facebook for fertility centers

We don't "like" it anymore: 7 reactions from the infertility community to Facebook's new options

By Griffin Jones

Now here's a social media update that has already begun to change the way fertility practices and their patients interact with each other. We have been waiting for this new function for some time. On February 24, Facebook introduced a change to how its users can react to content on the platform. In the past, you posted a status update and people either liked it or they commented on it (if they reacted at all). And that was it. So if I posted a picture of my breakfast, an announcement about starting my new job, or the passing of my Grandmother, you as my Facebook "friend" would have to comment on the photo in order to distinguish your reaction from a general like. The like function would feel very inappropriate if the post mentioned bad news, or very underwhelming if it dealt with something outstanding.

Now, the infertility community has more ways to react to each other's content

Now, the infertility community has more ways to react to each other's content

For some, this change won't be especially pronounced. Few life chapters are as emotionally diverse as what we see. For the infertility space on the other hand,  there is no emotion that doesn't appear across the range of news that we receive and deliver. From the ecstatic triumph of a beautiful baby after a long journey, to the torment of the loss of a pregnancy, to the needed levity of inside jokes, every possible emotional expression can be seen among the online #ttc (trying to conceive) community. Now, Facebook is offering more ways of being able to react to the content we see. Last fall, Facebook tested its new reactions in Ireland and Spain. This week, the new options were made available to the rest of the world, and the infertility community is already using them. 

More ways for the infertility community to express their emotions

More ways for the infertility community to express their emotions

It's distinctly possible that it will take some time for social norms to establish themselves with regard to how people dealing with infertility choose to use their new reactions. In the same way that e-mail open rates were astoundingly high in the 1990's, or that you followed back everyone who followed you in the early days of Twitter, we may see the love reaction take over for the like function for a while. Nonetheless, we are already starting to see distinct responses to infertility content. For example, of the 100 people that reacted to an e-card that posted by Buffalo IVF, we can see that nine people "loved it", six people "laughed" at it, and the rest liked it. .Let's break down the new Facebook reactions, and how we see them developing into new social norms in the infertility family.

  1. "Like": Traditionally, we've seen the like button used for everything, because it was our only option. Now that the like function's monopoly is over; the only certain prediction is that it will be used less frequently. I think we will continue to see the like button used for different kinds of practice news, such as soliciting feedback about a baby reunion, and in other demonstrations of community support. For example, a post about your team at your local RESOLVE Walk of Hope is content that will probably continue to be "liked".
  2. "Yay": I imagine this will be  a common response to pregnancy announcements and other accomplishments like weight loss and embryo status. Yay can be used in place of like and love in most cases.
  3. "Love": We can expect to see a lot of love in the fertility space. We're seeing a lot if it already. New baby pictures are already getting lots of love, and it's only just begun. A like simply doesn't cut it when it comes to responding to a beautiful baby picture or an emotional pregnancy announcement. For those fertility clinics whose doctors and nurses are absolute sweethearts, I predict we will see a lot of hearts under their photos as well.
  4. "Haha": There is an exceptional sense of humor to the infertility community and a growing body of research indicates that laughter has therapeutic value. This would explain why we see so many e-cards, memes, and inside jokes in the #ttc community. The @infertility_hopeandhumor account has more than 2,800 followers on Instagram. From my experience, I've noticed that the funny content often grabs the most interaction. I think humorous posts will be even more appropriate for practices to share now that there is a reaction that fits its purpose.
  5. "Wow" is definitely the most ambiguous of the new reactions. I see this function being used in parallel with  all of the other reactions except for sad. It will be interesting to see what meaning the infertility family decides to give to wow.
  6. "Angry" Other extremely popular posts are those that capture the feelings of the social pressure faced by couples and individuals struggling with infertility. The most shared link posted by Fertility Institute of Hawaii, for instance, discussed the social protocol of asking someone when they are going to have a child. At risk of generalization, the infertility community hates this. They hate being told they can just adopt. They hate being offered their friends' children in jest. They hate being told to "just relax and it will happen." These topics are almost always the most popular among the Huffington Post's beat of articles on infertility. I wonder if we will see a lot of angry emojis under these links. 
  7. "Sad" The word doesn't even begin to describe the heartbreak and loss that so many people coping with infertility feel every day. The #infertility and #ttc tags are heavily populated with status updates about loneliness, depression, and loss. In our community, early pregnancy loss is far too common, and frequently, this is a subject where people turn to blogging to express their feelings of hurt. Often, the infertility-related posts on Instagram with the most comments, are those of outpouring support for someone mourning the child that they were unable to carry to term. This is a frequent, delicate, and compelling issue for our community. The sad reaction will be one we use more than we would like, as it offers a gentle, quiet way of expressing our sympathy.
More people "loved" this photo than liked it

More people "loved" this photo than liked it

Getting closer

The new Facebook reactions represent an interesting baby step; one toward a more fluid blending of human and technological communication . There have been times where I have chosen not to respond to a particular comment, because it wasn't appropriate to offer words, and the gesture of a like would not have been suitable. I would have appreciated some of the options that are now at our disposal. The ability to react with more emojis doesn't meet the emotional diversity of the infertility journey, but it does allow us to virtually "put our hand on a shoulder" or beam a smile when words aren't pertinent. We can express ourselves more acutely, as fertility practices and patients further develop the language of the infertility community.


