Social media tips from the prof

Jan 08, 2015, 5:00am

Melanie Palm, M.D., interviews an expert on some lesser-known facts and emerging trends in social media and search engine optimization.

In this two-part series, I’ll explore some lesser-known facts and emerging trends in social media and search engine optimization (SEO). In her class titled “Advertising Strategies and Social Media,” Alexa Mokalis, adjunct lecturer at the San Diego State University School of Journalism and Media Studies, educates students on the trends in successful online marketing strategies. Below, she shares the top tips most appropriate to practicing physicians and their offices.

1. DO use the 80/20 rule. Approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of the content put forth by your practice on social media should be interesting and engaging content, with only 10 percent to 20 percent reserved for promotional content.  “Promotional content is okay as long as it is balanced and often incorporates a call to action,” Ms. Mokalis says.  “Ask fans what is their favorite skincare trend or how their New Year’s resolution is fairing.”

2. DON’T delete (or ignore) negative comments.  “In today's age of social media and unlimited access to information, transparency is crucial.”  Ms. Mokalis recommends that if someone uses your platform as a soapbox, respond politely in public first (minding your HIPAA compliance), and then ask to speak privately. This approach garners respect from others and addresses negative comments directly in a respectful manner.

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3. DO use visuals.  “According to one study, visuals receive 94 percent more page visits and engagement than those without. Keep your clients engaged by using different types of visuals on your posts, this helps to keep them curious as to what to expect from you week to week.”  Ms. Mokalis recommends a mix of different visual content including before and after photos, behind the scenes videos from your practice, testimonial videos, and infographics on diseases or trends in dermatology.

4. DON’T feel pressured to be on every platform.  Does the idea of simultaneously being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest, and a blog seem daunting? It would to most of us - even if a dedicated employee in the office handles social media. Instead pick one or two platforms and do them well.  “Not all platforms may necessarily be beneficial to your business,” Ms. Mokalis says. Instead, build and focus on a few. Facebook, according to Ms. Mokalis is an absolute must with 1 billion users worldwide. Next in line? Try videos on YouTube or add photos to Pinterest, which has a predominately female adult demographic and is the fastest growing platform on the web.

5. DO establish community guidelines. “In order to avoid any miscommunication, be sure to establish your purpose for being on each particular platform. I recommend outlining this in the “About” section of the business.” Ms. Mokalis points to large corporations such as Target that do this well. Such guidelines state the purpose of behavior as well as etiquette for guests. For example, you may state that patients’ clinical questions need to be directed to the clinic phone number and that explicit language is prohibited and such comments will be removed.

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6. DON’T forget to proofread. The number one reason that fans/viewers disengage from a social media outlet is spelling and grammatical mishaps.  Especially for a professional business such as a dermatology office, this reads as unprofessional and careless. Mind your P’s and Q’s, dot your I’s, and cross the T’s!

7. DO be consistent.  “As much as possible, post new content weekly, and establish a schedule so that your clients can know when to expect new content from you. I recommend posting 1-3 times per week,” she says.  Ms. Mokalis also recommends for new users to start slowly, and as you get accustomed to a platform, increase the frequency of posts. She also states the importance of responding to previous posts before posting new content.  “You want to engage in a two-way conversation with your audience.”

8. DON’T use auto-responses.  “Today we live in what advertising professionals call, ‘The Relationship Era’, meaning that your clients expect you to engage with them as you would with a friend. Having a human touch on each of your posts, responses, and replies is no longer an option, but a necessity,” she says. For this reason, resist the temptation to create a pre-formed response to inquiries. Instead, tailor responses to inquiries and comments to the individual. It helps to create loyalty to your brand.

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9. DON’T be afraid to apologize. To err is human, and your audience forgives your mistakes as long as you own up to them. “It is how your business handles those mistakes that will set you apart from your competitors,” Ms. Mokalis says. “If you or someone in your business makes an error, follow this simple road to resolution: 1) address the problem, 2) express concern, 3) offer remedial options, and 4) follow up.” Remember that apologizing for a mistake does not admit fault, but will go a long way in gaining trust back from your audience.

10. DO be aware of your audience. Knowing your audience is the key to creating a connection that brings them back to your social media platform again and again. “If your clients are 45 to 60 years old, and are generally spectators on social media, you don't want to ask them to enter into a drawing by uploading a video to your page.” Ms. Mokalis also suggests using a Social Technographics Profile (STP) to determine what type of social media your clients best embody. Never heard of STP?  Check it out here:  http://empowered.forrester.com/tool_consumer.html

In next month’s column, we will explore effective tools for SEO on your practice websites and social media platforms. We will even explore why “Top 5” and “Top 10” lists, such as the one outlined above are powerful tools for your next blog entry. DO get started on good social media practices, but remember DON’T get intimated by the process.