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Strengthen your Business with Social Media

Strengthen your Business with Social Media
Melanie Hecker, AuD
January 19, 2015
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This article is sponsored by Widex.

Editor's note: This text course is an edited transcript of a live webinar.  Please download supplemental course materials.

Introduction

Welcome to this course, Strengthen your Business with Social Media.  This course was intended to help you to achieve your marketing goals in a cost-effective manner, regardless the size of your business.  Through social media, I want you to be increase your business traffic and visibility.  We are going to talk about search engine optimization (SEO), which is how popular your content is and how highly it is viewed. I want you to be able to strengthen your brand and focus on what that brand looks like for your practice.

Enhancing communication and personalization with both existing and new customers will help with consumer loyalty and with getting people to come back to you.  Word of mouth will also bring more people to your door.  I want you to increase your conversions, taking into consideration that this is becoming a more consumer-centric marketplace, which is one of the first things that we are going to talk about. 

The agenda has four points.  The first is why social media, and why should you engage in this?  Secondly, how do you get started?  The utilization of social media for your practice is the third point, and how to track that progress is the fourth point.  I want to ensure that you are getting a return on the time that you are investing into social media to build your brand and your business. 

Why are You Here?

You might be interested in this topic for a multitude of different reasons.  Maybe you are ready for a change.  Maybe you are seeing that traditional marketing is not giving you the return on investment that it used to.  I know when I speak with accounts on a day-to-day basis, this is one of the first things that I hear.  Customers say, “What I am doing is just not working like it used to.  I need something fresh.  I need something new.  What is working now?”  Obviously that will be different for every practice and marketplace, but there are holistic trends that are happening that you can leverage.  One of those trends is what we are talking about today – building your business through social media. 

There is a lot of uncertainty as to what direction practices should be leading their business.  There is quite a shift in the industry and in the marketplace.  A lot of businesses and practitioners are deciding how they align, where they should go, and what their focus should be.   We will address this more when we talk about brand, as that will be different for each of you. 

There is a lot of hesitation as to how to start.  Many people think social media is a huge elephant, and they do not know where to begin.  We are going to help demystify this and talk about the baby steps to make it happen.

Why Social Media?

I bet all of you can agree that the patients walking in your door are not the same consumers that came in even five years ago.  They are changing.  They know more, or think they know more, than ever before.  They are searching the web all the time; sometimes this can be a big headache for us, or sometimes it can be a godsend.  They are using the web for knowledge and power.  Many times they will come in with a self-diagnosis from WebMD and tell you which hearing aid they need, which turns out to be inappropriate for their hearing loss or condition.  That shows the power of the consumer-centric marketplace. 

These patients and consumers are scouring blogs and websites for information before even coming to see you.  Not only are they researching products, but they are researching you.  Many patients are saying, “I saw that you had a good review.”  Maybe they saw your blog or website and now want you to be their provider.

Furthermore, consumers are interacting with brands through social media.  That is why I say to give people what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.  One of the ways to do this is through more information.  The more information you can provide them, the happier they are going to be.  They want to do their own homework. 

One of the biggest movements that I am seeing in our industry is that successful businesses are shifting to inbound marketing.  Practitioners and practices are saying that mass mailers are no longer giving them the strong return on investment that they used to get.  Inbound marketing puts information out on social media, through your website, or blogs, and patients are finding you.

The Social Consumer

We know that most Internet users are active on some social media platform, whether that is Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter.  Data from the Pew Internet Research Project from 2013 showed that 60% of people age 50-64 used Facebook, and almost half (45%) of people age 65+.  Surprisingly, even the geriatric population has a high uptake of social media.  You can see how this relates to the patients you see in your practice.

What does your typical patient load look like?  Who accompanies your patients?  Many come in with sons and daughters who help them make healthcare decisions.   When I was in practice, so often my patient would look to their son or daughter and ask, “What do you think?”  Their children are helping make that decision, and those children are even more active on social media than their parents.

Social Presence

A strong social presence is a huge opportunity.  Social media is all about building a relationship.  Many audiologists and hearing aid dispensers love this because we are people persons.  We love to help people, and we want to make them happy.  Building relationships is very innate in who we are.  Good relationships turn into good leads.  We want to use social media as a way to be fun and interactive, but very casual. 

