In the past 10 years, the percentage of the U.S. population using social media has gone from around 25% up to 70-80%. You can do the math—the majority of your patients and prospective patients use social media, and this will most likely only expand as technology and the way we use it continues to advance. Are you utilizing social media for the benefit of your dental practice?
Why Social Media Marketing Is Important… Even for Dentists
Gain Both Visibility & New Patients
If your business doesn’t have an online presence in today’s digital world, it might as well not even exist to many people (especially in the rising generation). You wouldn’t want your physical office location to be difficult to find, or to be far away from the places frequented by the average patient in your target market. Similarly, you don’t want your practice’s presence online to be difficult to find, or to be completely separate from the online places frequented by the patients in your area. You should have a user-friendly, optimized practice website, and then you should establish links between your site and your presence on social media platforms and review outlets. More traffic to and from your website and dental social media profiles means more new patient opportunities. The more people see of your practice both online and in person—and the better it looks to them—the more apt they are to contact your office.
Build Credibility & Manage Your Reputation
People use the internet in a variety of ways while searching for healthcare providers. If someone has dental insurance, they can check their insurance website first for in-network providers. Many patients will then go to the dentists’ websites and also reference Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other online reviews as they weigh their options. When people find your practice online, will they see recent reviews from satisfied patients as well as activity on your dentist Facebook page (the most popular social media platform)? During a patient’s decision-making process about a “dental home,” every bit of reinforcement helps. Your website, the photos and videos of your dental office, your online reviews, and your practice’s relevant activity on social media will all work together to build your credibility and enhance your appeal. If you want insured patients to come to you as an out-of-network provider, meaning more out-of-pocket expense for them, then your marketing better make a good case for why they should do that.
Around 30-40% of people don’t have dental benefits and, depending on your practice model, you need a strategy to be a viable option for these patients. We won’t go into all the ways to reach and accommodate uninsured people here, but we want to at least mention that these patients don’t start their search for a dentist with any limitation of an insurance network list. If they’re looking on their own, just between them and the search engines, are they going to find you on the first pages of search results, on the map, and/or in the sponsored listings (paid ads)? If they turn to their social media network on Facebook for a recommendation for a dentist, are you established enough in that network to be easily referred by patients to their friends? People are typically more inclined to trust a referral from a friend than to respond to first-time advertising, so include review and referral solicitation as part of your overall marketing plan. Social media provides a natural, relatively easy outlet for you to gather more patient reviews and for people to help spread the word about you.
Communicate & Strengthen Patient Relationships
When you engage with your patient base on your dental social media, you add another line of communication with them and, consequently, a greater feeling of availability to them. Sure, they can call your office; yes, your website is there for them to visit. But, if they don’t have something specific to motivate them to do these things, such as a dental problem or a semiannual checkup, are they going to do them? Probably not. What they probably are going to do on any given day is check Facebook and/or Instagram, and in many cases they’ll do it often. Be seen there sometimes! Humanize your brand in your dental social media posts, portray your team as both professional and personable, and broadcast interesting and exciting updates about your practice and community. You may be surprised by the strengthened patient loyalty and increased top-of-mind awareness that comes from effective social media. Pay attention to the way your patients react to your social media marketing activity so you can adjust it accordingly to maximize its benefits.
Where to Start with Dental Social Media
To DIY or Not?
So you want to try social media for your dental practice. First item of business? Decide how much you’re going to do yourself and how much you’d like to outsource, whether to a professional or to a staff member (or a combination of the two). Next, determine which social platforms will work well for your practice. We think it’s best to focus on quality content posted to fewer platforms, as opposed to spreading yourself too thin with poor quality or insufficient quantity across all platforms. Make your social media platform choices based on where your target audience will be able to see you most.
You should participate in your practice’s social media marketing on a limited basis, but it’s not the most profitable way for you to spend your valuable time. We suggest assigning someone on your team who will be good at managing your social media presence and who will enjoy doing it. In addition, recruit whatever level of help you need from a professional individual or team. When you’re getting started, invite your employees, colleagues (who aren’t competitors), and friends to follow your accounts.
Be Personal, Not Clinical or Salesy
Be more personal in posts aimed for patients. Don’t talk AT them, try to talk WITH them by posting engaging content and by encouraging interaction in the form of reactions, comments, and shares. You can set up notifications to enable your social media team to respond to comments and messages from your audience in a timely manner. Maintain brand consistency in your messages and voice across all social platforms. As part of this, use your dental practice logo as your profile picture or avatar.
