The world of social media can feel unapproachable, especially when it comes to marketing your dental practice. But social media is a key component of robust and current marketing plans—predominantly because this is where our patients are living their lives.
According to the 2020 Global Digital Report, more than 3.8 billion people use social media in some capacity across the globe.1 For reference, that is more than half of the world’s population. This number has increased by 9% from the year before.1 More people are using social media platforms and spending a lot more time on them every single day. Users worldwide spend an estimated average of six hours and 43 minutes online, which adds up to over 100 days online in one year.1 The numbers are staggering. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a specialized United Nations agency, reported that “the world’s internet users will spend a cumulative 1.25 billion years online in 2020, with more than one-third of that time spent using social media.”1 No matter where our practices are located, social media impacts the information our patients have access to and the lives they live.
One of the most challenging components of incorporating social media into your existing marketing plan is the simple decision of where to begin. When I established my dental start-up, I remember hearing advice booming from around every corner I turned. I was inundated with opinions about ideal times to post, how to ensure content was platform specific and unique, ways to balance dental content with personal content … the list was never-ending. Even as a millennial, social media marketing felt intimidating and seemed to promise a million different ways to fail. After many lessons learned while actively pivoting the plan daily, I’ve been able to identify some tools that helped me significantly.
When it comes to social media marketing, the best place to begin is with content creation. I recommend ironing out your “why” before ever opening an app or webpage. Many practices have multiple doctors or team members who help run their social media accounts, and because they are individual humans with unique interests, the messaging can quickly become inconsistent and muddy the brand. It is very important to iron out what you want your office to look like online and make sure the messaging is consistent.
A great way to get started is to dedicate your next team meeting to this endeavor. During the team meeting, brainstorm answers to the following questions:
• What do we want our patients to think about when they think of our practice?
• Who is our ideal patient? Who do we want to reach with our messaging?
• What are some specific ideas or content that we want to share?
Another great exercise for brand-consistent content generation, especially in a team meeting setting, is using the concept of marketing personas.2 When preparing for the meeting, think of four or five different theoretical patients who would fit into your target audience. These are your marketing personas. Give them names, ages, and fill in the details of their lives. Where do they live? Who is in their family? What are their interests? Then, using these generated personas, the team can brainstorm things they would want to find on a practice’s social media feed. For example, perhaps one of these personas is a mother, so the team could create a list of questions she may have about her child’s oral health. The goal is to create content which is relevant and valuable to the people you’re trying to reach. By giving these theoretical patients a name and a face via marketing personas, content creation begins to feel more accessible.
Posting with a plan
Once you have generated some ideas for content, the real work begins. Ideas are just that unless they become actions, or in this case, posts. The daily work of thinking about what to post and when can quickly become overwhelming. This is where the secret weapon of social media marketing comes in: content calendars.
Content calendars are editorial calendars or plans which can be used to plan and schedule posts and track information. Such calendars are a great way to plan out content in an intentional way. They do require some effort up front, but they pay off in the long run. The format of your practice’s content calendar should fit your needs. It can be something as simple as a printed out monthly view calendar, a dry-erase calendar posted in a communal space such as the break room, an Excel spreadsheet, or as complex as an advanced project management tool. My personal favorite was Trello because I liked the ability to copy and paste URLs and add deadlines. Use what works for you. Certain platforms can also batch social media campaign tasks such as scheduling posts and managing engagement and outcomes.3 Start simple and build in complexity as your social media marketing strategies evolve.
My go-to system was to set a social media planning date with myself at the end of every month. I wanted my content calendar filled and ready by the first of the month. You can delegate this process or involve your team if that works better for the flow of your office. During this planning process I would consider the following information:
Upcoming holidays or dates of significance. Get creative! Apart from the big holidays, you can celebrate Pi Day (3/14), National Clean Your Desk Day (1/13), or even No Pants Day (5/7) (fair warning: celebrate with caution). A Google search will unlock infinite possibilities. Incorporate dates which hold personal meaning for your team, including birthdays and office anniversaries (e.g., join dates, dates you opened, etc.). Additionally, consider incorporating monthly themes, such as Oral Health Awareness month in June.
Events. These can include philanthropic or engagement events, events for local business partners, local community events, or even team meetings or team-building activities. Generate ideas by asking yourself, What will we do this month that I want all of my patients to know about?
Relevant and timely content. If there are questions or themes in your content arsenal that are important or timely, include them in the current month’s rotation. For example, you might choose to post about mouth guards in September when students are going back to school and joining sports teams. It might make sense to post about the link between sweets and oral health in candy-heavy months such as February or October.
There are some important considerations when filling out the content calendar and choosing which content to incorporate. Below are some things to remember.
