Generate LASIK Buzz Through Social Media

In this episode, George Waring IV, MD; Blake Williamson, MD, MPH, MS; William Wiley, MD; and James Loden, MD, explore the role of marketing—particularly with social media—in growing their practices. Each physician shares tips and strategies for boosting practice recognition and patient volume.

This podcast is an editorially independent program supported with funding by Johnson & Johnson Vision.

Ranna Jaraha: This is an editorially independent program, supported with funding by Johnson and Johnson Vision.

Hello. My name is Ranna Jaraha and this is the third and final installment in a special series about LASIK. We've covered the excellent outcomes LASIK technology provides and how to relate to patients and overcome fears in the first two episodes. Today, we're going to speak about marketing, specifically social media marketing. We've gathered an exceptional group of experts here today, all of whom have participated previously in the podcast series.

First, we have Dr. George Waring, from Waring Vision Institute in Charleston, South Carolina.

George Waring: Hello, all.

Ranna Jaraha: Next, we have Dr. Blake Williamson of Williamson Eye Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Blake Williamson: Hi, Ranna. I'm happy to be here.

Ranna Jaraha: We also have with us Dr. Bill Wiley of Cleveland Eye Clinic in Brecksville, Ohio.

Bill Wiley: Hello everyone.

Ranna Jaraha: And our final panel member is Dr. James Loden of Loden Vision in Nashville, Tennessee.

James Loden: Hello to everyone.

Ranna Jaraha: Let's dive in. So consumer research tells us that LASIK patients are primarily college educated, have a household income greater than $50,000 and are reliant on technology and social media. How are you marketing to your potential patients? Dr. Loden?

James Loden: I've been in practice marketing Lasik in my area continuously for 20 years now. So we've developed a brand in our region that continues to benefit us. Now it's a combination of the brand we've developed over time and using multiple marketing venues, all at the same time. We obviously have a very leading edge website with different landing pages for different procedures and we have Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages for social media marketing. We have a presence on YouTube and we have different blogs out there as well, which we think is important for people researching LASIK. We also continue to use a smattering of traditional marketing, such as radio, local print media, and TV. The point is, you can't use just one form of marketing. It really has to be all hands on deck if you want to build a large LASIK practice.

Ranna Jaraha: Dr. Waring, what do you do to attract patients?

George Waring: We do health fairs and outreach programs where our marketing group and technicians will go out and offer dry eye screenings with LipiFlow and use that to talk about laser vision correction opportunities. We also include some kind of call to action or raffle that would allow people to come in for a complimentary LASIK evaluation. We also do in-house educational opportunities for prospective patients. Finally, we market via local news and publications which highlight the practice. Community engagement remains a significant initiative for our institute. We feel the opportunity to educate is agnostic and important.

Ranna Jaraha: Dr. Wiley, what's your approach to marketing?

Bill Wiley: So we've had a variety of traditional and social media marketing. What we've really found to be the most important is our website. You know, 98 percent of our patients visit us on the website before calling us. So whether someone hears about you via social media or any other form, they're all going to ultimately visit your website and that's where you have to convince them to choose your practice.

George Waring: That's very true. We work carefully with a website team for search engine optimization, to make sure we are using the right keywords, and right material in the right location. Everything is cross referenced so that traffic from social media is all driven to our website.

Ranna Jaraha: Marketing through so many platforms can become complex and time consuming. Do you hire this out or do you handle it in house? Dr. Waring?

George Waring: We handle all of our social media in house. We have one employee dedicated to overall marketing and another employee responsible for social media. Then we have other employees who wear multiple hats and are cross trained on a variety of functions, including overall marketing and social media.

James Loden: We've also found that we're a lot more flexible when we do our marketing in house, but we do hire out certain projects. We create original videos using film crews. We've created educational videos, patient testimonials, and even live surgery videos that are housed on our YouTube page. These videos are highly ranked in Google searches and have incredible numbers of shares and views.

Ranna Jaraha: Dr. Wiley?

