Wendy Lewis shares some strategies for navigating the social network

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Mark Zuckerberg was called to Washington DC to explain Facebook’s missteps revealed from the Cambridge Analytica debacle. This has caused the giant social network to come under massive scrutiny on both sides of the pond. The implications that third-party apps can endanger the privacy of users’ personal data has had a major impact and will continue to. It affects all of us; business users as well as personal users.

The fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal has hit Facebook hard. They are facing increased regulatory scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which announced its intention to launch a probe into the social network.  Further details about the link between the harvested Facebook data and Cambridge Analytica also continue to emerge from whistleblower Christopher Wylie and other sources, so this could just be the tip of the iceberg for the world’s largest social platform.

Facebook’s new rules

Facebook unveiled new tools to make it easier for users to see and access the data the social network holds on them and make changes as needed to control who can actually see their private information. This is in an effort to regain the trust of their global community of 2.2B users.

New features include a redesigned settings menu on mobile devices, a privacy shortcuts menu. They have redesigned the settings menu on mobile devices to make things easier to find. All the different sections under the settings tab will now be in a single place.

The technology giant has also added a privacy shortcuts menu. Users can go to this menu to add extra security when logging in, review and delete what you’ve shared from search history to friend requests and manage the information on your profile and who sees your posts. Facebook is introducing a tool called ‘Access Your Information’ to let you see comments left or posts shared and delete them. They also plan to make it easier for users to download their data, such as photos and contacts you’ve added to your account, and even move it to another service.

Facebook will be proposing new terms of service and updating its data policy to ‘better spell out what data we collect and how we use it,’ whatever that means. They claim that most of these updates have been in the works for a while, but recent events have sped up the process as they scramble to restore confidence among users. Zuck and his team have publicly admitted that they have more work to do to enforce their policies and ensure that users really understand how Facebook works and how users can exercise control over their personal data.

This is what the FTC said, ‘The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act. Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements. Accordingly, the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.’1

Facebook is just one of many companies facing a tougher regulatory environment, particularly in Europe. New legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be implemented in May. Many of the new tools Facebook has outlined will help it adhere to these newly imposed rules. This will include being able to ask for data to be removed and requesting data, as well as the ability to take your data to another platform. Facebook has already been making changes to privacy settings and the way they are displayed in preparation for GDPR rules.

What does all this mean for aesthetic clinics? Well, for starters it means more work for community managers just to use the platform. More work translates to higher expenses for clinics and practitioners. It also means more hoops to jump through to get your content seen by more eyes, and greater scrutiny on the content you create and want to promote. You may also notice that your fan count has decreased as Facebook sweeps the platform and shuts down any users deemed to be fake accounts, bots or spammers. Expect this to happen on Instagram and Twitter also. We should also get ready to expect to pay more in the near future for dabbling on Facebook ad platforms as they lose out on previously lucrative dodgy advertisers’ campaigns. In addition, some Facebook users will drop off or reduce time spent on the platform, while others may migrate to evolving platforms like Instagram.

Still, Facebook is a platform for people to engage with each other, and that is unlikely to change in the near future. The platform has certainly evolved and will continue to make tweaks and introduce new options as they get a handle on what will be expected of them in the future. Aesthetic clinics cannot afford to count Facebook out and should keep striving to figure out new and more persuasive ways to reach their desired audiences.   

Facebook strategies

Where you might once have been able to gain a lot of interest and traction organically on social media sites, it may prove to be more difficult moving forward as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among others seek to maximize revenues from advertising. More brands are continuing to recognize that advertising on social media, especially Facebook and its sister site Instagram, can be an extremely cost-effective way to reach a very niche and highly targeted audience. Therefore, the platform is likely to get crowded with more advertisers in the near future, making it more challenging to reach your target audience. Facebook ads which look just like regular posts help boost conversations between brands and the people who like them, and there is good ROI to be achieved from a smart and selective strategy.

Here are 6 Facebook tactics that have proven to be successful for aesthetic practices.

1) Video rules

Facebook video has emerged as a key component of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. The more recent introduction of Facebook video ads can also help clinics to engage with clients and drive treatments.

To make your videos more compelling, focus on the key messages from the very first frame. You have 3 seconds or less to convince users to watch your video, thus every second counts. Strive to engage viewers immediately, so they are more likely to stick around to watch and perhaps also view other video content on your business page.