Platform. Facebook remains the most used social media platform in the world with Instagram a close second. Data from 2019 shows Facebook has a reported 2.38 billion users per month and Instagram 1 billion monthly active users.4 These two platforms combined will likely give your practice the best ROI and are a great place to start, but some others to consider are YouTube, Snapchat, and even TikTok. Facebook tends to cater to an older demographic (the average US Facebook user is 40.5 years old), whereas Instagram is predominantly popular among 18–24-year-olds.5
Media. Instagram is a video- and picture-driven platform, so these elements are pivotal for content there. But studies show that pictures (especially nonstock images and pictures of recognized people) and videos generate more engagement on all platforms, including Facebook.6
Mode. Both Instagram and Facebook have a “feed” section (where posts live forever) and a “story” section (where content disappears in 24 hours). Many people wonder what the point is of making the effort to post content on a platform that will disappear in a day. The benefit of using the story feature is that when users play a story, the app will automatically play the next user’s story until all stories are played or the user exits the app. This is a great way to stay in front of the patient’s eyes (and thereby top-of-mind). If a user has a habit of watching their stories on a daily basis, they will see your content daily. If you have a piece of particularly compelling content, you can save it in a “highlight” on Instagram or a “story archive” on Facebook to make it visible long-term on your page.
Content. Since Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, the two platforms have gotten increasingly better at syncing and working together. This means that you can simply pair your practice’s Instagram profile with your business Facebook page to share the same content on both platforms simultaneously. Many social media experts are very vocal that to maximize the number of people your posts reach, it is ideal to have different content for each platform. Although this is the best practice, and it is a goal to create and plan content specific to each platform, I remember this causing me a significant amount of angst in my early days. It seemed like double the work at a time when there simply were not enough hours in a day. So, this is me giving you permission to duplicate content as needed, especially when you are first starting out. Do not let the guideline of unique content stop you from creating in the first place. My solution to this was to create unique content for each platform at least once a week and schedule this into my content calendar. This way, I was working toward unique content without killing myself. When creating content, try to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% content around you, your team, and the people, and 20% dental-specific content only.
Spontaneity. The content calendar may seem to stifle spontaneous posts—after all, haven’t we all had the impulse to post the gorgeous rainbow we spotted on our way to work? However, in my experience, this is not the case at all. With a robust social media post plan created for the month, I felt like I had more bandwidth to spontaneously share when the random patient showed up with home-baked goods. Depending on the site you use for your content calendar, you can even integrate scheduling the posts so they will automatically post at a predetermined time. This allows you to get more creative with spontaneous posts that may emerge on a day-to-day basis.
Permission. Consider this your gentle reminder that we cannot post patient data (even their photos in the lobby) without their written consent. Please be conscious of HIPAA and media consent laws when posting.
As you can see, content calendars are a complete game changer for social media marketing, especially for small businesses. I use them regularly for all of my businesses. They have allowed me to plan ahead and batch the sometimes-arduous task of post-planning. They give me leeway to be as simple or as complex as my brand requires. They allow me to be intentional about the content I am posting, which helps me fine-tune my brand’s message. Since the content is preplanned in a thoughtful way, I am able to easily delegate posts, allowing my team to participate more. Perhaps most importantly, content calendars have been a great way for me to track what is working and which posts get the most engagement, then recreate my success. With the help of my content calendar, I have been able to get closer to harnessing the power of social media to help spread my message and grow my practice. Give it a try!
- Robin A, Currey H, Montironi M. Digital 2020: 3.8 billion people use social media. We Are Social. January 30, 2020. Accessed November 21, 2020. https://wearesocial.com/blog/2020/01/digital-2020-3-8-billion-people-use-social-media
- Castillo S. Make it personal: Using marketing personas and empathy in your marketing. Think with Google. February 2018. Accessed December 1, 2020. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/future-of-marketing/creativity/marketing-personas-audience-research/
- Cooper P., Tien S. How to create a social media content calendar: Tips and templates. Hootsuite. January 23, 2020. Accessed November 25, 2020. https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-create-a-social-media-content-calendar/
- Perrin A, Anderson M. Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018. Pew Research Center. April 10, 2019. Accessed December 1, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/10/share-of-u-s-adults-using-social-media-including-facebook-is-mostly-unchanged-since-2018/
- Correa T, Hinsley A, Zúñiga H. Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Comput in Hum Behav. March 2010;26(2):247–253. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.09.003
- Thimothy S. Videos vs. images: What should you be promoting on social media? Inc.com. August 8, 2019. Accessed November 21, 2020. https://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/videos-vs-images-what-should-you-be-promoting-on-social-media.html