You also have the opportunity to create your own business persona.  What do you want that persona to look like for your audience?  Do you want it to be family-friendly?  Do you want it to be white-coat professional?  You can create and propel that persona, which is a beautiful thing about social media.  You will strengthen your brand and your loyalty through that. 

Benefits for your Business

One of the first benefits of which you should be aware is that 93% of marketers today are using social media as a means to promote their business (BtoB, 2011).  If you are not currently using social media, you are already behind.  This is not to scare you, but to show you how powerful social media is and how important it is that you promote your business in this way. 

It is important to have multiple marketing strategies.  I previously mentioned mass mailers to local zip codes, and this can still have a draw and return on investment for you.  But keep in mind that you need to have multiple marketing strategies for the year.  This is a great way to have diverse exposure. 

How to Get Started

There are a few things to think about when getting started.  First, we have to have a plan.  I do not want you to be exerting a lot of time and energy and it not be focused on your real objective.  I want it to be very concentrated so you will get the benefit of the time that you are putting in to it.  When it comes to social media, it is low cost.  Most of the time, it is monetarily free, but it does take time, which is your investment. 

When you are starting your plan, ask yourself some questions.  First, what are your current business goals?  Be honest and genuine in your answers and write them down.  This will help determine the direction of your marketing campaign.  Second, why do you want your business to be on social media?  Third, what is it that you are trying to capture or achieve with that marketing platform?

When you are thinking about what you want to achieve for your business through social media, establish quantifiable numbers associated with those objectives.  One of the reasons why is because so often we work hard and we feel discouraged like we are making no progress.  When you set quantifiable numbers, you will see the progress, even when it is small.  If you do not have a quantifiable number or objective that you are trying to achieve, how do you know you are ever getting there?  How do you assess if you are headed in the right direction or if you need to shift things around?  Take time upfront to answer these three questions honestly with yourself and with your social media team, if you have one, to see how you want to build your brand on social media.

Know Your Audience

You need to know your audience.  Who are you trying to reach?  To whom are you trying to appeal?  In what is your target audience interested?  This is where you need to stand in their shoes.  Think about the places where they hang out.  How do they use social media?  What things are of interest to them in their life and what message do you want to send to get them excited? 

This is where you are going to want to brainstorm content ideas that will interest your target audience on a regular, continual basis.  When you see something on your personal Facebook feed that you think would appeal to your audience, write it down to remind yourself to use that for one of your future posts. 

Social Media Team

Some of you will be lucky enough to work in organizations that have a marketing department; some of you wear many hats, and this might be one more that you are going to put on.  If you can delegate the social media task, make sure it is to a technical operator who will set up the sites and maintain them from a technical perspective.  Make sure they look pretty and that things are flowing appropriately, especially if you are going to have a blog. 

The social media team or person will be in charge of creating content, sharing it, and conceptualizing new ideas of what will appeal to your audience.  Make sure that you or another expert on your team are looking at your social media on a consistent basis to handle questions or objections; every once in a while, you may have negative comment, and then you have to decide if that is something that you want to delete or answer in some way.  You can sometimes turn those comments into a positive interaction. 

Decide if this is something that will be a daily or weekly focus for your practice. If you have a marketing department, this may be something where one person takes the lead for social media and does a daily post.  Consistency will be key here.  The more you put information out, the more people are going to notice it.  You should be posting three to five times a day to optimize visibility.  Think about how quickly that newsfeed goes by.  If someone misses it, they may never see it. 

The average marketer spends four to six hours a week on social media.  This could be something where you spend an hour a day posting to your site.  Maybe you will do little posts throughout the day.  If you are thinking that this sounds great and you definitely want to do this to better your business, but you do not know how to fit it in, we will talk about social media managers later in the presentation.

Content is Crucial

Consistency with your Brand

Content is crucial.  This is not your personal Facebook wall.  Many times, people will use social media as a way to vent.  Make sure that you are being positive, uplifting, and motivational in all of the posts that you are writing, because you are representing your business and your brand. 

