In my last post I mentioned I had sent a friend a long email in answer to her questions about using social media to promote her orthodontia practice. I talked about the difference between spamming your friends and promoting your business. In the second part of the email, I gave her some specific tips for integrating all the social media channels.
Here’s a quick blueprint for what I would do if I were starting a small, service-oriented local business:
Try to give your business a unique name that you can own in Google search results, that has the URL available, that you can get as a user name on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. All of that will make you more searchable. Think about how people might be searching Google to find an orthodontist.
There’s a white truck I’ve seen driving around town. On one side it says chapelhillelectrician.com. On the other, carrboroelectrician.com. There’s a small business owner who understands search engine optimization.
Once you’ve picked a business name that you think you can own:
1. Buy the URL from someplace like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. Once you buy the URL, you can point it wherever you want, like to a blog or your business’ website, (although these days there is less and less difference between the two).
2. Set up a blog at WordPress.com. Write about who you are and why you’re starting the practice. Try to post something useful and interesting at least once a week. If you read a great article somewhere that answers a question a patient might have, write up a quick post about why you think it’s interesting and then link to the article you read. You don’t have to write something original, long and thoughtful every time, as long as you’re frequently sharing things of value.
3. Set up a Facebook page for your practice. Let all your friends know you’ve started the page. Use your personal Facebook account to let people know you’ve created the business page, but only mention it occasionally. Let people decide if they want to follow the professional you; don’t force it into your personal stream.
But don’t shy away from mentioning what you’re doing at work. When you open the practice or have milestones, share them in your personal stream if you want. That’s what I do. I don’t talk about SAS all the time, but I do link my SAS blog and mention big happenings, because that’s part of the totality of who I am.
Link your blog to your Facebook business page, so that when you post on your blog, it’s shared on your Facebook page as well. You can do that through the Facebook Notes feature, but I find the Networked Blogs Facebook app works better.
3. Create a Flickr account for your business. Maybe your patients will let you take pictures of them and post them there. (You’ll have to feel that out. No idea if that runs afoul of HIPAA. Also, a lot of your patients are likely to be minors and then you’d need parental permission.)
Link your Flickr account to your Facebook page as well, and promote it on your blog.
4. Create a YouTube channel for your business. Buy a small handheld video camera like a Flip or Kodak Zi-8. Shoot a video of yourself talking about who you are and why you became an orthodontist. Shoot videos that explain procedures, or answer questions people have. I’ll bet if you made a video called “Top Ten Misconceptions People Have About Orthodontists” and put it up on YouTube, you’d get lots of hits.
Link your YouTube channel to your Facebook page, and embed the videos as posts on your blog.
When you post blog posts, videos or photos, include key words in the description and tags like “orthodontia,” “orthodontist,” “braces,” “Chapel Hill,” “Carrboro,” etc. That will make it more likely people will find them in a search.
4. Create a Twitter account for your business. Use the Twitter account to promote your blog posts, videos and photos. But more important, use it to share information about orthodontia that people will find useful, as I described above.
Search Twitter for all the important keywords and see who is talking about those topics. Follow them, and the people they follow. See if there are any Twitter lists devoted to your field.
Use a tool like Tweetdeck that will allow you to set up search columns. You could set up columns for search terms like “Chapel Hill orthodontist,” and you’d see if someone tweeted, “Does anybody know a good orthodontist in Chapel Hill?” You could respond and say, “I’m a Chapel Hill orthodontist. What questions can I answer?”
You can also set up Google Alerts for all those keywords as well, and you’ll get an email notification from Google whenever anybody talks about them.
Lots to think about. You wouldn’t have to do all these things at once, or all of them at all. In order of value I would suggest:
1. A blog
2. A Facebook page
3. A Twitter account
Set up all three of those and get them integrated, then think about adding other channels.
For even more information about using social media to promote your business, big or small, I highly recommend the Marketing Over Coffee website and podcast. They have these connections â€” especially local search â€” down to a science.
And for more specifics about Facebook marketing, my friend Justin Levy wrote the book.
photo by ShieldConnectors