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HomemifeatureSocial Media Marketing in Practice: Evidence for Success

Social Media Marketing in Practice: Evidence for Success

The potential for inexpensive social media campaigns to increase interest in, and drive appointments with, optometry is often discussed. However, there is little hard evidence to support its value or to guide its implementation.

Without this evidence, it can be difficult for organisations to dedicate the necessary resources to campaigns. In 2018, Bregan Soh and Austin Tang, both final year Clinical Masters students at University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS), conducted an unusual study: they developed, implemented and measured the social media campaign Defy Dry Eye, to raise awareness of dry eye disease (DED) and launch a new DED clinic. The study was led by Scientia Fellow Dr Nicole Carnt, with Ms Nicola Kapo, Project Officer and Ms Tracy Kane, Clinic Business Manager at SOVS.

The two week campaign, implemented from 30 July to 10 August 2018, achieved a 200% increase in attendance at the UNSW Dry Eye Clinic. The UNSW SOVS Facebook page (FB-SOVS) attracted a significant increase in engagement during and after the campaign, as did the SOVS Twitter handle @UNSWOptomvsci (TW-SOVS).

The teams’ observations on the impact of various content types, platform choices and post times offer valuable insights that can help optometry practices build business during a challenging COVID-19 era. Key findings are published here and the full study forms a CPD module that can be accessed at mieducation.com.

There’s no doubt that social media has become a predominant force, allowing people to form connections with others globally. It is said that 69% of Americans use some form of social media, with the 18–29-year-old age group being the most active.1 The least active age group are the over 65s with an uptake of 37%, but it has been suggested that they are the fastest growing group of users due to late adoption of technology.2,3 Changes in online communication behaviour have had a profound impact on society and, as a result, organisations are becoming more inclined to use social media as part of their broader marketing strategy. Many have formed policies and structures to include it as part of their organisation.4

Whereas traditional marketing primarily relies on one directional communication via television, community notice boards, newspapers and radio to generate word of mouth (WOM),5 social media has forged a more interactive, customer-centric approach. This allows customers and organisations to directly communicate through comments, shares and reactions.

Facebook allows businesses to increase brand awareness, offer their products and present the latest news and information to a highly targeted audience for relatively low costs

The corporate optometry sphere has successfully integrated the use of social media platforms,6 such as Facebook and microblogs such as Twitter, in coordinated marketing campaigns for some time.

Facebook allows businesses to increase brand awareness, offer their products and present the latest news and information to a highly targeted audience for relatively low costs.

Twitter also allows for two-way communication between businesses and customers although its streamlined nature means content posted by a page may get lost in the array of content posted by other accounts. While the small 280-charactercount does allow information to be relayed quickly and succinctly, a challenge lies in having to present information in such a small amount of space.


UNSW SOVS students Bregan Soh and Austin Tang, under the supervision of Dr Nicole Carnt, Nicola Kapo and Tracy Kane, implemented a special media campaign using Facebook and Twitter to raise community awareness about dry eye disease (DED), the latest research in the field, and then recently launched UNSW Dry Eye Clinic – a state-wide referral centre for diagnosis, imaging and evidence-based management of the condition.

Table 1: Defy Dry Eye budget breakdown.

To promote a robust sense of advocacy and encourage community engagement, they named the campaign Defy Dry Eye.

The students sourced information for the campaign from the (then recently) released Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society Dry Eye Workshop II (TFOS DEWS II) 2017 Report. This was presented via a series of ‘interesting eye facts’ supported by infographics and graphics created using Canva (www.canva.com) and by sourcing royalty free images from Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com.au). Additionally, they produced seven campaign videos, featuring the school’s academics speaking about their contributing chapter of the TFOS DEWS II, an introduction to dry eye disease and the launch of the Dry Eye Clinic. They also wrote video content that was filmed by a third-party organisation, Zulu 8 (www.zulu8.com.au).

Impressively, the total cost to produce the videos was just AU$3,480.07 (Table 1).


