Good things come in small packages, and they’re called smartphones. No one disputes that smartphones are taking over our lives and becoming indispensable tools. Gartner estimates 472 million smartphones were sold last year, Manhattan Research shows 81% of doctors have smartphones, and Forrester estimates over 1 billion smartphone users by 2016. The stats don’t lie: its time to start thinking small.
And if the stats don’t convince you, just walk into your practice waiting room and look: more people than ever, of all ages and incomes, are glued to their smartphones. It has become the de facto way to get information literally at your fingertips.
The problem with a small screen may be the small size of your practice website. It becomes very user unfriendly, causing potential patients to pinch, zoom, scroll and sling your site about the screen as they are frustrated in seeking out your information. And many of the technologies used to build practice sites simply don’t display on a phone and leave large blank areas, which makes you look very unprofessional.
Another problem you may be unaware of: Facebook and other social sites have been creating mobile websites on your behalf. These sites recognize the explosion of mobile usage and are creating content to address it.
Here are some tips to fix a broken site, and move your practice marketing to the small screen. These changes will give your marketing a mobile boost while supplying your patients with the information they need. Pass these tips on to your marketing or web team, or engage a medical marketing professional who is current with mobile marketing.
Triage Your Practice Marketing
There are a number of immediate fixes you can perform on your website and social strategy to ensure your practice can be seen on a small screen:
- Fix the Gaps: Look at your website on your smartphone. If your website has flash images, they won’t show on smartphones and you’ll see a large hole. Replace them with modern HTML5 animations or static pictures that appear when mobile phone detected.
- Make Videos Viewable: Ensure all videos on your website are embedded from YouTube or any large web video service. Many practices have their videos plugged into their website using all manner of hacks or flash tools that hide videos on smartphones. If you aren’t using YouTube, you’re missing a lot of marketing engagement, as well as having a player that hosts your video for free and works on mobile devices.
- Check out your Check-Ins: Your patients have very likely “checked in” on Facebook or Foursquare and created a mobile page for your business, whether you approved it or not. Using the Facebook app on your smartphone, stand in your lobby and tap the “Check In” button at the top right of the app. You’ll likely see your practice listed. This lets you know you have a Facebook Places page. Pay attention to how your practice is listed. This listing is what Facebook “thinks” your practice is named. Go to Facebook on your computer and search for that listing using the standard search box. Type slowly and watch what appears – you may see more listings for your practice. Click the gear button next to the “Edit” button and you can now claim this page. You’ve taken the first step towards tying all of your Facebook business pages together. Ask your medical marketing professional for more guidance on further mobile social strategy and engagement.
Make The Mobile Decision
It’s not a question of whether to build a mobile site, it’s how to best go about it. There are three ways to approach this problem:
- Use Responsive Web Design: If you are in the process of building or updating your web presence, make sure your web developers are skilled at responsive web design. This means that your website will respond to the different size screens and reshape itself to fit when viewed on a tablet or smartphone. Sidebars will move to bottom or disappear, video players will shrink to fit, and images will scale. This is a new technique and many developers do not know how to do this, so be sure you work with a qualified professional and view their work on your smartphone. This is your best approach for now and any upcoming technologies.
- Build a Mobile version of your site: If you’ve got an older site that does not have a content management system, it’s unlikely you can retool it to function as a mobile set or become responsive. In this case, create a new site with basic information and simple formatting that appears when your website detects a mobile browser. This is a good, inexpensive strategy that buys you time for rebuilding and creating a more forward-looking web presence that keeps up with todays technology.
- Use Plug-Ins or a New Theme: If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla or other mainstream CMS, then you have a multitude of plug-ins and themes that can be used. A plug-in works with your existing site and detects a small screen size. It then uses a different theme, or layout, that is sized appropriately and pulls selected content. A good example of this is KevinMD.com. If you look at it on a computer, its a very attractive website. If you look at on a phone, you see an attractive mobile site. The plugin Wptouch Pro is used by KevinMD.com to pull key content and display it to user.
If you do not have a website and social strategy built to take advantage of mobile, you are missing many opportunities to provide your patients key education and reference to help them with a better outcome. Plan on rebuilding your web presence to work with all devices, current and future. Its a wise investment in your practice marketing.