By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, O
By combining clinical skills with social media expertise, new optometry graduates can offer established ODs an enhanced presence in the digital world.
Recently, I gave a lecture to the Southern College of Optometry graduating class about implementing social media. During the talk, I took questions in real time via text and Twitter, as well as raised hands. It was clear that this group was bright and motivated, but they felt it would be a long time, if ever, that they owned an optometric practice. I told them, “You guys are digital natives. You can bring social media to the practice that employs you!”
for New Grads
Cheryl Murphy, OD, offers the following pointers to new OD grads who would like to use social media to advance professionally.
Separate personal and professional.
Practice with yourpersonal account first.
Use common sense when posting information.
Monitor your social media sites daily.
Communicate with your employer.
Brand yourself uniquely and professionally.
Never plagiarize or use images or video without permission.
Build your online portfolio over time.
Leverage social media when looking for a new position.
Over the last few years, I have informally surveyed hundreds of optometrists and have found that what prevents them from using social media isfear of the unknown, fear of the time commitment, fear of losing control of the conversation. For these doctors, delegating social media to an associate can be a win-win. The practice can benefit from the increased exposure online, and the employee has a rare skill making them more valuable to the practice.
Social Media a Win-Win
This has been true for Cheryl G.Murphy, OD, who maintains her own blog and Facebook page as an employed optometrist. When asked how she does it,she put it this way: “I remember professors at SUNY telling us ‘you need to bring something to a practice to show you can make your potential employers’ practice more profitable, like adding vision therapy, etc.’ Why not let your knowledge of social media and blogging be something you can add to enhance their practice? Can you say free advertising?”
Betsy Frasier, OD,associate optometrist at Family Vision Care had a similar experience. Prior to becoming an optometrist, she learned about social media by connecting with friends and using her personal accounts. While negotiatingher position as an associate, she offered these unique skills to the practice owner, Dr. F. Mason Smith,who agreed that it would benefit the practice.
Use Social Media Judiciously
Neither Dr. Murphy nor Dr. Frazier has disagreedwith anything their associates havepublished online.But Justin Bazan, OD,had a different experience, when he was fired for having a blog. “The CEO said that he wanted patients loyal to the brand, not the doctor,” Dr. Bazan said. “The blog was seen as a threat because patients were developing a loyalty to me. He feared that if I built up a loyal following, business would suffer when I left because they would follow me.”
Perhaps this negative situation could have been avoided, but it led to better things for all involved. For Dr. Bazan, this was a defining moment thatspurred him toopen Park Slope Eye, one of the most social-media savvy practices in the world. And as for his employer, this incident “really did take the care ofthese patients to a whole new level,” Dr. Bazan says. The doctor is now demonstrating a deeper level of commitment, contact and care.”
For New Grads
When asked what advice she would give to new grads like the ones I spoke to at Southern College of Optometry, Dr. Murphy shared this: “Tell the new ODs that when they are being interviewed by their potential employer and talk about how passionate and caring they are, why not be able to back it up by demonstrating a long history of patient education blogging?”
As a seasoned practice owner, you are not necessarily the most knowledgeable person in your business about social media. Be aware of the following points when asking a new associate to handle social media marketing tasks.
Learn the basics of social media yourself.
Determine which channels are appropriate for your office.
Set guidelines about what should and should not be posted.
Develop a social media policy for the entire staff.
Set time limits, such as no more than 15 to 30 minutes per day.
Determine which metrics will be used to evaluate progress.
Follow up weekly or monthly to ensure you’reon track.
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Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warfordof Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Fla., is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry.He isa member of the American Optometric Association, and is currently immediate past president of the Hillsborough Society of Optometry, as well as chair of the Children’s Vision Committee of the Florida Optometric Association. To contact him: Doc@BrightEyesTampa.com.