Consider including a call to action or special offer directed towards your target audience. Track the links using UTM codes to judge whether your video is effective. UTM codes or parameters are a little bit of text added to the end of a URL to help you track the success of your content. You can also use a dedicated hashtag or bit.ly URL for this purpose.

You can add captions to your video, as in some cases, video content may be viewed with the sound off. Facebook will autoplay your video in the news feed. Captions on Facebook video ads have been shown to increase view time by an average of 12%.

2) Live streaming video

Video is currently dominating social media. If video is nice to have, think of live streaming video as video on steroids. Live streaming started as a niche trend but has rapidly been adopted by numerous social platforms including Facebook Live, YouTube, Instagram Live, Twitter and Snapchat. In fact, video streaming accounted for 75% of all internet traffic in 2017 and is expected to jump to 82% by 20203.

By way of explanation, live-streaming video is broadcasting in real-time to an audience on the internet. The meteoric rise in popularity of streaming can be attributed to improvements in technology, making it possible to do effectively from a smartphone.

If you’re not watching or creating live stream videos, you are missing out on a hot and effective marketing tactic. According to Facebook, 78% of their users are already watching live stream videos; they spend three times more time watching them and comment over ten times more during live videos.

Consumers are being bombarded in every direction with ads and messages, even in their Google inbox and on their mobile phones. Therefore, they are demanding more transparency and authenticity from advertisers on social platforms, which accounts for why live video keeps growing in popularity. Live streams are perceived as more authentic and ‘in the moment’ than a pre-programmed social media. There is evidence to suggest that consumers now prefer live streaming videos to reading a blog entry or Facebook post.  When audiences feel more connected to your clinic or brand, they tend to convert to actual patients at a higher rate.

A creative way to promote your live streaming episodes is through posting teasers as to when you will be presenting next and on what topics on relevant channels, such as Instagram for Facebook, etc. Use compelling descriptions to pique interest among the right target audience. Facebook recommends that you go live for at least 10 minutes, although you can stay live for up to 90 minutes at a time and up to 60 minutes on Instagram. A good rule is to watch how many viewers are tuning in and judge the popularity of your content by how many questions and comments you are receiving. If the audience is not engaging well, cut the streaming short.

3) Messenger advertising

Facebook Messenger is emerging as a smart way to reach fans of your Business Page, but it has its limitations for healthcare practitioners due to privacy considerations.

Messenger ads allow brands to have conversations directly with their customers (i.e. fans) through the messenger interface. They use the same measurement tools and targeting criteria as the newsfeed, but they appear directly in the chat window between your clinic and your existing clinic fans on Facebook. This can be used to start a dialogue where people can ask about products and services, share their experience or schedule an appointment, right from the messenger app. For Facebook users, it bypasses the need to click out of Facebook to go to your website to accomplish the same kinds of outreach, which can be efficient for users and your clinic.

Facebook Messenger ads are simply messages that appear as conversations in the user’s Messenger app. The user can interact with the messages just as they would with any other messages coming from friends or family. Facebook also allows you to tailor a message to a custom audience. You can target messages to specific audiences, test which message performs best, or send a message only to people who have already messaged your Business Page. Of course, some people will opt out, but then you will have learned who not to reach out to the next time.

When people respond to your message, they should receive a response in a timely fashion, like instantly or within seconds or minutes, not hours. Ideally, you should assign someone to manage this process 24/7 and respond with specifics or answer questions right away. When someone clicks on a conversation with your brand, they are showing an interest in what you have to offer and deserve your attention. Facebook users have very short attention spans, and also tend to prefer getting a response in the platform they reach out in. If you don’t jump on it, they will move on and may forget all about you.

The next step is to make an effort to get patients’ cell phone numbers at each visit. There are programs now available that are HIPAA compliant and encrypted to use text messaging to make and confirming appointments and send reminders or answer questions in a safe and secure manner.

Watch this space. Facebook also owns WhatsApp which is an uber-popular text messaging platform used mainly outside of the US.

4) Using insights and audience analytics

To gain a deeper understanding of your audience, tap into the free analytics tool for your Facebook Business Page, called Audience Insights. This allows you to learn more about your audience to help create content and ads that will resonate with them. Audience Insights allows you to obtain demographic and behavioral data about your audience and that of your competitors. This feature offers data on what other pages your audience visits, where they spend the most time, how often they log on, from what kind of device, and other behavior.