Make sure that your content is consistent with your brand.  I think this is one of the more challenging things for businesses when they go to social media, because they are so used to using social media from a personal perspective.  Be cognizant that this is not about you but about your company.  Personal touches are not prohibited, but should be used with thought.  Maybe you want to project that you are a family woman or family man.  Make sure that whatever you are trying to project is consistent with your brand. 

Consumer-Focused Content

People love information that is focused on them.  They love sharing their own thoughts and ideas.  One of the things that I recommend is finishing a post with a question or asking people to share their experiences.  People love to talk about themselves.  One of the things that will get you the most visibility or traction is putting a question at the end of a post.  The more times people comment on your post or like your post, the more visibility that post will generate.  Remember that every viewer could potentially be a customer.  Make sure that content is consumer-centric and focused on what people are looking for on a daily basis, and especially when they are looking for information from their hearing health care professional. 

You do want to spotlight yourself and your business, but do so in moderation.  If all they are seeing is your brand, your face, your brand, your face, they may not emotionally connect to that.  However, if you are sharing your patients’ experiences or testimonials through HIPAA-compliant means, those things will evoke emotion and a connection to you and your practice.  When you are posting, always think about who your audience is and what is going to appeal to them, especially from an emotional standpoint. 

What is the most valuable consumer-focused information?  Think about what catches your eye.  Is it a paragraph?  Typically not.  It is videos, pictures, some type of chart or statistic.  Make sure that you are including something eye-catching that will make a reader stop and look at your post when they are scrolling through everyone else’s.  Make it highly interactive, succinct, to the point, and engaging. 

Strengthen your Brand

Your brand is one thing that is fun.  You can create whatever image you want on social media.  You can make it very personal.  You can make it very professional or company-centric.  However, make sure that it is positive.  Consistency has to be key.  You have to make sure that your business’s core identity is consistently in the forefront.  To strengthen your brand, project your brand image across a variety of different social media platforms.

There are many different social medial platforms that you can use, and we will go through some of the main ones in depth.  The big six are Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn.  Given our industry and practice, some of these will appeal more than others based on your objectives and what kind of brand or image you are trying to transmit.  Facebook may be a higher priority to you than Pinterest or Instagram because it has a larger audience.  I did not mention blogging, but many practitioners like to blog because they can create their own original content.  That is another way that you can think about building your business.  You do not have to be present on all of the social media platforms.  Most people pick between one and three with which to strongly align their practices. 

About 93% of marketers are using social media for business (BtoB, 2011).  If you are not active on social media at the moment, the chances are high that your competitors are.  This is something that you are going to want to incorporate in some form or fashion in your business to strengthen your market.  As I mentioned earlier, the younger age brackets are the most active on social media, but we are seeing trends that older and middle-aged individuals are increasing on social media.  Do not think just about the end user or the patient.  Think about the person who is coming with them and helping them develop their decision and choosing to commit. 

As of 2013, 45 to 64 year-olds are the fastest growing social segment over the last two years.  I have a 96-year-old grandmother.  She is active on Facebook, FaceTime, and everything else.  I just had a son a few months ago, and she loves going on there to see her great-grandbaby’s photos.  That is evidence that just because someone is older, it does not mean that they are not tech-savvy or unaware of social media.

Who to Align With

Now let’s talk about with whom you should align to get the most bang for you buck.  Twitter is the fastest growing of all of the social media platforms at this moment.  However, Facebook has the most users.  If you were going to put all of your eggs into one social media basket, I would encourage you to align with Facebook.  If you can branch out and do two to three, it will increase your exposure that much more.

Summary

To wrap up the first portion of our presentation and move into the different forums, I want to make some take-home comments.  Social media is modern-day word of mouth on steroids.  People trust more brands on social media.  People are watching who their friends like and engage with on social media.  It will be important not only to put ourselves out there, but that we make each post as impactful or positive as we can.  Make sure that everything you put out there serves a purpose that leads you to the goal that you quantified in the beginning. 