7 Musts for Using Online Reviews to Avoid Choosing the Wrong Fertility Clinic

By Griffin Jones

Too often, I read an online review of a fertility clinic, in which the person says they wish they would have read other reviews before choosing that practice. In doing your online research, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the reported experiences of other people, to help inform your decision. More than just a few times, I have read reviews where the person regrets choosing the fertility clinic despite reading negative reviews, sometimes because they followed the advice of a friend.

A review from RateMDs

A review from RateMDs

Whenever I make a serious decision in life, I first want to speak to as many like-minded people as I can. I look for people who I feel share my profile and I deeply explore their experiences. For you, as a person coping with infertility, this will include consulting the #infertility and #ttc communities on social media, going to peer support group meetings, and thoroughly reading online reviews.

Part of what I do for a living is help fertility centers and doctors improve their online reputation. There's no real shortcut here. You can't delete reviews that other people write about you on the internet. In a 2016 world, practices need to make sure you have the best experience possible. If you're satisfied with the effort and attention that you received from your care team, you won't leave a negative review. If you're delighted, you will want to tell the world. That's better advertising than they could ever purchase. Fertility practices greatly benefit when they have a stellar online reputation, but that benefit belongs first and foremost to you. Online reviews exist for the people reading them, not the people they are about. 

I've written guidelines for fertility centers on how to respond to both negative and positive reviews. Now I want to share that experience with you so you can use fertility doctor reviews to avoid regrets and find the best fit for you. Here are seven things to keep in mind when finding a fertility center:

1). Check multiple review sites. Different review sites are more widely used in different cities. Check these nine sites to see which have the most reviews in your area. Simply enter your city, state, or province into their search field, and select the corresponding specialty.

  1. RateMDs: Reproductive Endocrinologist
  2. ZocDoc: Infertility Specialist
  3. Vitals: Reproductive Endocrinologist
  4. Healthgrades: Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
  5. UCompareHealthCare:  Reproductive Endocrinology
  6. Fertility Authority: Fertility Doctor or Fertility Clinic
  7. Yelp: Fertility
  8. Google Reviews: Appears in the Google+ frame of a search for the clinic/doctor's name
  9. Facebook: Usually linked to the practice's website

2). Read beyond the star rating. In my opinion, Vitals, Healthgrades, Fertility Authority, and UCompareHealthCare, are the least helpful of the above options when searching for a fertility clinic. I suppose if there are enough responses, then it helps to see if someone has a two star or a five star rating. Still, I think these sites are better designed for a chriopractor or a dentist; a specialty where a rating on timeliness and billing would suffice.

You know all too well that infertility is much more emotionally involved than that. I recommend diligently reading the comments. ZocDocs, Google Reviews, Yelp, RateMDs, and Facebook are sites where the star rating is accompanied by a comment (you know, an actual review). Read as many as you can. If there are enough, you will be able to get a better idea of the practice or doctor. 

3). Read as many reviews as you can find. Two or three samples won't show you a complete picture of the personality of a physician or the culture of a practice. Thirty will. Look for recurring themes. If eight out of nineteen reviewers call the doctor "arrogant", or fourteen people say she "is the most compassionate person ever", that is probably more reliable feedback.

4). Be aware of the bias that exists because that bias matters. Positive reviews are far more likely to come from people who became pregnant and negative reviews are far more likely to come from those who did not. In a study I conducted in 2015, I found that positive reviews are three times more likely to mention a baby or a pregnancy than to mention unsuccessful treatment or to make no mention at all. Equally, negative reviews are three times more likely to mention a lack of success than to reference a baby/pregnancy or to make no mention at all.

Study on negative fertility center reviews

This is massively important because, as a prospective patient, you should know that no one can guarantee a 100% probability of success. There are several doctors and practices with very few negative reviews. This isn't because their IVF success rates are at 85%--that doesn't exist. It's because of their bedside manor, helpfulness, compassion, reliability, and communication. All of these things matter to your choice, because the clinical result of a pregnancy is not the only factor in your experience.  A physician or clinic with many authentic positive reviews and few negative ones is more likely to properly set and manage your expectations.

study on positive fertility clinic reviews

5). Utilize Facebook: With regard to the above, know that Facebook reviews for fertility centers are far more likely to be positive than negative. My untested hypothesis is that this is because we generally use our real names and identities on Facebook, as opposed to a username (Yelp) or remaining unidentified (Ratemds). Recalling a negative experience may be too emotionally burdensome for someone to associate with themselves so personally and yet so publicly. In my personal opinion, a fertility center with less than a four and a half star rating on Facebook is not a good sign. For other sites, a good practice and team could still feasibly have a three and a half star rating. Again the number of reviews matters (at least ten).

6). Message the reviewers. Sometimes people will leave their contact information in their review, because they would love to answer your questions and share their experience. In the case of Google+, Yelp, and Facebook, you have the opportunity to click on that person's name and send them a message. Take advantage of that! If it were 1996 instead of 2016, you would have to wait outside of the fertility practice like a creep to ask people what it was like. Today, those that want to share their experience are doing so publicly. There's no magic number of conversations that you should have, so let's call it five.

  • Tell them what your greatest concerns are.
  • Ask them what their greatest concerns were.
  • Were their concerns relieved or confirmed?
  • What did they learn from their experience that they wish they had known before? 
Remember to search for other cities and suburbs around you.

