Utilizing Social Media to Grow a Practice

Being active on social media can be beneficial for practice growth, as well as building connections with patients and other eye care professionals.
social media

I learned a lot since first becoming active on social media in 2016 when I started 20/20 Glance, my weekly email newsletter that contains clinically relevant news about the latest innovations and developments in eye care. I was trying to get the word out about 20/20 Glance, so I started becoming more active on Instagram with the goal of promoting that. 

Then, from a practice standpoint, my approach to social media changed. I joined Envision Optometry, a practice in Boston’s financial district, in 2018, and then went on to purchase the practice in 2020. Once I bought the practice, I knew I had to be more active and authentic on social media. I often look at businesses on Instagram before I go to visit them in person, so I know as a consumer how important it is to be present on social media. When I felt like I had a good handle on what I wanted to post, I put it out there that I was the owner of the practice, and it grew from there. 

Building Connections with Patients
As doctors, we really only get to spend roughly 30 minutes with a patient once a year. We need to be proactive about finding other ways to build connections with our patients throughout the rest of the year, and social media has helped with that. 

There are both measurable and non-measurable ways to assess the effect that social media has had on my practice. When patients come in for a treatment that I showed on Instagram or TikTok, then I know what I’m posting is reaching my target audience. However, making a connection with patients is incredibly important but hard to measure the return on investment with social media. By regularly posting on Instagram Stories, I’ve built a relationship with my patient base, and they start to feel like they know me better because they see me talk in a candid way. Over time, that helps grow loyalty and garner trust between patients and doctors. 

Figuring Out What to Post
If you’re ready to start using social media but you’re not sure what to post, think about the most common questions you get in the exam room. I use this as an opportunity to create content for my patients. If a patient comes in specifically asking about a recent post I made about TearCare or IPL (intense pulsed light) therapy, it confirms that I’m posting things that my community cares about and has a need for. If you need more ideas on what to post, the website answerthepublic.com allows you to type in any keyword and find the most searched questions that people Googled related to that keyword. Find the questions people are asking and give them the answers!

In terms of specific types of posts, I’ve found that Instagram Stories have been very successful when it comes to bonding with my patients. I use Stories to talk about my day-to-day activities — sometimes it’s eye-related and sometimes it’s not. Talking about mundane things, such as a new local coffee shop I found, shows patients that you’re a real person — and it builds engagement. I’ve had several patients tell me they feel like they know me better because of this.

Being Authentic on Social Media
I manage my own social media because it feels more personalized when I create the posts myself. Because this can take time, I know I don’t post as reliably as an outside company would. For me, it feels the most authentic when I’m doing the posting and can talk directly to my patients. 

This also translates into what I post and whether or not something will resonate with my social media community. I find that pictures that are authentic and taken in the office are the most successful. Also, pictures with people in them are more successful. If I’m in a picture, that post gets more engagement than if I post a picture of a pair of frames alone. While the picture is important, the topic has to be related to something people care about, and the text has to be helpful and valuable. Education is the goal of all of my social media posts. It’s not possible on every single one, but I try to share educational information on most of my posts so there’s a mutual benefit — I taught, they learned. 

On the other hand, I’ve learned that stock images don’t perform as well on social media. I subscribed to a service that you could pull stock photos from and write your own captions, and I’d use it to post photos of fireworks for Fourth of July or presents wrapped under a Christmas Tree. It was clearly not my photo, and that authenticity was missing, which made those posts less engaging. 

Finding a Posting Schedule that Works for You
For my practice, I post almost exclusively on Instagram and Facebook, and I also have a personal TikTok account that isn’t branded for my practice. 

I like posting on Instagram Stories the most, and I do that in real time. I usually post a story in the morning, whether it’s me talking to the camera or showing something in the office. Doing posts on my feed takes a lot more time, focus, and attention, as opposed to me opening my phone and talking into my camera. I don’t have a strict posting schedule, but I like to be active on my Instagram story four to five days a week. 

This wasn’t natural for me in the beginning, but I’ve developed a routine with it now. I’m always alone whenever I’m talking to my camera — I’m still too embarrassed to film myself in public or around other people. But when I’m alone, there’s safety in knowing that you can always stop and start again if you think you sound silly. I also try to make it sound like I’m talking to a friend, while still being professional. Talking to the camera isn’t as intimidating as you might think. People resonate with others who are being themselves. 

If you’re just starting out, start small. Introduce yourself and ask your followers if they have any topics they’d want to see you cover. If all else fails, pretend you’re talking to your patient in the exam chair. 

The Value of Social Media
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that there is real value in social media, and you can reach a lot of people. As far as learning how to do it, I had no formal training. I played around in the apps, Google searched things, went on YouTube for other things. You can learn how to do anything on the Internet, and once you start doing it, it gets easier. 

Don’t forget, social media is supposed to be social. It allows me to connect with other practitioners and patients. I had a patient message me on Instagram recently because she was on a cruise, and she started seeing flashing lights. So, I was talking her through what to do over Instagram. I know that not everyone will be comfortable responding to patients, or feeling like they have to respond to patients, but I personally don’t mind that. That interaction helps build a community — whether it’s other doctors or my patients.

  • Jaclyn Garlich, OD

    Dr. Jaclyn Garlich is a graduate of the New England College of Optometry. After optometry school, she completed a residency in primary care and ocular disease at the St. Louis Veterans Affairs and obtained her Fellowship of the American Academy of Optometry in 2011. She is passionate about treating ocular surface disease and has built a dry eye specialty clinic within her practice to better serve her dry eye patients. She is the editor of Glance, an optometry publication that educates thousands of eye care providers on the latest advances in the profession, and she is the co-host of the To The Point podcast, a podcast aimed at helping eye doctors build their dry eye practices. Dr. Garlich also serves as a Major in the Air National Guard.

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