
Also, by maintaining a strong Google+ profile, you will establish yourself as an expert in your field. By doing so, your private practice will attract attention from even the largest Google+ power users, providing an authority that is priceless.
The time is now to begin using social media to your private practice’s advantage. If you are looking to get started, or if you have questions regarding anything mentioned in this article, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries and assistance.