Communications Toolkit 

Prior to the campaign launch on 30 July 2018, the team distributed a Communications Toolkit to various individuals and organisations they believed would help in its promotion. The toolkit included information on DED as well as insights into the project goals and social media platforms, and types of posts to look out for, as well as campaign hashtags, which are known to play an important role in successful targeted-marketing campaigns.

Campaign Placement 

Table 2: Dry Eye Clinic appointments.

The campaign was placed on two Facebook pages: UNSW SOVS (FB-SOVS) and UNSW Optometry Clinic (FB-OC) as well as on Twitter via the UNSW SOVS (TW-SOVS) handle (@unswoptomvsci).

Certain campaign posts were ‘boosted’ to reach larger audiences and specific groups of individuals, based on their likelihood to gain traction and best contribute to campaign goals. To do this, they used Facebook’s ‘Boost’ and Twitter’s ‘Quick Promote’ functions, which are a quicker and simpler form of marketing compared to Facebook and Twitter Ads (although the latter do offer more sophisticated options for tracking conversions and responses depending on the nature of the campaign). The team spent just $330 on boosts (Table 1).

Posting Schedule 

Recommendations are constantly changing when it comes to optimal social media posting time and frequency to maximise reach and engagement. Multiple sources have recommended varying posting times, across different days, between 9am and 8pm.8,9,10

To investigate the relationship between post impressions and engagement and posting time, the students uploaded one post at approximately 9:00am and 1:00pm during the first week of the campaign, and at midday and 5:00pm during the second week.

The user experience and interfaces of each social media platform are unique, meaning that certain types of content suit one platform more than another


Key metrics for measuring engagement were clicks, likes, shares, video views, comments, impressions, reach, page likes and followers:

Clicks: The number of links clicked, clicks to the Facebook page or profile picture and clicks to expand media or text,

Likes: The number of users who indicated their enjoyment of a post by clicking ‘Like’,

Shares: The number of users who chose to broadcast the post to either their personal group of followers or a group page.11 On Facebook, shares increase the exposure of a page’s posts and have the capacity to drive traffic to one’s page, thus encouraging engagement,12,13 

Table 3. Comparison of followers.

Impressions: The number of times content was displayed to users,

Reach: The number of unique users who viewed a page’s content,

Page Likes: The number of people who chose to attach themselves to a page as a fan, and

Followers: When a user likes a page, they automatically ‘follow’ it, meaning that content from the page appears on their newsfeed. Users can choose to like but unfollow a page if they do not wish to see it on their newsfeed and vice versa.14

For this study, metrics were collected and extracted using Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics. The results of the Defy Dry Eye campaign (30 July to 10 August 2018) were compared with SOVS’ regular social media activity, from 1 March – 1 July 2018 and the key Twitter metrics from 1 April – 1 July 2018.

Four of the most successful posts were critically analysed by looking at demographics data to gain insight into the factors which made these posts successful during the campaign.15


The study demonstrated that a social media campaign can positively impact interest in an optometry practice, and develop community eye health awareness. A significant rise in patient sign-ups and engagement with the chosen social media platforms was observed for a relatively low cost.

Whereas prior to the campaign, 10 appointments had been attended at the clinic, there was a 200% increase in overall attendance from the commencement of the campaign on 30 July through to the discontinuation of the campaign on 10 August and beyond – until measurement ceased on 25 October 2018 (Table 2).


Overall, the campaign performed strongly, with a positive trend in all the key metrics when compared to previous social media activity.

The number of followers and page likes before and after the campaign are listed in Table 3. During the campaign, FB-SOVS gained 27% more followers than in the two months prior. In the two months following the campaign, FB-SOVS gained an additional 139 followers. TW-SOVS page also made progress albeit at a lesser rate, with an 8.5% increase in the number of followers between the end of the campaign and two months after the completion of the campaign.

Table 4. Comparison between posts by form of media. Note: organic means non-paid.