Remember to search for other cities and suburbs around you.

7). Leave your own review after your experience. At least one, on the site that you found most helpful. If you go to the deli to buy a $5 sandwich, and you're not satisfied, you don't have to tell the world. Anyone can live with the consequence of a mediocre lunch. With your journey, aren't you almost compelled to offer your experience so that someone can make a more informed decision? With the emotional cargo, financial burden, and uncertainty that characterizes the infertility journey, aren't you obliged to warn or make recommendations to others? There are countless couples and individuals that share the same concerns as you and your partner; your opinion could really help them. Use a site where you leave your real name or one where you remain completely anonymous, depending on your personal preference. It's not my place to say, but I think that the prospective patient population would be much better served if every person that underwent fertility treatment left an online review afterward: good, bad, or neutral.  

Take advantage of the wisdom of others

Online reviews don't exist to benefit hotels, restaurants, vacation destinations, products, or medical practices. They exist to benefit guests, patrons, consumers, and patients. Fertility clinic reviews are channels for you to share your experience and the purpose of these channels is to benefit other people facing choices similar to ones you have faced. If you are considering a fertility doctor or practice for the first time, please, don't just look at their website. Take advantage of the wisdom of others who will be able to greatly inform your decision. If you are a veteran of fertility treatment, please give others something to consider by writing an online review.

Did you read reviews before you chose your fertility practice or are you using them now? What have you discovered?

Power to the Patient: 5 tips for your unbeatable fertility marketing plan in the great information shift

By Griffin Jones

In this week's premier of the final season of Downton Abbey, one of our favorite characters, Anna Bates, reveals her struggle with recurring pregnancy loss. The season takes place in 1925. How different options would have been for Anna and her husband in that period, with respect to both medicine and information technology. How would Anna have learned more about her medical condition in 1925?

Anna sharing the news of her most recent pregnancy loss with her husband.

Anna sharing the news of her most recent pregnancy loss with her husband.

The world's collective knowledge was not at Anna's fingertips 90 years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Bates had one source of information, and likely a very limited one: their physician. The available doctor had all of the access to information and the patient had none.  Today, on Google alone, there are 10,500 average monthly searches for the phrase, "cause of infertility", in the United States and Canada and 276,500 monthly searches for "IVF". The infertility hashtag has been posted 122,534 times (and counting) on Instagram. What implications does this conquest for information have on how new patients come to find their fertility centers?

Some of the phrases people enter into Google to learn more about infertility and IVF

Some of the phrases people enter into Google to learn more about infertility and IVF

With all of the analytics before us, it's obvious that many patients are curious to know as much as they can before they ever contact a fertility specialist.  According to research conducted by Carnegie Mellon's George Loewenstein, curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know. For this reason, the websites of fertility centers with the most relevant information are usually able to attract more visitors, for longer periods of time than those with less information. Rather than spending money on conventional advertising, providing patients with the answers they seek is one of the most effective plans for attracting new patients. Here are five ways to begin to build your fertility marketing plan for 2016:

1). Use a tool like Marketing Grader or Moz Local Search. See how easily (or not) your website is found by search engines. These tools scan your website for checklist items to make sure they are complete. I use these tools, and I find them useful, but they are a start. Individuals and couples dealing with infertility are your real focus, not a checklist. 

2). Claim and verify your practice location(s) with the major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Claiming your listings on these major search engines helps prospective patients toward the end of their decision making process. They have all but decided on going to see a fertility specialist. Make sure that your most important contact information is correct:

  • Phone number
  • Office hours
  • Address/GPS location
  • Web address

This rings especially true for clinics with multiple locations. If you are in a large metro area like Dallas, for example, claiming offices in satellite cities like Plano and Ft. Worth may make the difference in someone finding your practice over another. The more complete these listings are, the better (real photos).

3). Complete your profile on the most relevant review sites. I distinguish review sites from the major search engines because they have different implications for fertility centers. The most popular review sites for fertility doctors include:

  • Healthgrades
  • ZocDoc
  • RateMDs
  • Yelp
  • Vitals
  • Fertility Authority
A completed physician profile looks much more professional.

A completed physician profile looks much more professional.

Some of these directories will charge you to complete your profile and respond to reviews. It's usually not a priority to claim all of them.  There will be two or three that are more widely-used in your area. RateMDs, for example, is very popular for reproductive endocrinologist (RE) searches in Los Angeles and Dallas but much less so in the Bay Area and Houston. 

When someone searches for information on these sites, they are given suggestions for competing fertility clinics and doctors. Here, complete information is a stark advantage. Would you prefer that your prospective patient view another physician's professional head shot as compared to a computer generated silhouette to represent you?

4). Increase your Facebook reviews. In this context, I prioritize Facebook above other social media for fertility centers because of its search value. Facebook almost always ranks among the top search results for your practice. Since 77% of adult women use Facebook, they will quickly find if any of their friends or acquaintances publicly "like" your practice, thus dramatically expanding your "word of mouth" referral network. Facebook reviews provide a wealth of social information to you prospective patients and women's healthcare influence has spread beyond the family. According to a survey conducted by California Healthline, 41% of women report that social media sites influence their choice of physician, hospital, or medical facility. 