Think about your particular audience.  Be sure to pick two to three social media sites to focus your efforts.  Be impactful with your time and do not get overwhelmed, but make your presence known.  You want to focus on your viewership and increase interaction.  Ask questions, host contests sparingly, try an essay contest, a photo contest, or a video contest.  Each time someone likes or posts in your thread, a portion of their friends will also see your brand.

Facebook

I put Facebook first for a reason.  At this time, it has the greatest viewership.  This is going to be the number one influencer of purchasers.  Seventy percent of marketers are using Facebook currently to gain customers.  It is a great way to increase communication with customers.  If you do not already have a Facebook account, I would highly recommend that you open one.  It is very easy to do, as is true for the majority of social medial accounts.

Make sure that your posts are industry-related articles, images, or videos.  This could be original content or an article from one of the research journals or findings from university studies.  Those are going to appeal to your audience, especially if you audience is a little bit older.  Keep the tone light, friendly, and positive, and actively ask consumers to “like” you.  As I have mentioned, end every post with a way for your reader to engage and create dialogue. 

Google+

Google+ has some unique features that are very different from Facebook.  The 45 to 54-year-old bracket has increased its usage on Google+ by 56% in the last two years (Cooper, 2013).  Two things that I want to point out about Google+ that may be of interest to you and your social media marketing plan are that you can easily segment your followers into various groups.  If there is a particular piece of information that you only want to send to a certain patient population, you can do so.  Maybe you have a tinnitus patient group.  Maybe you have pediatric and geriatric groups.  You can easily catalog your followers into these different segments.  You may have a specific discount or promotion that you want to target to a specific group.  This is much easier to do on Google+.

Again, this is very much about sharing photos, videos, links, and written content.  Another unique feature is the hangout.  You can have video conferences and live chatting.  If you wanted to host how-to guides or tutorials, or if you had your patient consent to a video testimonial or written testimonial, those are things that would be very advantageous for your patients and increase interaction. 

Twitter

Twitter is the fastest growing network right now and may be one that you want to consider using.  This is going to be a way to broadcast short, content-based information.  Posts are limited to 140 characters.  They are short-and-sweet written posts; no pictures.  One big thing here is the more you follow others, the more they will follow you.  I would also say the same thing about Facebook.  “Like” other people so you can increase your own viewership. 

Both Facebook and Twitter will make recommendations of people you may know based on who you might have in common.  If you have enough friends or shared contacts in common, you may want to send out that request.  It is unobtrusive.  If they do not want to be your friend, they can always deny the request. 

Offer a variety of tweets.  Some should be official, some should offer specials, and some just fun, quirky things.  Make sure that you are sending a multitude of different types of tweets so you can appeal to a broader audience, but also keep it fresh.  This is a great way to share testimonials and success stories.  You can quickly and easily write something about a patient that you just saw.  It could be, “I just had such as successful CROS fitting” or, “I just had a patient who has found so much relief from tinnitus by using Zen.”  These are short little things that you can put out there and people will see it and say, “Wow.  I want to know more about that.”  That is something that you should put out there. 

Social media is a way to brag a little bit.  This was something that was hard for me, personally, to get used to, but it is the new norm with social media.  It is what you are allowed to do.  Do not feel bad bragging about what you are doing for your patients.  People expect it.  They will like it, and it will bring more people into you.  Feel comfortable doing this.

YouTube

YouTube is a fun way for you to create content that can be viewed not only from YouTube, but from your website, blog, or any of these social media domains where a video is able to be uploaded.  These can be fun, casual, or professional.  Two things we already mentioned were a tutorial or a how-to guide.  Maybe it will be something as quick and easy as how to clean your hearing aid or how to use a dry-n-store.  These seem very simple and easy to us, but these are questions that patients ask all the time.  Patients will appreciate them, and you are adding value.

You can also talk about your professional services on YouTube.  It may just be a video of you introducing yourself, your background, your specialty, the patients you like to help, and the services that you provide at your practice; it will be a little commercial about you. 

As I said, consumers are now researching not only products, but who their providers are going to be.  You want to be relatable and have patients already gain a positive opinion about you before they even come in.  You want them to see your site and say, “I like her.  I want to go to her.”  Link these commercials or YouTube segments to your website for double exposure.  It will be triple exposure if you put it on Google+ or any of the other forums.  YouTube is a great way to increase visibility, and I have found that this draws more attention than just content. 