A sharp increase in page likes and followers during Defy Dry Eye, and in the succeeding two months, suggested that social media campaigns are effective in creating sustained interest in an optometry practice.

A significant result was the 59% increase in total impressions for Facebook posting within the two-week campaign period alone, compared to the four months preceding the campaign. In conjunction with this, the average number of impressions per Defy Dry Eye post was 5,410 compared with 1,702, which was a 3.2-fold increase in the number of times people viewed the page’s posts. They noted that this surge in total impressions may have, in part, been due to increased posting frequency and boosting.

Furthermore, on average, posts were shared on Facebook 3.7 times more often than prior to the campaign and 3.5 times more often on Twitter, indicating positive engagement.


Defy Dry Eye posts in the mornings and afternoons were significantly more successful than evening posts in terms of reach, impressions and engagement. Afternoon posts had an average reach of 4,592, which was 1.2 times more than the morning posts.

Additionally, afternoon posts had 3.67 times more reach compared to early evening posts. The study authors reported that results may have been skewed by videos being posted in morning and afternoon time slots.


There were vast differences in the impression, reach and engagement statistics across the types of posts. Infographics performed best, with 1.6 times the average reach compared to video which was the next most successful form of media. However, videos had 2.2 times more engagement than the infographic. The meme was the least successful, with 149 unique viewers, while the infographic had 4267 unique views (Table 4).

The authors noted that the videos and infographic were enhanced by boosting, which meant they reached audiences external to the platforms’ followers. However, when comparing organic data across the post types alone, they confirmed that videos still performed 2.4-fold better compared to the ‘Interesting Eye Facts’ image and text posts.

While links, hashtags, memes and GIFs are more suited to Twitter, videos and curated content are more suitable for Facebook

These trends aligned with current social media marketing insights, which broadly suggest audiences are more likely to view and engage with video content over other forms of media. On Twitter, a video is six times more likely to be retweeted than a photo tweet.16 Furthermore, video content was predicted to be the driving factor behind 85% of all internet search traffic in the United States by 2019.17 In an analysis of 68 million Facebook posts, Buzzsumo found a similar trend, with videos having higher average engagement than images and links.18

In recent times, memes have become a very effective social media marketing tool, as they resonate with younger audiences and can also impact older audiences.19,20 They also have the potential to ‘go viral’, leading to increased engagement. However, memes can be short lived, and the content often requires social media users to create new phrases with the image for it to be relevant to specific audiences, interests or trends. The viral nature of meme posts was not well demonstrated through this study – the authors reported that future studies may be able to explore meme posts more widely.


The user experience and interfaces of each social media platform are unique, meaning that certain types of content suit one platform more than another. While this campaign was run across both Facebook and Twitter, content was tailored towards a Facebook audience, and adapted for TWSOVS. Thus, Facebook generally performed better than Twitter across all key metrics. Factors behind the success of FB-SOVS over TW-SOVS are the longer life-span and the corresponding higher number of followers of FB-SOVS relative to TW-SOVS – the latter was started in September 2017 and so at the time had not built a strong following.

It has been suggested that the success of Twitter relies on users posting several times a day in contrast to Facebook where posting more than once or twice a day does not have as much impact on engagement.21 The type of content suited to each social media platform also differs. While links, hashtags, memes and GIFs are more suited to Twitter, videos and curated content are more suitable for Facebook.22,23


Demographic data was included for the top posts and appeared consistent across these posts. The campaign appealed most to the 18–34-year-olds, in line with the general age distribution of social media activity but there was no noticeable gender preference for content. DED has a slight predilection for females and the older population, however the campaign failed to attract this demographic, perhaps due to lower (though increasing) intake of social media in the aging population.


The study authors noted a number of factors that may have limited this research.

One was an artificial increase in the number of followers on the FB-OC page from 9 May to 24 July 2018 due to a university orientation week campaign which encouraged extra page Likes. Additionally, posts on the FB-OC page were shared from the FB-SOVS page, not directly posted, resulting in a significant reduction in engagement and impressions with each post.