Page Insights is another key feature that allows you to review what worked and what bombed to finetune your Facebook marketing strategy. Page insights allow you to analyze your Page and performance as a whole over a specific period, and to drill down on specific posts. You can measure page views, likes and reactions, comments, and total reach per post.

Most aesthetic clinics are primarily local businesses, so don’t overlook the marketing opportunities available to connect with residents and other businesses in your local market or region. Get in the habit of asking people to tag your location and post about other businesses or events in your local area that reach your target audience. Facebook’s ad platform allows you to narrow your target at a local level to a single town or city, or state as you like.

5) Lead Generation

For an aesthetic clinic, a ‘lead’ would be characterized as someone who has shown an interest in the products and services you offer from your efforts to market to them. This may mean that they filled out a form to get an e-book on body shaping, or requested a sample of a skin care product, or responded to an invitation to a seminar.

To turn Facebook fans into paying customers, you want to capture their data to market to them within the platform, as well as directly outside of the platform. This is key distinction to keep in mind. It is important to continuously grow your own database. There is a wide range of tactics that can accomplish this mission, including creating landing pages for special timed offers, videos to promote events and relevant clinic news, Facebook Live streaming video to demonstrate a new treatment or show how a product is used, and Facebook events for upcoming webinars, seminars, or clinical trials. Facebook ads can shorten the click-through path to get users to access your offers and information without leaving the Facebook app on their mobile phones.

Not every piece of content should be used to generate new patients, which goes against best practices for social media in the broadest terms. Determine a healthy mix of content in terms of general beauty/lifestyle vs. promotions of clinic offers vs. commentary and information on topics of interest to your audience.

For Facebook ads, most clinics will choose the Ad Manager platform to begin. Before you create an ad, define your objective among these categories: awareness, consideration, and conversion. Facebook will walk you through steps to determine what your goals are, how to define your audience in terms demographics, interests and behavior. You can opt for a single image, single video, carousel, slideshow, or canvas which combines text with video. The headline is critically important to capture attention and get results.

Examples of catchy Facebook ad headlines:

  • May is around the corner — Summer bodies are made in winter
  • How not to look older than your real birthday
  • Use code ‘SUMMER’ for a special offer on cellulite reduction
  • ‘Everyone is telling me I look so much younger’ — Susan
  • ‘My skin is too smooth’ said no woman ever.

Images need to fall within Facebook guidelines, which makes it harder to use photos that depict women’s bodies or any nudity or make sweeping health claims. Too much text is also a limiting factor, and Facebook bots may read your logo as text too. The more text on your images, the less your ad will be shown.

In the new world of artificial intelligence or AI, bots are text-based programs that can communicate with humans to automate specific tasks or seek information. Facebook utilizes bots in several ways, including to keep you posted on how your content is performing and whether your ads are working. So, if the image you chose has too much text, you may get a bot telling you to change the image, so your ad performs better. Similarly, when a sponsored post is about to end, a bot will inform you that may continue boosting the ad for an additional number of days by adding to the budget.

Don’t get discouraged if you do not see results right away. Executing successful Facebook ads demands consistent testing and experimentation.

6) Forming Groups

Groups offer a wide range of Facebook marketing advantages, including to promote products and services, build a community, offering 5-star customer service and networking opportunities. For example, you may opt to form a group for real clinic patients, people who reside in your local community, or specifically for people interested in skin care treatments or body shaping procedures or for men. Groups afford you the ability to build micro-communities of users who are interested in a particular subject or theme.

You can also grow your Facebook Group by promoting it within your clinic. Examples may include offering a gift certificate or complimentary mini-treatment or product sample if participants post a photo of their results or using a product they got from your clinic and tag your Facebook page, or offering a 20% discount for everyone who purchases a skin care product from your website shopping cart on a specific day. You may also choose to use a group to participate in surveys, quizzes, or contests.

Forming groups offer many new and exciting possibilities and can be an ideal way to create a controlled community within your target audience. Assign an administrator for the group who can approve or reject posts, accept or block members, and stay on top of the discussion to monitor negative posts and delete them or block spammers.

In conclusion, I began my journey into social media in 2008 on Twitter and migrated to Facebook shortly thereafter and have been an avid user ever since. Despite the newest algorithms and frequent changes it Team Zuck puts us through, I still believe that there is value in being active on the social network. So, don’t give up but do get smarter and more strategic about how you use it to grow your clinic and brand.