Building an active social community takes time and resources, but to start, make it easy for your best patients to find you so they can leave high-quality reviews.  At the very least, every fertility practice should have an

  • Updated cover photo
  • Updated profile picture
  • Current contact information: phone number, website, address, hours, etc. 
  • Reviews enabled (If reviews are turned off, your best patients won't be able to vouch for you)

5). Resume your blog. Hubspot's data shows that blogging is the #1 cause of increase in a site's web traffic. When your REs and other experts from your community blog, you effectively increase the number of answers to potential questions that lead new patients to find you online. But how do you face information overload?

According to a study by the University of Southern California's Institute for Communication Technology Management, we consume 74 gigabytes of information every day; the capacity of 9 DVDs! With so much noise on the internet, how do you ensure that your blog post will be found, much more read? You can

  1. Use Google's Keyword Planner to find  "long-tail keyword" searches. "Infertility" is a "short-tail" keyword where "blood tests for infertility in women" is a long tailed keyword. Often, there is less competition for these terms and you can even localize the planner to your geographic area.
  2. Go from memory. The twenty most frequently asked questions you receive from patients during their initial consultation are topics for blog posts. The way the patients ask each question is often the best way to title the post. Even if not optimized well, archiving your personalized answers to your most frequently asked questions on your website brings extra value to your patients. It gives them another resource to check if they forget your answer or want more information.
  3. Subscribe to inbound marketing software. The most efficient way to increase new fertility patients by blogging is to use inbound marketing software like the platforms offered by Sales Force, KissMetrics, or Hubspot. You can waste a lot of time, money, or both by guessing which content to create. Let inbound marketing software focus on the data so that you can focus on creating the content and answering the question.

The shift in access to information has certainly changed since the epoch of Downton Abbey. In 2016, patients have virtually unlimited access to information. They need a fertility specialist to help them unpack this information overload with context and insight. Today's fertility marketing is based on the principle that this exchange of information begins not at the first consultation, but online, before your new patient decides on her fertility doctor. I'll do anything I can to help patients find the answers they're looking for, I hope that involves you.

Increase your IVF cycles this year by creating better content than any other fertility practice in your area. Download my completely free e-book, "Digital Marketing for Fertility Centers: How to use digital media to acquire new IVF patients in 2016".

Patient or Customer? Self-identity in the business of infertility

By Griffin Jones

Here we are...wrapping up 2015, largely on pause between the major holidays. I'm taking it easy too, so I'm using this blog post to spell out how I can be more helpful to the infertility community in the New Year. That started an honest reflection about how we see self-identities (patients, practices, doctors, me), and what that means about our responsibilities to each other.

Image courtesy of  Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I don't work directly with patients--I'm building a marketing firm for fertility centers--but that means I serve patients by proxy. But in what capacity? I recently spoke with a good friend of mine, who has been my business mentor for the last five years. He asked me to start from the beginning: what was my goal? What was I really trying to accomplish?

"Your goal is to make sure that everyone who wants to have children is able to do that, right?"

"Uh, yeah." I stammered.

"Why the hesitation?" he pressed.

Yeah. Why the hesitation? I thought. I found the answer after only a second of reflection. I took a dose of my own medicine in self-awareness.

"No, that isn't my goal." I had to be honest with myself so that I can be honest with everyone else. Of course, I want everyone to realize their dream of having a child. I want everyone to find happiness and I wish there wasn't suffering in the world. But I can't say that it's my goal for everyone to have a child, because I can't directly provide that solution. I'm not a surgeon or a scientist. I don't know how to use science and technology to make someone's dream come true. I am a businessman and a natural-born moderator and I can help people get better terms out of the agreement they're entering into. I must sound like an alien. Practices usually talk about infertility in clinical terms. Patients often talk about infertility with respect to the tremendous social, emotional, and financial stress that it causes. Here I am, trying to translate two languages by adding a third. Still, I think it's hard for practices and patients to meet one another's expectations if we don't face reality.

The Elephant in the operating room

I'll say it if no one else will. Fertility treatment is a business.  Money is exchanged for a service. Whether the cost falls squarely upon you as the patient, on a government body, an employer, or an insurance provider, that service will always be expensive. This is state-of-the-art technology and science, mastered by one of the most rigorous training disciplines in modern medicine. I deeply respect that. I also deeply respect that someone (most of the time you) is putting forth a great deal of wealth for that value exchange. That's called business. I hope patients and providers feel at least slightly more comfortable thinking of it this way. You've entered into the transaction regardless. As a "patient-consumer" you are entitled to the most value you can get for what you are paying .

In 2014, I started creating content and resources for fertility practices to provide more value in their role in the relationship. In 2016, I want to do the same for patients so they can go into the interaction with more leverage. To extract more value for both patients and providers, we may need to allow each other to be more vulnerable with our identities. I'm not getting sappy, I'll explain. According to research professor, Brené Brown, Ph.D., we all have wanted and unwanted identities and our unwanted identifies dictate our behavior every day. Brown goes on to say that the perceptions we want to have and want to avoid are often unrealistic.

Why doctors don't like to think of their fertility practice as a business

With some 1,000* board certified reproductive endocrinologists (RE) in the United States and Canada, it would be naive to think that no one among them lets financial motivation influence their judgement. But I have met dozens of REs and I can tell you that generally speaking, their identity as a physician is of greater esteem to them than their identity as the owner of a business. I do not use the words "sales", "customers" or even "business" with them, because they do not use those words.  They operate their "practice" and they serve "patients". I want you to know this because the ideal of providing you with the best care is how they self-identify. It upsets them greatly to receive negative feedback from patients. They often tell me that it ruins their week or they lose sleep thinking about it.  