If you are thinking about what posts will have the most impact, people love videos and pictures.  Most of us have computers with webcams.  Most of us have smartphones.  You do not have to have fancy equipment to be able to do this.  You can do all your social media marketing in a very cost-effective, even free, way.  Patient testimonials are an impactful way that I have seen YouTube videos used.  This is how you are going to get viewers to relate and see what good you are doing.  It is not just you pushing your brand or your products, which is sometimes what people worry about.  They are seeing you as the hearing health care provider who is impacting patients’ lives and changing people’s quality of lives.  That is powerful. 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not as much for direct consumer or patient interaction as the other platforms, but it is a great way to highlight your professionalism, spotlight your education, specialty, interests, and your services.  This is also a phenomenal route to go if you are trying to increase your referral base or network with other providers. 

For example, let’s say you do not want to work with severe tinnitus patients, and you want to have a strong referral network with someone else in the community who does.   LinkedIn is a great way to ask for recommendations and make your business more credible.  This is not going to be one of your casual, interactive social media platforms.  I included it, however, because it has a very strong and valid place to make your practice credible. 

Instagram and Pinterest

Instagram and Pinterest have high visual content.  Instagram has a lower viewership, and it is not content heavy.  It will be more about evoking emotions and building a relationship with the brand, and spurring action.  Instagram is picture-based.  This may be pictures of patients and products with a very small blurb about what it is.  This will be more of an emotional or heart-string type communication.  But it is another form with which you can increase viewership and make your brand more personable.

I would say very similar things about Pinterest as I said about Instagram.  Pinterest is a visual picture that links to content on the web when the user engages with the picture, or pin.

Increase Visibility

As far as increasing visibility, this is not the realm where we eat our humble pie.  This is all about tasteful self-promotion.  This will be a place where you want to brag about yourself and how you are transforming people’s lives.  You want people to feel emotionally attached and loyal to you before they ever meet. 

You can use your website for increased exposure and link all of your social media to your website.  Most of you probably already have a strong website.  Linking your social media back to your website will increase your SEO for your own website.  Share your own original content to gain followers, fans, and devotees, but there is nothing wrong with linking outside articles and resources.  That can be a great way of increasing viewership.  If you share something strong from someone else, you will get that much more visibility, and it helps your credibility, as it is not all original content. 

Make sure that you are actively friending, following, inviting, or connecting with individuals on a daily basis.  Ask your followers to interact with you on social media.  One nice way to do this where it seems like you are not necessarily self-promoting is with the testimonial videos or the how-to videos.  If a patient wants to know how to use their hearing aid or streaming accessory, you have a video that shows them how to do that on Facebook or your blog.  Then you can pull that up and go through it together with them in the office.  That way, you bring them to the site, show them the video, and point out what the video is showing while they are physically in front of you.  Promote, promote, promote everywhere you go.

I’m Too Busy for Social Media!

Some of you realize the importance of social media, but it will probably fall to the back burner if you feel you do not have time for it.  I want to bring your attention to social media managers.  There are many different ones out there, but I will highlight four that are the most well-known: Hootsuite, Sendible, Sprout Social, and Oktopost. 

Social media managers are websites that use as a dashboard to organize your social media.  If you are the sole person responsible for your social media but only have so much time to dedicate to it, how can you do it in a more realistic manner that makes the most of your time?  A social media manager might be the best way to go.  Some of these services are free and others require a monthly subscription of somewhere between $20 and $40. 

You can indicate which forums you use, and then create all your content for a month or so.  Then you can say, “I want this content or this one picture with a blurb shared on these three sites at 5:00 pm.”  The manager website will automatically post what you want to whatever platform you want at whatever time you say.  You may just want one topic posted to your Twitter and something else posted to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  You can organize all of that on your social media manager.  It is also helpful to have a platform that will post things when the readership is high during the day; some readers are early risers and use their social media before the working day begins.  You can be happily dreaming away, and all of your social media platforms have now been posted to for you. 

