Struggling with Social Media? Why so many Small Businesses Get It Wrong

social media, small business, marketing, reputation, content

By now, almost every successful business owner understands the importance of maintaining a social media presence. Unfortunately, many may still be struggling to get it right:

Consider some of the findings in a recent study by The Alternative Board, a provider of peer-to-peer advisory boards:

  • 59% of small business owners believe social media is “nice to have” but not essential to their business
  • 64% monitor their social media presence once a week (and 22% only check them a few times a year!)
  • 66% find it challenging to find the right message to share

The reality is that maintaining a social media presence is essential; monitoring it frequently is imperative, and finding the right message to share is a lot less challenging when you understand why consumers turn to social media in the first place. And aesthetic consumers, aka, potential patients who are actively researching procedures and providers, are no exception.

Maintaining a social presence: Aesthetic procedures are the antithesis of an impulse buy, with potential patients spending weeks, months, and even years researching their options. The paths these patients take to find the one doctor they feel they can entrust with their care are as varied as they are, but they’ll almost invariably form opinions based on your presence on social channels. Simply put, the social content you publish — answering questions, sharing inspiring stories, etc. — adds a human touch to a notoriously impersonal medium.

In fact, potential patients all but demand doctors participate in the social conversation: According to RealSelf consumer research, more than 90% of survey respondents said they expect doctors to be present and active. Even more — 96% — said they expect practices to be involved. If you’re not, what conclusions do you suppose they’ll draw?

Monitoring your reputation: Remember the old line about a lie traveling halfway around the globe while the truth is still putting on its shoes? Thanks to the internet, all information — true, false, or otherwise — now travels at hyper-speed. If you’re not monitoring what’s being said about you on social channels constantly, a poor review (or outright lie) can put your reputation at risk without you ever realizing it.

The good news is that monitoring online reviews and other social comments isn’t hard. The key is to automate your listening efforts in advance. Free tools like Google Alerts and Social Mention let you monitor references to you and your practice across the web and social channels while a host of fee-based services will collect reviews from multiple sites.

Finding your message: What do you want potential patients to know about you? That you perform this or that procedure. So do countless other providers. That you’ve earned this or that honor? Important, but borderline bragging. That you have both the empathy to understand their concerns and aesthetic goals and the expertise to help relieve the former and achieve the latter? Bingo.

How you accomplish that is a personal decision, but specific content aside, the key is to remember that social media is more about the “social” than the “media.” As is often noted, it’s a conversation and, as with any conversation, you can’t learn much if you do all the talking. Listen more; respond when you can provide assistance, and the message that will come through is that you’re interested in helping them, not yourself.

Doctor Takeaway

Successful social media requires a strategy not a set of tactics

According to The Alternative Board study, 59% of small businesses manage their own social media channels, and 67% leave the management of said efforts in the hands of beginner to intermediate users. For those with the time and inclination to take it on, DIY social media may be a viable option, but given the challenges of staying current with an ever-changing online landscape, leaving it to that Facebook-obsessed staffmember will no longer cut it. Whether you hire an experienced social media manager or utilize a web-savvy agency, the long-term strategy is the same: You need to make the commitment to always be there, aware, and on message.

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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