By Troy Patterson

Social media is rapidly expanding in mobile and desktop formats, styles and delivery methods, and many in the optical industry are taking advantage.

The attractiveness of the ‘free’ element of social media is keeping optical businesses creative in an effort to keep their audiences interested in their message.

As an avid social media hound myself, it was natural to use the multiple formats available to promote the opening of my new store nearly two years ago,” said Ryan Horne of Regina’s Spex by Ryan. “With all of the start-up costs associated with a new store, traditional advertising was not a viable option.”

Horne enjoys interacting by social media and says seeing the likes, follows and comments provides useful feedback.

Having new clients mention their visit was due to one of my posts was very gratifying and a great way to measure success,” he said.

Horne said original content is important, as people don’t care much for stock images. And images should also be appealing, or they risk making either the product or store lack in professionalism.

Take some time and post quality,” he said. “Be consistent. Post one to three times a day, otherwise your audience will quickly become disinterested.”

He also recommends encouraging clients to share their own images with their friends and tag your business.

This is just as good as word-of-mouth advertising and dramatically expands your reach and followers,” Horne said. “It is the best time of my day when I post something really cool and see how everyone likes it.”

Eye Spy Optometry is in a young and trendy part of Calgary and Mark Ross said it’s important to reach out to existing clients with “fun, interesting information, jokes, blogs and scientific reports about eyes and vision.

Communication is key,” he said. “It also gives us the chance to highlight special events or new products in our practice.”

Ross said good quality and regular social media posts increases search engine optimization, so their website is more visible to potential patients on platforms like Google.

Ocean Optometry in Halifax relies on multiple social media channels as a ‘critical tool,’ via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Some posts are made on all channels and some lend themselves more to one or another, so think about what you post where,” said Ocean’s Dr. Euan McGinty, who noted commenting is important so it’s not a one-way flow of information. “All of our staff have access to our accounts and can post, we try to maintain a professional, but informal and relaxed voice. Use it and use it consistently.”

Sarah MacKenzie of MacKenzie Eye Care in Medicine Hat, Alberta said social media is a major driver to their website, which allows patients to review their technology, services and products.

I began utilizing social media with the goal to educate on the importance of eye health, regular vision care and the role our doctors of optometry provides in primary eye care,” said MacKenzie. “Social media also allows us to highlight our involvement in the community.”

Toby Mandelman of Bedford Eye Care said social media takes a notable effort for businesses, especially across multiple platforms, but the benefit is worth it.

His office has invested in services to collect testimonials about their business, as well as increase their web presence.

We believe this has really paid off for us, as the number of new patients who have found us through Internet channels continues to rise monthly,” he said.

Offices should also have someone managing their accounts that have a direct line to promptly answer questions asked online or have a direct connection to a professional who can provide answers.

People love having a direct pipeline to one of the doctors in the office,” Mandelman said.