Turn your friends into fans
Getting the most out of Facebook for your practice
By Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, was crowned 2010’s “Person of the Year” by Time magazine. Little wonder: Facebook has more than 500 million active users — more than the U.S. population.
The company aims to give users “the power to share.” The success of Facebook in getting people to connect and share information is evident in the more than 2.5 billion photos uploaded each month and 60 million status updates posted every day.
Consider harnessing the sharing power of Facebook for your practice.
While you may have a Facebook user account for your personal use, you may not have a page for your practice. Personal Facebook pages are different from "official" Facebook pages, which are used for businesses, bands, organizations, etc. Official pages are used to broadcast news and information in an official, public manner to the people who choose to connect with them.
Set up a winning professional page
One of the major benefits of creating a Facebook page, compared with building and maintaining a website, is that it is easy. On the Facebook homepage, go to the bottom of the screen and click on “Create a Page.” Select the type of business you own and fill in all of the details. Google thinks highly of Facebook pages in its search engine results. The more information you provide, the more effective your page will be at appearing high in search results.
Be sure to include your practice logo, any RSS blog feeds that are relevant, videos, images — the whole nine yards. RSS, or “Really Simple Syndication,” is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works — such as blog entries, news headlines, or audio and video clips. Official pages are useful because you can include everything that relates to your practice in one place with an enormous potential audience.
Promoting your page
The tricky thing about official pages is that you can’t “friend” someone the way you can from your personal page. People can elect to "like" your page, but only if they know about it. You have to spread the word organically (and keep doing it) to introduce people to your page and to your practice.
Begin by identifying contacts from your personal Facebook page who are either patients, people in your business networks, people working in a related field, or people who would benefit from the information you provide, and invite them to "like" your page. Send them a short note explaining what you plan to offer and include a link to your page. Remember, potential fans will be thinking
“what’s in it for me?” It is vital to post content that your fans will value; however, avoid offering any incentives that may trigger issues with federal or state inducement laws.
Create your community
Your goal is to have all your patients "like" your official page instead of becoming a "friend" of your personal page. Let your patients know you have created an official page for them.
Once you have created an official page, you can “unfriend” your patients from your personal page. It’s good to explain this to patients before unfriending them to avoid confusion or hurt feelings. What you’re doing is creating a community just like you would within the walls of your practice. Because Facebook is interactive, the sense of community builds fast.
Make your page work for you
Post updates to your page on a weekly (if not daily) basis and point your fans to other interesting material on your practice website to increase traffic.
Keep your content fresh — give people a reason to check your page regularly. Encourage discussions among fans by asking provocative questions about chiropractic like: “Why is posture important?” or “How young is too young for chiropractic care?”
It takes time to build a solid fan base, so continue to send out invites to new contacts asking if they want to "like" your page.
Facebook is interactive
Keep in mind that it’s your page and there are certain controls you must exercise. You have control over who can't (or can't) "like" your page; you can remove someone from your page at any time. If someone writes something you don't want on your page, you have the ability to remove it. Check your page daily to ensure you approve all content.
You may wish to delegate the maintenance of your page to a member of your practice team, just as you would any other marketing aspect of the practice. (Facebook can become a distraction.)
Be sure to focus on patients and not on Facebook. Have clearly written parameters of when it’s permitted for you and practice team members to check your page. Checking once daily is enough.
Your Facebook efforts will be ongoing, so plan to dedicate a few hours each week to attracting new fans and updating your content. You’ll quickly appreciate the instant ability to connect with past, current, and future patients through this powerful community-building tool.
Mark Sanna, DC, is a member of the Chiropractic Summit, the ACA Governor’s Advisory Board, and a board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching. He can be reached at 800-723-8423 or through www.mybreakthrough.com.