Facebook Faux Pas: It’s not about Acquiring New Patients

Facebook retention

Photo by birgerking via flickr

As the world’s largest social network, Facebook is all about connecting people with one another.

Unfortunately, for small businesses, including cosmetic surgery practices, it’s often the setting for a major disconnect, as well. All too often, business owners view the site as a way to generate new business rather than as a means to build awareness and community.

In fact, according to a recent survey by BIA/Kelsey, more small and medium businesses now view Facebook as a tool to acquire new customers (41.7%) than as a medium to build awareness (30.9%) or community (19.4%). That represents a serious disconnect between the way those businesses approach the site and the way people actually use it.

No one goes on Facebook to find a plastic surgeon; that’s not how they use the site, says Mike Wilton, Internet marketing manager for Plastic Surgery Studios. Yet, doctors get on the site and think they’re going to start seeing people ‘liking’ them and that that’s going to result in new surgeries.

Mike Wilton internet marketing

Mike Wilton

As evidence, Wilton crunched the numbers for more than 60 clients who actively use social media and found that, on average, Facebook delivered a miniscule .52% of total traffic to their websites last year. And when it comes to conversions, the site delivered a grand total of 10 trackable leads (!), four of which, says Wilton, came as a result of Facebook Ad campaigns.

The data pretty much tells the story, says Wilton. People aren’t coming to doctors’ sites from Facebook and they’re definitely not converting when they do come.

Which is not to imply that maintaining a presence on Facebook is a waste of time. According to Wilton, the traffic that did come from Facebook was often more engaged than visitors from other sources, spending more time on site and viewing one more page, on average, than other visitors.

As for conversions, he points to a number of occasions where people visit a doctor’s Facebook page to ask a question and then follow up with a phone call. Such “soft conversions” make it difficult to assign a hard ROI to those interactions but they clearly have value.

What to make of the above? The key is to recognize that Facebook is more about keeping existing customers in the loop — retention, in marketing speak — than it is about acquiring new ones. Think relationship first, then Facebook, not the other way around.

Doctors need to look at Facebook as a way to keep in touch with patients, to let them know what’s going on with the practice and not look at it as a typical marketing play, says Wilton. You’re not going to get a lot of ‘likes’ or a ton of new leads. At the end of the day, that’s not how people use Facebook.

Doctor Takeaways

1. Retention is its own form of ROI

According to Wilton, the most engagement comes from patients pursuing Botox and other services that require return visits. Emphasizing such services on Facebook not only speaks to what patients are looking for, but also offers the opportunity to provide feedback, strengthens their connection to your practice and increases the likelihood of repeat business.

2. Link the online to the offline

One reason Facebook falls flat, says Wilton, is that doctors fail to let patients know they’re on the site, which is why he recommends office signage, social buttons on practice websites, etc., that makes the case: “If you don’t provide offline information that you’re on Facebook or whatever social network you’re using, you’re not going to get that follow-up and build that community.”

Mike Wilton is the Internet Marketing Manager for Plastic Surgery Studios, a Southern California-based Plastic Surgery internet marketing company.  He has worked in the SEO and Internet Marketing field since 2006 and is a regular contributor at SearchNewsCentral.com and SearchEnginePeople.com where he writes on a variety of topics related to SEO and Social Media.    

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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