They also reported difficulty assessing the direct cause and effect relationship of Defy Dry Eye in fulfilling campaign goals. The social media key metrics indicate a general increase in traffic through the social media platforms, which can be related to increasing awareness of DED, however it was difficult to ascertain the degree to which the campaign contributed to the success of the Dry Eye Clinic sign ups and increased interest in the School.

This article summarises the study Utilising Social Media to Promote Community Involvement in Eye Health. The study was completed by Bregan Soh and Austin Tang, under supervision of Dr Nicole Carnt, Ms Nicola Kapo and Ms Tracy Kane. 

To read the full study and complete the CPD module, visit mieducation.com/social-mediamarketing- in-practice. 

The study authors acknowledge the contribution to campaign content of Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton, Dr Maria Markoulli, Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert, Associate Professor Blanka Golebiowski, Professor Eric Papas, Professor Mark Willcox; and social media expertise from the Brien Holden Vision Institute and UNSW Faculty of Science. 


  1. Fact Sheets | Pew Research Center [Internet]. Pewinternet.org. 2018 [cited 2 July 2018]. Available from: www.pewinternet. org/fact-sheet 
  2. Sweney M. Is Facebook for old people? Over-55s flock in as the young leave [Internet]. The Guardian. 2018 [cited 3 July 2018]. Available from: www.theguardian.com/ technology/2018/feb/12/is-facebook-for-old-people-over- 55s-flock-in-as-the-young-leave 
  3. Waldhuter L. Elderly use of social media and technology on the rise as isolated pensioners get connected [Internet]. ABC News. 2017 [cited 11 November 2018]. Available from: www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-04/elderly-use-ofsocial- media-and-technology-on-the-rise/8240508 
  4. Felix R, Rauschnabel P, Hinsch C. Elements of strategic social media marketing: A holistic framework. Journal of Business Research. 2017;70:118-126. 
  5. Heggde G, Shainesh G. Social Media Marketing – Emerging Concepts and Applications. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan; 2018. 
  6. What is a social media campaign? How to increase social sales [Internet]. BigCommerce. 2018 [cited 25 October 2018]. Available from: www.bigcommerce.com/ ecommerce-answers/what-is-a-social-media-campaign 
  7. Twitter for business [Internet]. nibusinessinfo. co.uk. 2018 [cited 25 October 2018]. Available from: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/advantages-anddisadvantages- twitter-business 
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  11. Stec C. Social Media Definitions: The Ultimate Glossary of Terms You Should Know [Internet]. Hubspot. 2018 [cited 25 October 2018]. Available from: blog.hubspot.com/ marketing/social-media-terms 
  12. Gasser B. What’s The Difference Between Facebook Shares and Likes? [Internet]. Vivid Image,. 2018 [cited 25 October 2018]. Available from: vimm.com/like-vs-sharefacebook 
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  14. Reach vs Impressions: Why You Need to Know the Difference [Internet]. Lyfe Marketing. 2018 [cited 25 October 2018]. Available from: www.lyfemarketing.com/ blog/reach-vs-impressions 
  15. Jackson D. All of the Social Media Metrics That Matter [Internet]. Sprout Social. 2018 [cited 25 October 2018]. Available from: sproutsocial.com/insights/social-mediametrics- that-matter 
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Learnings for Practices

  1. Social media campaigns can be created and implemented in everyday optometry practices.
  2. Royalty free images can be sourced from a number of websites such as Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com.au) or Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com).
  3. Video production can be carried out through a third-party organisation or in-house using devices such as smartphones, tablets and digital cameras.
  4. Boosting for Facebook is an effective way to reach larger audiences as well as target specific groups for a minimum budget of AU$1 a day.
  5. Content creation and campaign execution can be managed by a practice manager or trusted employee without a marketing qualification or expertise – it does not require a fulltime social media representative.
  6. Optometric practices can gain insight into, and access trends in, their social media activity through Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics.


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