If you have a dramatic before and after to showcase, wonderful! Keep HIPAA in mind, though, and get all necessary permission before sharing any patient information. The best scenario is when patients are excited enough about their smile makeover results to share the big reveal across their own social media networks. Other than that, save your clinical communications for interactions with colleagues.
Don’t try to sell in every post. It may seem counterintuitive since we’re talking about social media marketing for dentists, but in the social realm you need to find a balance between sharing to sell and sharing simply to engage. If your dental social media is overly promotional, patients will tune it out or stop following it altogether. Incorporate enough that’s interesting, useful, and fun (or whatever style works with your patient base) to not become mere noise. Also, avoid anything mundane or, worse, controversial. Utilize your social media posts to pass along stories of interest about your area, and also to share your team’s involvement in community service.
Plan to Stay Active
Depending on the social media platforms, your goals, and your available time and resources, post daily or 2-3 times a week. Don’t let your account stagnate or it can reflect poorly on your business. As you gain momentum, make a plan for maintaining it at a sufficient level. A content calendar will help a great deal. Plan ahead for what you can realistically stick to, and don’t hesitate to recruit help if you realize your staff needs it. For your calendar, planning can be made easier if you choose recurring “themes” and assign them to times of the week or month. For example, on Mondays, you could ring in the new week by sharing an interesting news story about your area or from the dental industry. On Wednesdays, you could acknowledge and brighten “hump day” with a joke, comic strip, or lighthearted post about happenings in your office. Once a month, you could feature a patient’s story (with their permission, of course). You get the idea. For your content plan, you can start light to ease in, and then increase posting frequency as you get the hang of it and see how your posts work for your practice.
Ideas for Using Social Media for Dentists
Facebook is the most popular social media platform and the best choice for promoting your dental practice socially. If you choose one platform, make it Facebook. Start by creating a business profile, or page, and get it verified. In addition to regular Facebook posts (which you can boost to increase visibility), you can also use Facebook Ads to target potential patients. Facebook is a great place to solicit reviews, as well.
If you have time for frequent updating and already use Twitter personally, it might be a decent idea for your dental practice. Due to its fast-paced nature compared to other platforms, Twitter can require more time than is reasonable and therefore be too challenging for its worth. Unless you’re really committed to be effective with Twitter, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. If you want to get started, follow your patients, industry leaders and their organizations, other dental professionals, and local businesses. Learn the art of relevant hashtags.
Set up a Google+ Business Page or have your marketing company help you with this. Even if you don’t plan to be active here, still set it up. Google+ gives you the ability to keep separate circles of followers, i.e., patients, colleagues, dental sales reps, industry leaders, local businesses, etc., so you can engage with multiple groups on the same platform. Soliciting Google reviews is important! If you’re interested in learning more about Google+, learn how they revamped back in November 2015.
Instagram is mainly visual, so it can work well if you have an exceptionally “cool-looking” office or special perks that can be communicated visually. If you focus primarily on cosmetic dentistry, you can utilize Instagram to post visual content that builds that side of your brand image and services. Start by creating a business account for your practice, and learn how to use local hashtags and tags. Don’t overuse image filters, and educate yourself on ways to present visually-appealing photos and marketing images.
YouTube can be used to post a few practice videos that are embedded on your website, or you can augment your use of this platform with a steady stream of quality video content. Be realistic about what you can produce, and what your patients and prospective patients would be interested in watching.
We’ve said before that we don’t think Facebook or any dental social media marketing is worth losing your mind over. Additionally, don’t sacrifice more profitable advertising to spend big bucks on social media. Just don’t neglect it! Incorporate it into your broader advertising plan and budget. Figure out the sweet spot for your practice where maximum patient engagement is achieved affordably and without too much time. Social media marketing for dentists is getting more important as time passes, and you don’t want to fall behind your competitors. Now is the time to start! The Practice Cafe team would love to help.
Sources: Dental Economics, Chairside Dental Magazine, Fire Gang, Growth Gurus, Forbes, Oral Health Group, El Mendo, Goldin Peiser & Peiser, LLP, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), Statista, Pew Research Center, and National Association of Dental Plans (NADP)