Fresh Eyes on Social Media

Here's today's Social Media Insider originally published in MediaPost

If you think you've read everything you need to know about social
media, maybe you should get your eyes checked. When you go, with any luck your
optometrist will be Nathan Bonilla-Warford, O.D. in Tampa, Florida, as he can
teach you a few things.

Nathan reached out following last week's column about my optometrist uncle,  who
said my article was posted on an optometrists' forum. His email signature
included links to his Web
site
, Yelp listing, Facebook page, and Twitter account, and he later
revealed he's a blogger
too. I thought his practical experience as a business owner grappling with
social media should be shared with others. Here's an exclusive interview with
Dr. Bonilla-Warford.

Social Media
Insider: How did you decide to tweet? What's it doing for you?

Dr. Nathan
Bonilla-Warford:
Another optometrist turned me on
to it. Because I blog, it was a no-brainer. It gets my message out about news
and events. Twitter has led to new patients and new sales. Now that I have been
tweeting for a while, I truly see Twitter (social media more generally) as
"The Chamber of Commerce for our generation."

With Twitter you get to see the people behind the business a bit more and, in
this day where we are all fed a steady diet of overhyped, irony-dripping
marketing, it is nice to see real people. Add local tweetups to the mix and it
is awesome, especially for a small business like mine that likes to work in
barter when possible.

So I love it. And being the ONLY eye doc in Tampa Bay who tweets,
I've got that self-selected demographic all to myself — for now. And I am
taking advantage of it while I can.

SMI: How much
time does it take you to manage your social media presence?

NBW: Well,
my wife thinks it takes me a lot of time. Really, though, social media is so integrated
with other tasks such as administrative and leisure time that it is hard to
quantify the time put in. Perhaps 30 minutes a day total, apart from
stand-alone marketing time. I don't think of it as taking a lot of time,
because it is fun and rewarding. An important note is that this really only
applies to maintenance of social networks. Setting up a new presence DOES take
time and effort at first, deciding on what image to present, literally and
figuratively, and what the written and unwritten rules are of the new network.

SMI: Are
any social media channels more important than others?

NBW: I'm
not a guru on this subject, but I think it all depends on your goals and
perspective. I pretty much see my blog as the central hub of the Web presence
and then other systems/networks making use of that content. However, this is
changing as I am becoming more active on Twitter. I am starting to dislike
Facebook due to all the quizzes and applications, but I know that it is still
popular.

SMI: Is it
just you managing it? Do you have anyone in your office helping you?

NBW: I
have talked about this with other optometrists. Historically, optometrists are
not great at delegating. I'm not sure why. I have introduced social media to my
office staff and asked them to participate by writing blog posts. I would like
to get them more involved and tweet about office events and allow me to focus
more on clinical topics, but we are not there — yet.

SMI: Who's
your target audience? Is there a certain demographic?

NBW: The
target audience is tricky. Initially and ideally, the target audience is people
(specifically mothers) who live in the area and who are patients or potential
patients of Bright Eyes. However, we also provide specialty services of infant
& pediatric care, vision therapy and orthokeratology, and there is not a
large number of these specialists using social media nationwide. So I am
simultaneously creating a national and international audience of people who are
interested in this niche care.

This has caused me to realize that I have to create different
entities to address these audiences, and I am now working toward this, in
conjunction with national professional organizations within these specialties.
To some degree, I am leading them to it, because they are thinking about the
message spreading from more conventional channels.

SMI: What's
your advice to other business owners about using social media?

I think that virtually any business could benefit from social
media. There is a small, local house cleaning company that I think is doing a
great job (@serranocleaning ). I plan on using their services in the future.
Ikea opened a new store in Tampa, and they have been the example of "doing
it right" with @IKEATampaFans. They listen to tweets and encourage
exchange without spam.

So to any business, especially one that deals heavily with human
interaction such as sales or consulting, I would say, "Come on in, the
water is fine." But do spend a little time dabbling with a personal
account to think about what style and approach works for you, before you
commit.

I also feel very strongly that businesses should
separate their personal and business social media identities. I know others
disagree with me on this point, saying, "You are your brand." But I
just think it is confusing if you are using your office/business name and then
sending a bunch of tweets that have no relation to your core concept. I'm not
saying to refuse to show some personal side because that is a good and
important aspect, but to keep it relevant to your brand.

3 thoughts on “Fresh Eyes on Social Media

  1. Great post. I am hoping to learn from someone with experience in this area. I see the results that Nathan has achieved through social networks and I hope to replicate. I like the idea of being able to reach people directly.
    –Dr. Wallace @clrvue

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