Bill Wiley: So it's definitely not me. I can tell you the ins and outs of LASIK, corneal inlays, and other refractive surgeries, but I'm not a marketer. Now I'm quick to recognize what I know and what I don't know and we like to outsource things that we're not specialized in. I definitely recommend hiring a professional or if you can't afford that, find somebody on your team that has an interest in developing their marketing skills and start with them.

We have somebody on our team who specialized in this and does a great job, but we've also hired specialized firms to do things like keep us up with Google searches, keywords, Google is key for marketing.

Blake Williamson: I drove my family practice that, similar to doctor Loden's had a long-standing recognized brand in the community. And we continue to participate in a variety of marketing venues. Most of the more traditional marketing is handled by an in-house team, but I tend to sort of lead the social media marketing myself, along with some of my teammates who also help me.

I'm 35-years-old and it's an area that appeals to me, it's something I grew up in, in the age of social media so I tend to kind of take it on. I do post a lot myself or I can come up with ideas and ask my marketing team to carry them out. I have different teammates who have access to my different social media accounts, and so all of us are kind of peppering different things in there. I think the biggest thing is ... That, that allows you to do is to document as opposed to create. So there's a movement to sort of worry or focus more on documentation and posting more raw things and not have everything go so polished. That creates a layer of authenticity. So document verses creative is something that we've been focusing on in our practice with our social media campaigns.

Ranna Jaraha: It sounds like most of you have someone in-house that handles your social media, if not more of your marketing. Do you look for someone in a specific age demographic to take on this task? Dr. Waring.

George Waring: Yes, we had someone in their mid 20's and this is the age that understands it and has the most experience with using social media.

James Loden: There are many talented people between about 27 and 35 who can design brochures, commercials, print ads, and manage a social media account. When I'm looking for someone I ask them to show me their Instagram account, talk to them about Pinterest, ask them to make a live Facebook video, and then I ask them to design me a print ad for LASIK on the spot. If they can do all that and also know how to plan a special event then they're probably going to be a good hire.

Ranna Jaraha: One great thing about social media is that as opposed to a radio ad that is difficult to track, you know exactly how many people have seen your post, interacted with it, and shared it. What posts are most likely to trend, to really get traction and engage your audience?

George Waring: We post a variety of things on social media, but our live feeds from patients are definitely the most successful. First, everyone signs a video and photography wavier, then our laser suite is glass, so we encourage friends or family that come with the patients to do a live feed if they're so inclined or take either a video or photos to post afterwards if they're more comfortable with that. Another key moment to capture is when we check their vision right after surgery, showing that they very well may have 20/20 vision right off the table.

The goal is to encourage them to take it with their own phones, post to their own accounts, and then tag us so that the video could go out to 100's or 1,000's of friends who are probably not actively associated with our institute. These patient videos are really impactful and generate the most traction.

Blake Williamson: Well, video is king on social media and some of the best ones are quite simple. I make a lot of casual videos just with my phone, but I also started using a new video app called Promo. So Promo has thousands of these high quality stock videos to which I can add text and music, and can create these really effective, sometimes funny and catchy, marketing pieces.

One thing about social media is that it is constantly changing. I'm now learning about the importance of stories, both on Instagram and on Facebook. Stories, basically they show up chronologically as opposed to the posts that are being prioritized because they're paid or have high engagement according to these different complex algorithms. It's important to keep up on these thing and know what your intended audience will actually see. And these stories are kind of like Snapchat in the sense that they'll show up for about 24 hours, then they disappear. So again, going along with the whole document verses creative I think that fits in nicely.

Like Dr. Waring, we also have large windows into our operating suites, so we can encourage patient's family or friends to take videos and pictures. And anything your patients post directly is always better than what you post yourselves, right? So, the thought about that is, back in the day before social media, if a patient had a great outcome they might've told one or two people, right? Well these days, when they make a post on social media, they're literally telling everybody they've everybody they’ve ever met, right? Think about it. If you're scrolling through your Facebook page how often do you see posts of friends that you haven't seen in many years, right? You're literally telling everyone, and what that does is, it scales your word of mouth. Word of mouth is still king in terms of referrals. Social media can highlight and scale that.