Even REs with mostly high ratings feel sad when they feel they let someone down.

Even REs with mostly high ratings feel sad when they feel they let someone down.

I think that doctors don't like to think in business terms partly because they want to protect you. They are your physician and their duty to you in that role is sacred. Apparently they're justified in their aversion to a business identity; fertility treatment as a business does not seem to carry a positive connotation among patients either.

Why patients don't like to think of their fertility practice as a business

If you've spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatment, then you may be far more likely to view it is as business. That's usually a bad thing. When patients feel dissatisfied with their experience, it is fairly common for their public reviews to say that the doctor was "only in it for the money".

It's worth mentioning that these reviews came from a place with one of the best public plans for infertility coverage in the world. 

It's worth mentioning that these reviews came from a place with one of the best public plans for infertility coverage in the world. 

You don't want to feel duped, pressured, or misled. You certainly don't want to be made to feel that your necessary medical treatment is a discretionary spend. From what I've observed, business roles are unwanted identities for both practitioners and patients. Brown argues that when we reduce people to their unwanted identities, we miss the opportunity to know their many strengths. We all have different parts of our identity. You may be a patient, a customer, a reproductive endocrinologist, a business owner or an entrepreneur, but none of those describe 100% of who you are. You are also a friend, a joker, a volunteer, a terrible cook, an amazing dancer, and a hardcore Adam Lambert fan. I don't mean to digress, but I've found that cutting people some slack helps you get the most out of relationships in business and in life.

So about getting the most of it...

While helping fertility practices provide more value to their patients, I haven't done much to teach patients how to extract or find that value. You can expect more of that from me this year. This is not an act of charity, by the way. Providing people with the most value that you possibly can is the best way to do business. The more satisfied you are as a patient, the more likely you are to recommend the practice to others. You are going to spend a great deal of money, time, and emotional energy on whichever fertility clinic you choose. You should be able to leverage that choice for:

1). Clear expectations

No one's IVF success rates are 100%. In fact, the national average of IVF success rates based on live birth per transfer of fresh embryos is less than 48% for women under age 35. That in and of itself is a mouthful. What does it all mean? Patients need help digesting all of this information (so do I), and I know the right people to ask.

Patients often cite lack of clarity around success rates as a problem.

Patients often cite lack of clarity around success rates as a problem.

2). Financial Preparation:

Patients really hate not knowing how much their treatment is going to cost them. Sometimes, patients will say that they felt deceived by their practice because the clinic wasn't up front about the cost of treatment. Occasionally, people report feeling that their practice deliberately manipulated them. How does an $8,000 IVF cycle end up as $15,000 in medical bills? I personally believe that most practices won't mislead you on purpose. Rather, I think they are terrified of giving you the wrong figure. Spoiler alert: insurance is a nightmare. In most cases, the range of coverage comes down to the individual plan. Without diligently investigating your plan, the billing office has no way of predicting what out of pocket expenses you will face.

Furthermore, medication and additional testing vary for each individual. It's understandable that practices can't quote an exact price for total treatment on their website. So how about an explanation of why, and a list of things to consider? I get the impression that some practices are reluctant to do this because they feel this gives other clinics an unfair advantage. If I tell you that an IVF cycle is $8,000, but through additional testing and meds, it could be as much as $18,000, you may choose another clinic who lists their IVF cycles at $8,500. I want to prepare patients for this confusion so that you don't have any unwanted surprises and so that clinics are rewarded for transparency.

3). Access to support

Your clinic should play a role in connecting you with professionals and peers for support. They should have support contact information ready for you before you even step into their practice (on their website). RESOLVE can help you find an infertility support group in the United States, and Fertility Matters can help you in Canada, but there are groups of all kinds and your fertility center should know everyone of them in your area.

4). More choice

I'm talking about what to look for in online reviews. Honestly, in the uncommon instances when I see a fertility doctor with 12 horrible reviews regarding very similar complaints, I wonder how a patient even ended up with him or her. I have looked at more fertility clinic reviews than anyone on the planet (says I). I will show you what to look for and hopefully save you some headaches. 

IT's the only way I know

You're experiencing one of the most difficult journeys of your entire life. Sometimes, I wish that I was an RE but I'm barely qualified to apply first aid to a paper cut. I wish I could offer better emotional support than just lending an ear. What I can help you do is use your leverage as a patient-consumer to get more value from your experience. I promise to spend more time on that in 2016.

Have you thought about fertility treatment in these terms before? Is there more you wish you knew?



The Truth Is Undefeated: A hard look at "questionable techniques" and the current state of fertility marketing

By Griffin Jones

You can tell I'm still relatively new to the fertility space. I don't appear in the top ten Google search results for "fertility marketing". I'm working on that, that's what brought me to check. I was both encouraged and discouraged by something else that did come up, however.

On the first page of Google search results for the term, "fertility marketing".

On the first page of Google search results for the term, "fertility marketing".