This is also a great way to help remind you what you posted when and where.  You can also store content ideas for the future.  If you Google “social media managers,” you will see that there are more than the four I mentioned. 

Tracking Progress

When you engage in social media, make sure that you are getting a return on your investment.  That can sometimes be difficult to quantify.  You may not know for sure that a person came into your office because they saw a friend post about how great their experience was at your practice.  Let’s talk about how to set objectives based on social media, as it will not be as easy as seeing a dollar value received off of a marketing campaign. 

Beyond revenue, participating in social media has many beneficial business applications, such as facilitating customer service and boosting public relations.  One thing I want to point out here is that 96% of professionals on social media are starting to look beyond sales goals and web metrics to identify the value of social media efforts.  Like I said, this might not be a direct dollar value comparison. 

Another thing to do is track your competitors; your competitors are sometimes your best source of ideas and information.  They provide valuable data for key word research, where to get industry related links, and other social marketing insight.  Never cut and paste their idea.  Always make it genuine and unique to you.  However, if your competitors are doing something successfully, do not recreate the wheel.  Do what they are doing, just better and your version of it. 

Return on Investment

Return on investment with social media can be measured in a multitude of different ways.  This can be done through customer acquisition, lead generation, clicks or likes.  You can do it through revenue, contest entries or posting on your walls.  It may just be tracking how many more patients come in your door.  This is where it goes back to your specific social media objectives.

Analytics

For measuring success with analytics, you do want to track your data.  Determine which efforts you are going to employ and which ones you are going to abandon.  If you start to see, for example, that Twitter is not getting a lot of patient involvement for you, think about changing your course of action on Twitter and present yourself in a different way.  Perhaps it is something you need to abandon all together and focus your efforts elsewhere.  You will never know this unless you have quantifiable goals and if you are tracking your data.  You can also attach tracking tags to your social media marketing campaigns. That is a great way to be able to help track data as well. 

Summary

Social media is truly the wave of now, not the future.  I hope that today you have learned some tricks that you can easily employ in your office to increase your own social media presence.  If you are not utilizing social media for your practice now, it is something that I would compel you to do.  Consumers have greater access to information than ever before.  They want it fast.  They want it fun.  They want to be convinced of what to do – what products to buy and from whom to buy them.  With all of these choices, ensure that they come away thinking about you, your unique brand, and your offerings and services. 

Make the commitment to open up two or three social media sites and start promoting your brand.  I know in the beginning it is slow, and you will probably not get a whole lot of traction in the way of likes, but I promise that consistency is key.  The more you put yourself out there and promote yourself to everyone that comes in your door, the more that viewership is going to increase.  Continue to project your voice and your brand.  It will make you more successful. 

 

References

BtoB. (2011). Emerging trends in B-to-B social media marketing: Insights from the field. Retrieved from www.adage.com

Cooper, B.B. (2013, November 18).  10 surprising social media statistics that will make you rethink your social media strategy.  Fast Company.  Retrieved online at www.fastcompany.com

Pew Research. (2013, December).  Demographics of key social networking platforms.  Retrieved online from www.pewinternet.org

Cite this Content as:

Hecker, M. (2015, January). Strengthen your business with social media. AudiologyOnline, Article 13179. Retrieved from http://www.audiologyonline.com.

 

4 recorded webinars | Millennial Matters & Generational Issues in Audiology | Guest Editor: Yell Inverso, Aud, PhD |

melanie hecker

Melanie Hecker, AuD

Audiologist

Dr. Melanie Hecker completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Florida, relocating to Maryland to pursue her Doctorate of Audiology at Towson University.

Dr. Hecker most recently was the lead audiologist at a private practice in Laurel, Maryland. Dr. Hecker’s previous clinical experience has been in an array of clinical audiological settings, including participation in the Cleft Lip and Palate team at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center as well as working with cochlear implant and special needs students in the Baltimore City Public School System. Additionally, Dr. Hecker provided services at private practice audiology and otolaryngology settings in the Greater Baltimore/Washington Metro area.

Dr. Hecker is currently a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), an active member and Treasurer of the Maryland Academy of Audiology (MAA) and is licensed in the state of Maryland. 



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