As far as how do I do it and how do I have them take it on their phone, I just say to patients, hey we should get a picture together and post it, but I don't have my phone, you just want to take it on yours? I intentionally leave my phone in the desk or something like that outside the lane. Another option is to take it yourself, but simply just text it to the patients so that way they have it on their phone. The goal is to get it on their phone.

Ranna Jaraha: Dr. Wiley?

Bill Wiley: We always take a picture with a patient on their phone and we've done a variety of incentives to have them post it. We have them tag us and once we even gave away an Apple Watch to whoever posted the best picture. Last year after hurricane Harvey we donated $50 towards recovery efforts for every person who live streamed their surgery from their own account. You really don't have to do a lot of work to get people to post live video because eye surgery is pretty cool and if people are posting what they eat for breakfast they're definitely going to post live eye surgery if you just make it available for them.

George Waring: It's true. Our job is to have the infrastructure there with the most relevant sites and then to create a methodology. So it's intuitive to capture new testimonials and to consistently get new material out there so it's fresh. You also need to use hashtags appropriately.

Ranna Jaraha: Yes. Can you elaborate on how you do that?

George Waring: To me it's most effective to hashtag a few high yield searchable words such as, vision correction or LASIK. We're not sure that the long funny phrases that are so esoteric are that useful, it certainly can add color, but it may not be that anybody is gonna search them.

Ranna Jaraha: We talk a lot about organic content with social media, and just finding things that people just naturally want to share. Especially since it's free to set up accounts and post, but when do you need to start dedicating part of your advertising budget to social media? Dr. Williamson, what are your thoughts?

Blake Williamson: So we like to think of social media as our free advertising, but the paid posts that can be boosted can really scale it to a wider audience that will actually see your content and really, I believe that this can be some of the best money invested in any advertising. I think that Facebook is the most powerful advertising tool ever invented because of the hyper-targeting based off psychographics and demographics.

One sort of example of this is last year we wanted to launch a new technology at Williamson Eye and I decided to just make a little video about. The video cost me nothing to produce, it was very raw and unedited. I just spent a $100 to boost that video. Well that $100 investment ended up yielding 29,000 views on Facebook and it was shared over 100 times. That ended up generating about 19 consultations which ended up becoming corneal inlays or LASIK procedures, or dysfunctional lens replacements, refractive cataract's surgery, you name it. In the end we kind of looked at the ROI that $100 investment generated almost $50,000 in revenue. I don't think any of our traditional forms of advertising have such a dramatic ROI than social media.

Ranna Jaraha: Wow, what a fantastic result. Question, how do you juggle social media and HIPPA concerns?

George Waring: As part of our electronic check-in we have both the standard HIPPA Privacy Policies and Procedures, then a second waiver for the use of photographs and videos that patients can opt-out of. We include ancillary HIPPA training along with the standard HIPPA training for all of our staff and beyond that, we try to create an atmosphere where it's never forced that patients have to promote their experience. We want the patients to be excited and want them to share their journey, really on their own and most clients are so excited, they're happy to do this.

Blake Williamson: I have all of my patients sign a waiver saying that I can use the video and images online and I also say to them, thanks for agreeing to share your story with our followers, either before or after capturing the image or video. A lot of times I do that during the video itself and that kind of puts the viewers who are viewing it on social media at ease in case they had any sort of HIPPA-type questions.

I find that patients are really willing to do that you just did them an amazing service. You've done something that's transformative for their vision and they're sitting in the chair just gushing about how happy they are. I think it makes natural sense to say, you know I'd love if you shared this story and sort of tell more people about the benefits of refractive surgery and how it can transform someone's life. A lot of people are scared of having laser eye surgery for some reason and your message will go a long way to help educate your community about the benefits and they're very receptive to that.

Ranna Jaraha: This has all been very informative and hopefully our listeners can take home some of these pearls for use in marketing their own practices. A huge thank you to doctors Waring, Wiley, Williamson, and Loden for sharing their experiences here with us today. That concludes our podcast series on successes with LASIK. Thank you to Johnson and Johnson for supporting this editorially independent program and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. If you haven't listened to our previous installments I urge you to do so. Thanks again.