It's unfortunate for the field of reproductive medicine when our top search results for marketing include, "Many Fertility Clinics Use Questionable Marketing Techniques Online", a Jezebel reiteration of a Huffington Post article from three years ago. I would normally argue that we should avoid questionable marketing techniques by using only real patient testimonials and images. But authentic content does not fully address the issue of transparency in fertility marketing . The fundamental problem is that fertility clinics serve two different populations who sometimes overlap and who are sometimes at odds. Until we equally recognize both groups and the value of their experiences, I'm afraid we'll continue to have more problems. 

Flowers over figures

Both articles are sensational summaries of a report called Selling Art: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics' Websites by Jim Hawkins, of the University of Houston Law Center. The report suggests that the content on fertility centers' websites may be misleading--using pictures of smiling babies and the words, "miracle" and "dream". The report offers criticism that these images and words may influence a prospective patient's decision instead of focusing on the Society for Advanced Reproductive Technology's (SART) published data on success rates. Such advertising may suggest that a pregnancy after IVF treatment is a certainty, when we know that in some cases, it's not even likely. 

It does seem that people sometimes feel misled. In a small survey I finished in April of 2015, patients told me that confusion about success rates was one of their greatest pain-points in selecting their fertility clinic. We also read in negative fertility doctor reviews that people sometimes feel rushed into IVF treatment. I recently spoke to a couple at Resolve's Night of Hope who felt the same way. It is certainly the case that some people feel that IVF is being sold to them. 

So why do I also find it encouraging that highly authoritative links to this report ranked so highly in the search results for "fertility marketing"? For the same reason I am building a company that will also rank among those results. I believe in a marketing strategy built on support and transparency. The report suggests that fertility clinic marketing should be more thoroughly regulated because of these questionable marketing tactics. My largest problem with that notion is that it shares a faulty belief with the lousy marketers that implement those tactics: obscurity works. Indeed, not being fully transparent may work in the short term. Some people clearly feel that they were persuaded with unrealistic expectations to pay for expensive IVF cycles. This strategy may have been tenable twenty years ago. Today's data, however, proves that people increasingly make decisions based on what they read in online reviews from their peers

You can run but you can't hide 

Fertility centers need to properly manage new patient expectations or their online ratings will suffer. Social proof in the form of online reviews should be the cornerstone of every good fertility clinic's marketing efforts. If any prospective patients or patient advocates read this post, I implore you to check the reviews of a provider before you decide on them. Investigate both the fertility practice and the reproductive endocrinologist (RE) on Yelp, Health Grades, Vitals, ZocDoc, RateMDs, Google reviews, or whichever of those are the most used in your area. Don't look at the star rating alone, but pay attention to the comments. If there are enough reviews, you will be able to get an idea of the culture of the practice or physician you are considering.

I don't know if fertility practices should be required to post their success rates, but I certainly think that they should post them. Patients are looking for that information and if they don't find it from you, it will be from a site like fertilitysuccessrates.com or from one of your competitors. Clinics should be transparent with success rate info and create content explaining the complex data to patients. 

Patients will find your success rates from one website or another. Fertilitysuccessrates.com

Patients will find your success rates from one website or another. Fertilitysuccessrates.com

Miracles happen and dreams are real 

I disagree that it would be appropriate to remove baby pictures and words like "dream" and "miracle" from your site.Those words belong to the patients themselves. If you look at the Facebook pages of nearly any fertility clinic in America, there is almost certainly a photo post from a happy patient that includes the word, "miracle". That child truly is a miracle for the parents that ventured that hard, lonely journey for so long. Their fertility specialist and their practice helped bring that miracle into existence. And for those couples and individuals that are struggling with infertility, it is their dream to have a baby of their own, a dream stronger than any other. We should speak to people in the language that they use, especially when it's based on results you've achieved. Your practice exists because people vividly dream of a miracle. Ideally, we should use baby pictures from actual patients. I think it's time to get the HIPAA release forms ready. The authentic account of someone who has actually realized their dream  is critical motivation for people under enormous emotional stress who are making a complicated medical decision. Sadly, however, we know that dream will not come true, in that form, for many people. So we must recognize the value of two communities rooted in the journey of infertility.

The word miracle belongs to the infertility community.

The word miracle belongs to the infertility community.

Serving two communities at the same time

I will oversimplify the infertility community for the sake of fundamentally understanding our responsibilities to them. As I see it, the infertility community is one population of people that becomes two. There are those who have ended their journey by achieving their dream of a biological child. In parallel, there are those who are still very much on their journey who may never realize that version of their dream. I hope this is the beginning of a much longer dialogue, because not recognizing the significance of both groups' feelings leads to many problems. We often hear complaints from patients without children when little ones are in the waiting room. Yet, we hear grievances from patients with children when they are asked not to have their child in the sitting area. For one group, Facebook and Instagram are places to celebrate their triumph over the darkest period of their lives. For the other group, they are in the midst of darkness and every pregnancy announcement on Facebook and every baby photo on Instagram is excruciatingly painful . Both communities have an inalienable right to the way they feel. These two communities overlap and we serve both of them. Because we're serving two communities, we have to be able to offer them a variety of benefits or some will never get value from their experience with us. I think fertility centers need to consider themselves agents of help beyond clinical treatment. Both groups need access to support; a peer support group member should never have to find out about her support group on her own. To better serve both populations, we need to

  • Send patients home with information on support groups in their area. RESOLVE facilitates infertility patient support groups in most mid-size to large U.S. metro areas and Fertility Matters is their peer in Canada. These are only two examples of support networks. There are patient advocacy groups and countless independent support groups throughout North America. I believe it's our responsibility to promote support groups when they ask for our help in distributing their information.
  • Empower people on social media. Whether it's on your fertility practice's Facebook page, or in a private forum, people coping with infertility use social media to connect with people who know their struggle. Promote RESOLVE Fertility Matters, and other groups online and share their groups if they ask you to. We don't not need to participate in these support forums (it may be better if we don't), but simply connect the people who are interested in them.
  • Give patients a list of popular infertility blogs and infertility podcasts so that they can interact with people who share their experience. 

