Improving a Community Pharmacy's Digital Presence

By April Onufrak |

Is your community pharmacy doing everything it can to gain and maintain patients through an online presence? Increase your community pharmacy’s digital footprint with these four tips.

Twenty years ago, finding an independent pharmacy required thumbing through the local Yellow Pages and pulling out a physical map to pinpoint the address. Outside of the pharmacy’s name and address, patients had limited access to additional information — no reviews, outside of word-of-mouth recommendations, no understanding of products available in the front-end and no knowledge of the pharmacy’s staff or operating hours.

Fortunately, those days are long gone. Today, this information is available to patients online — through a desktop or increasingly via a mobile device. With the click of a mouse or swipe of the finger, patients have access to a wealth of information — from reviews to social media posts — that paints a holistic picture of the pharmacy. Collectively, all of these elements form a pharmacy’s digital footprint. When it comes to getting noticed, attracting new customers and maintaining the loyalty of existing patients, the size and quality of a digital footprint is vital.

Here are four actions community pharmacies can take to strengthen their digital footprint:

1) Prioritize SEO: Independent pharmacies can have an amazing website and incredible content on their social media profiles, but none of that will matter if no one ever sees it. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing web keywords to increase the visibility of results in search engines, such as Google or Bing. When looking for a pharmacy, 37% of Americans start with Google while another 18% look to Facebook.1 A focus on SEO is critical to help current and potential customers more easily find results related to the pharmacy through a search engine query.

What actions can pharmacies take to improve their search rankings? All the major search engines and business directories — GoogleBing, Yelp, etc. — allow companies to create official business listings. As a starting point, pharmacists should claim their business listing and then make sure the listing is populated with comprehensive and accurate information about the pharmacy. The listing should include the pharmacy name, address, phone number, hours of operation, website and links to any pharmacy social media profiles. Search engine algorithms will prioritize rankings for businesses that have uploaded a photo along with their business listing — especially exterior storefront photos. 

2) Choose a champion: Web links get broken. Business hours can change. Customers will post questions, compliments or complaints — all of which deserve a response.

Amid the day-to-day challenges of running a busy independent pharmacy, it’s easy for SEO and other online concerns to fall to the bottom of a pharmacist’s to-do list. When that happens, customers can get frustrated and search engines may downgrade a listing that contains outdated information or dysfunctional links.

To prevent this from happening, pharmacy owners should designate an employee to serve as a digital champion keeping tabs on the pharmacy’s online presence. The digital champion is responsible for ensuring the pharmacy’s local listings on all major search platforms stay accurate and up-to-date. This is known as local listings management (LLM), and it’s particularly important now that many smartphone users search for nearby businesses while they are moving around their communities. New features, such as Google’s “Posts,” make it easier for businesses to manage their listings and provide relevant, fresh content to their search results.

3) Respond to every review: According to the Pew Research Center, almost 40% of U.S. adults have shared their thoughts and experiences about companies or products on social media. This phenomenon is even more prevalent among younger generations, with 55 percent of Americans in the 18 to 29 age range and 50 percent of those in the 30 to 49 age bracket writing reviews online.2

Independent pharmacies cannot afford to ignore any of these reviews. When satisfied patients leave positive reviews, the pharmacy can respond with thanks and use this as an opportunity to make that customer relationship even stronger. It can be painful to read negative reviews or mixed reviews from dissatisfied patients, but these sorts of reviews can be equally valuable. Prospective and current customers are watching to see how business owners respond to these unflattering reviews. A professional, courteous response to a negative review can rescue an endangered customer relationship. Even if the complaint seems unfounded, use this opportunity to soothe injured feelings by apologizing for the customer’s disappointments and offering to discuss the situation either over the phone or in-person at the pharmacy. Never respond to an online review angrily or defensively. An emotional response is less likely to be effective and could scare away potential or current patients. 

If the patient writes a comment or review that discloses personal information, the pharmacy should respond by suggesting the patient contact the pharmacy privately. For example:

Dear Ms. Doe,
We’re so sorry to hear about this experience.  Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx or email john.doe@pharmacy.com so that we can best understand your situation and address your concerns. We would like to check in with you as soon as possible.

Negative reviews can serve as a source of informative feedback for the pharmacy. For example, if customers regularly post complaints on Thursday evenings complaining about an hour-long wait to pick up a prescription, the pharmacist might add another technician to that shift to reduce wait times, increase efficiency and boost patient satisfaction.

And what if a pharmacy feels that a competitor or disgruntled former employee has left a fake negative review? Stay calm and take a just-the-facts approach. Rebut the review if possible and explain calmly and professionally to consumers why you believe the review is false and should be ignored. Then flag the review so Google or the relevant social media platform can investigate it.

4) Commit to generating content:  Everybody wants content. Search engines like Google give businesses higher rankings if they have more content. While this content can take many forms, such as basic business information or reviews, social media content is a critical factor that contributes to higher search engine rankings. 

The reach of social media makes it an attractive option for pharmacists to invest resources. In June 2017, Facebook announced it had reached a milestone of two billion monthly users.3 Pharmacists have an opportunity to reach patients where they are actively searching for information, including healthcare options. In fact, 78% of Americans would consider following their pharmacist on social media, and 48% of Americans already do.4 

The key to success with social media is to post content on a regular basis. There’s no need to post multiple times per day, but independent pharmacies should aim to update their social media feeds on a weekly basis. A regular posting cadence will help with SEO, pushing the pharmacy higher in search results and will also establish the pharmacy as a valuable health resource for current and rel="noopener noreferrer" potential customers.

As covered in "Taking Off Online," social media content can take the form of promotions, health information or news. For instance, if an employee goes above and beyond in delivering amazing customer service, the pharmacy could publicly recognize and congratulate that employee on social media. This will not only let current or potential customers know they can expect to receive great customer service, it’s also a good way to motivate employees.

Take the first step to making a digital footprint

Building a digital presence on the internet can seem like a big task, but independent pharmacies can take major strides by making sure their local listings information is accurate, producing a steady flow of social media content, and responding professionally to all customer reviews. Building a digital footprint takes time and effort, but it offers the opportunity for pharmacists to provide meaningful insights and build deeper relationships with their patients.  

Need help finding a steady stream of digital content? Learn more about Digital Marketing Solutions from Good Neighbor Pharmacy

 

1. Nagy, N. (September 26, 2017). PrescribeWellness Survey: 42 Percent of Americans Would Like Their Pharmacists to Be More Active on Social Media. Retrieved October 3, 2017 from Business Wire, http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170926006672/en/PrescribeWellness-Survey-42-Percent-Americans-Pharmacists-Active
2. Smith, A. and Anderson, M. (December 19, 2016). Online Shopping and E-Commerce. Retrieved September 28, 2017 from Pew Research Center, http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/19/online-reviews/ 
3. Nowak, M. and Spiller G. (June 27, 2017). Two Billion People Coming Together on Facebook. Retrieved September 28, 2017 from Facebook Newsroom, https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/06/two-billion-people-coming-together-on-facebook/ 
4. Nagy, N. (September 26, 2017). PrescribeWellness Survey: 42 Percent of Americans Would Like Their Pharmacists to Be More Active on Social Media. Retrieved October 3, 2017 from Business Wire, http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170926006672/en/PrescribeWellness-Survey-42-Percent-Americans-Pharmacists-Active


About the Author

April Onufrak

Specialist, Digital and Web Media 
Good Neighbor Pharmacy
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