Q: Why do you need a website?
Dr. Geier — People don't use phone books anymore, so what patients see online when they're looking up your location and hours is their first impression of your facility. A website — even just a landing page — is essential digital real estate. It's your virtual identity. What business doesn't have a website these days? The lack of an online presence instantly makes you seem decades old, and for surgery centers, where technology is huge, it can cause patients to question your abilities.
Q: What do you tell people who have no experience creating online content?
Dr. Geier — Learning what works and what doesn't online can be a process of trial and error. It's helpful to seek the assistance of someone with marketing experience for setting up a blog, tracking the results and otherwise distinguishing yourself through social media. But don't completely delegate the writing of your regularly updated informational content to the marketing professional. That would be really expensive, plus you won't learn how to do it yourself and it'll sound like a marketing person wrote it. You want your surgeons and staff to contribute text or video or audio, in order to develop a relationship with potential patients.
Q: Should websites be viewed solely as marketing devices?
Dr. Geier — When I began blogging, it wasn't so much a marketing effort as a way to have a voice, to share information on sports medicine injuries and prevention. Its initial advantage was that it wasn't filtered, that I didn't need to be interviewed by a media outlet to make that information public. It may have turned into a marketing opportunity, but I didn't set out to attract business. People may start blogs or Tumblr or Twitter accounts with that goal, but in health care it doesn't quite work that way. The ideal use, in my view, is to provide something of value. After you get started, you can transform it into something transactional.
Q: Is online marketing more effective than traditional media?
Dr. Geier — The thing about websites and social media is that their marketing effects are somewhat intangible. They may not lead directly to patient referrals. So why put time and energy into them? Well, parents whose kids play soccer will be reading up on ACL injuries or recovery when they discover your page. This can help you build a relationship with your community. Then potential patients know what you offer when they're seeking care. That's the advantage of online: it's always out there and searchable. As opposed to newspaper, radio or television advertising, the people who read it actually want the information. And it's inexpensive as compared to traditional media. A website is a couple of hundred dollars, Twitter and Facebook are free.