Can you grow your practice by reconciling your results as a "miracle worker" with empirical expectation setting? I am building a business with my vote of confidence that it's the best way to do so.

Setting up for success

There are real life examples of the virtuous cycle I propose--attract new patients with the experience of delighted former patients, offer support and other resources, temper with very realistic expectations, and repeat. Dr. Ilan Tur-Kaspa is one of the highest rated REs in the Chicagoland area. I spoke with him about his approach. Dr. Tur-Kaspa says that the number of new patients that tell him they chose him because of his online ratings has increased. He credits a strong emphasis on properly managing expectations with the patient before treatment. "We talk a lot about the difference between disappointment and surprise," Tur-Kaspa says. "Whatever the probability of success is, it is important to communicate that in the terms of the probability of failure. i.e. if there is a 30% chance of success, we should communicate that there is a 70% chance that it won't work. The patient should preferably  acknowledge the odds of failure. Wait until they say 'I understand'".

When a patient looks at your online reviews on a site like ratemds (pictured), they are one click away from every other RE in your city. We want your reviews to be the best they can be.

When a patient looks at your online reviews on a site like ratemds (pictured), they are one click away from every other RE in your city. We want your reviews to be the best they can be.

I'm not a physician, so I certainly can't advise physicians on how to speak to their patients. Nor do I want to offer an incomplete solution, because I see that positivity is hugely important.  I'm simply a marketer who sees the impact that clear expectations have on the public image of the practice. Some marketers may ignore expectation setting for the sake of scheduling more IVF cycles in the short term. A good marketer will use the patient delight that comes from proper education as the pillar of their marketing strategy. For highly rated REs and fertility clinics, those reviews belong front and center on your website. A window to Yelp and Facebook  provide a balance to the testimonials that you've selected . It's okay for patients to see the occasional one-star review. Not every one will be satisfied 100% of the time. I believe that when we publicly acknowledge that, we begin to ensure that people are satisfied as much as possible.

The truth is undefeated (eventually)

We don't have to use "questionable marketing tactics" because they won't grow our practices over the long term. For those that embrace transparency and connection to support, market share will grow and marketing will be more effective and less expensive. We have to provide the best possible patient experience in order to build public social proof. That social proof, tempered with clear expectations and information, is the best way to attract new patients. In order to preserve this virtuous cycle, delighted patients bringing in more patients, we have to recognize the dynamics of both populations in the infertility community, and the equal worth of their experiences. 

Forget Twitter: The 2 Most Important Social Networks for Fertility Centers

By Griffin Jones

It's annoying, isn't it? So many social networks come and go, how can a Reproductive Endocrinologist and her practice manager be expected to be fully engaged in a dozen social media platforms?  The task becomes much less daunting when we reverse engineer our patients' attention. We don't have to be experts of every social network, we just need to know on which our prospective patients spend the most time.

 In 2017, I may well have new recommendations regarding into which platforms you should invest your time and resources. Through 2016, however, the two social media networks on which every fertility center should be present are Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook can be the best review site for fertility centers as well as a referral source.

Facebook can be the best review site for fertility centers as well as a referral source.

1.    Facebook. 
Facebook is by far the largest, and most widely used social network in the world. 70% of Facebook users check their accounts daily, with 43% of users checking every day .
There are 49 million women between the ages of 25 and 45 on Facebook in the United States and Canada. The ad targeting capability on Facebook is unparalleled to any other medium, period.

Yet, on their own, none of these are reasons for your fertility center to be on Facebook. The reason fertility centers need to be active on Facebook is because content of babies and children is central to the DNA of the platform. 97% of US mothers who use Facebook every day, post pictures of their children . If your practice is active on Facebook, you know that former patients will post pictures of their children from every occasion to your Facebook timeline, sometimes on the day of delivery.

Facebook is also a meeting point for peer support. The Infertility Inspirations community has over 13,000 members for example. Dozens of other closed groups account for thousands of members each.

2.    Instagram. 
Instagram has surpassed Twitter to become the second largest social media network in the world . It took Instagram only eight months to reach 100 million photo uploads. The growth rate of Instagram is astonishing. But again, it’s not Instagram’s massive numbers that make it a necessity for fertility centers. Like Facebook, baby pictures and inspirational content are inherent to the platform. The popular #ttc (trying to conceive) hashtag on Instagram counts for more than 300,000 posts. Related hashtags, #ttccommunity and #ttcsisters account for more than 25,000 and 67,000 respectively. 

The number of emerging social networks can appear overwhelming for an already swamped RE and practice administrator. But your practice does not have to be, nor should be, involved in more than a few. Social networks require a commitment of time, energy, and resources. One should be reliably served before beginning an additional. Priority is determined by the social nature of the network and the attention of the patient.  In 2016, Facebook and Instagram are the two most important platforms for fertility clinics to utilize. 

In taking my own advice, I have admittedly neglected Pinterest. Is your fertility center active on Pinterest? Please tell me about it, I would love to hear what you've found.

Turn Your Social Media Channels into an IVF Referral Network

By Griffin Jones

A fertility center’s Return on Investment in social media can be traced back to the activism of its community.The value of social media is not that we have a free broadcast mechanism to reach people with any time we like. None of that is true—it’s neither free, nor a broadcast mechanism, nor will people see our message whenever we please.

The value of social media is your community.  Fertility centers acquire new patients through social media when they have a passionate, connected, community of people that zealously advocates for them.  This is "word of mouth". Communities will gladly rise up for their fertility centers—providing better advertising than we could ever hope to buy—but only if they are engaged. To engage your community:

•    Respond to all direct messages as quickly as possible
•    Reply to all comments and posts
•    Thank those who leave reviews and compliments
•    Crowdsource: Ask for input on various practice initiatives

Responding to comments and reviews is a critical part of community management for infertility clinics. 

Responding to comments and reviews is a critical part of community management for infertility clinics. 

The most direct way to use social media to attract new IVF patients is to empower current and former patients with a "word of mouth" referral network. When you interact with your community of supporters, the number of people who are they are able to refer to your practice increases dramatically.  If you look at the Facebook pages of the vast majority of fertility centers in North America  you will find that patient communities are largely ignored. If you are unable to dedicate the time it takes to respond to, thank, and inspire your community, your ROI on social will be very limited.


4 Tested and True Types of Social Media Content for Fertility Clinics

By Griffin Jones

Infertility clinics are possibly the single greatest social media anomaly in healthcare.

 Why? Most disciplines within healthcare are not social. Reproductive endocrinology, because of parental aspirations and deep community need, is extremely social. Therefore, the content that generates "word of mouth" referrals for fertility clinics is radically different.

 People don’t go on Instagram or Twitter to talk about foot pain, skin rashes, or stomach aches. Fertility clinics don't have anything to learn from podiatrists, dermatologists, and gastroenterologists except for what not to post. People are not on Facebook or Instagram to read medical studies. 

On the other hand, people want to see, share, and talk about pictures of babies on Facebook and Instagram. People want to see pictures of their friends’ children. People want to boast about their own children. Patients also use these platforms for peer support. If the fertility center uses their social media channels correctly, people will use the center as a medium to connect with the practice, each other, and bring their friends, family, and acquaintances into the circle.

The content that generates leads to more new patients is that which aligns with the reasons people are on each platform.  Four types of social media content proven to work for fertility centers are:

  1. Photos of nurses and doctors
  2. Patient Generated Content: The pictures that patients post to your timeline (with permission)
  3. Inspirational Quotes/Images
  4. Infertility related e-cards and memes

Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility is unique as a social category of healthcare. Other disciplines do not enjoy "word of mouth" referral networks built on social media because their content does not align with the reasons people use various platforms. Social media serves as an infrastructure for generating new IVF patients because the content of fertility clinics matches the nature of many social media platforms. 


The 5 Most Common Mistakes Infertility Clinics Make on Facebook

 By Griffin Jones

I have reviewed the Facebook pages of nearly every infertility clinic across the United States and Canada. (Not an impressive bragging point at cocktail parties, by the way). These are the most common mistakes.
5). Having a lot of likes with little to no interaction. It doesn't matter if you have 60 fans (page likes) or 6,000, if only 2 people like your posts on average.  It´s your mother-in-law and your uncle and they are not prospective patients.
4). Not Paying for Facebook Advertising. Interaction is more important than fan size because it leads to reviews, recommendations, and referrals which generate new patients. That said, you need distribution and paying as little as $500/month on Facebook will build a community of hundreds of people in your area who are researching your services. 

No one has interacted with this fertility center's content on Facebook, so very few people will see it. 

No one has interacted with this fertility center's content on Facebook, so very few people will see it. 

3). Too Much Medical Content. But wait,  expertise is paramount in REI. You need to establish yourselves as the the best trained and most knowledgeable. Yes you do...on your website and on your blog. This is what Gary Vaynerchuk means when he talks about respecting why people are using each social media platform. People are not on Facebook to research medical advice.
2). Not Enough Community Content. Much to the contrary, people spend record time on Facebook looking at and posting baby pictures. This is why every fertility clinic should be generating plenty of new patient referrals on Facebook. But they´re not. With HIPAA release authorizations and patient generated content, your practice can play to its strengths on Facebook. 
1). Not Responding to Positive Reviews Though not the most common, this is the most grave, and it makes me want to pull my hair out. We all know (I hope) that we have to respond to negative reviews. But the vast majority of Facebook reviews for fertility clinics are positive, and we shouldn't ignore them. We have a bit longer to respond to positive comments, let´s call it 3-5 days, but we need to thank these people for being our strongest supporters. These are the patients who refer the most people. Responding with enthusiasm deepens the relationship with the patient and makes them even more vocal advocates of you and your practice. 
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People who generate the most new patients for fertility centers are ones who leave reviews like these. They should be thanked and acknowledged.    

People who generate the most new patients for fertility centers are ones who leave reviews like these. They should be thanked and acknowledged.