New year, new social media strategy: Where to connect with patients in 2019

Social media marketing expert Kristie Nation gives an overview of the different social media platforms dental practices can use to find new patients or connect with existing patients in 2019.

Many dental practices made New Year’s resolutions to take social media seriously in 2018 but ended up struggling with how to start, where to focus efforts, and which platforms to focus on. The landscape of social media underwent massive shifts in 2018, and while there are certain tenets of marketing that always hold true, social media marketing is constantly evolving and demands that best practices be continually updated.

Most dental practices are now aware of the power of digital media to educate and inform consumers about their industry, and some are using social platforms to build trust and grow their practices.

Social media isn’t just for millennials. Increasing numbers of upcoming generations now turn to social media for health information. More than 64% of smartphone users seek health-care recommendations online, one in four use information found on social media to self-diagnose,1 and 91% of young adults surveyed by HopeLab say they have positive experiences when seeking health information online.2

The three main social platforms that lend themselves to dental practice marketing are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Other platforms that can prove useful include LinkedIn and YouTube. Each platform has pros and cons, as well as specific best practices, for dental practices.

Advantages of Facebook for dental practices

Facebook still reigns supreme as the most popular social media platform.3 It has many advantages for dental practices but must be used appropriately to be effective.

Pros

• In 2015, a survey revealed that 15% of adults hadn’t seen a dentist regularly due to difficulty finding one.4 Facebook provides a perfect solution, creating a presence for your practice on a platform people use every day to find information about local services.

• When it comes to urban dental offices, patients generally live within a five-mile radius, while rural dental practices may have a service area up to five or 10 times as large.5 Facebook’s targeted setup for marketing small, local businesses aligns perfectly with the needs of dental practices.

• Your practice may need to target certain demographics, such as seniors or athletes seeking a dental implant provider, or parents looking for a pediatric dentist or an orthodontist to see their children. Facebook’s ad options allow for targeting and retargeting; permit you to reach out to current Facebook Page followers, nonfollowers, or both; and provide the ability to use A/B split test ads to discover what approach works best.6

Cons

• Facebook was built around organic reach, and Pages were rewarded for activity with greater visibility. In recent years, organic reach has dwindled, and dental practices, like other businesses, must now “pay to play” and invest in ad campaigns to gain new followers, reach a wider range of potential patients, and generate visibility among existing patients.

• If not properly monitored and maintained, a Facebook Page can be targeted by competing dental practices or an unhappy patient and will need immediate attention. Having a dedicated, trained practice team member or a social media management firm monitoring the page for any signs of discontent can help head off issues and quickly address the public’s needs and inquiries.

Facebook is the top-level social media platform for most practices seeking to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships with lifetime patients, and reach new prospects who are looking for a new dentist.

Advantages of Twitter for dental practices

While Twitter has slipped from one of the top three social media platforms to somewhere between eighth and tenth (depending on which outlet is doing the ranking), it is still one of the best platforms for providing exceptional customer experiences.

Pros

• Twitter users are the most diverse when it comes to age groups, making it easier to target focused demographics.7

• Twitter’s effective hashtags allow you to align your brand with specific keywords and key phrases.

• Diverse content works well on Twitter, making it ideal for practices that generate lots of bite-sized, shareable pieces, including images, video, and more.

Cons

• Tweets generally have an immediate life span of only 15 minutes before they are pushed down by new content, so posting multiple times a day is a must.8

• If you aren’t able to respond quickly, users can become impatient quickly and voice dissatisfaction. Nearly half of users who tag businesses on Twitter with a question or concern expect a response within one hour,9 and unresponsiveness can lead to reputational damage.

Twitter is an excellent choice for practices that generate a large amount of content, are dedicated to the customer service side of patient care, and wish to position themselves as responsive and timely.

Advantages of Instagram for dental practices

Instagram is the most highly visual platform for dental practices, making it the perfect platform for offices and teams that work consistently to gain permission from patients to share smiles and stories. From cosmetic dentistry to orthodontics, images of smiling faces are the dental industry’s best marketing tools.

Pros

• One in every seven people has an Instagram account, and more than 500 million users log in daily.10

• Instagram users tend to be under 35, meaning they are old enough to be aware of the need to care for their teeth and will be the patients of the future for practices that offer range-of-life care.11

• Instagram Stories allow video content to be created, hosted, and promoted, providing plenty of room for patient education.12

Cons

• Measuring direct ROI generated by Instagram can be difficult, although those who use Facebook and Instagram together through Facebook’s Ads platform find it easier to assign and measure ROI.

• Instagram has a reputation for being celebrity heavy and dependent on a small circle of influencers, which some dental practices may find difficult to align with their own goals and values.

Practices that focus on services that provide visual results, such as orthodontics, veneers, and other cosmetic services, can find ways to leverage this fast-growing platform with the inspirational and aesthetically pleasing content that appeals to its user base.

Advantages of LinkedIn for dental practices

Unlike the three social media sites previously discussed that connect practices directly with patients, LinkedIn is designed to connect professionals with other professionals. For dental practitioners, the main value is in networking with doctors in aligning specialties to build referral bases.

Pros

• LinkedIn is a good place to reach out to others in your field and propose ways to network, share opportunities, and share patients between related specialties.

• Making connections is relatively easy. Start with a small circle and connect with others through mutual colleagues. In many cases, institutions of higher learning can be a point of commonality.

• LinkedIn is becoming a place to share more long-form content than is generally accepted on other social platforms. This can be utilized to build your practice brand and garner respect from your peers.

Cons

• LinkedIn is considered more “professional” than other platforms and will require you to be more selective about the content you post.

• Measuring ROI will be completely different on LinkedIn since you will have to assign value to effort made over time, hopefully resulting in referrals.

Trusted relationships can be built on LinkedIn, which can lead to new patients. A typical goal for a general practice would be to forge connections with local pediatric dentists who may later refer patients who age out of their clinics. For a periodontist, a goal might be to partner with prosthodontists and collaboratively offer comprehensive restorative care to patients with complex needs.

Advantages of YouTube for dental practices

YouTube’s value to dental practices is slowly being realized as more and more organizations “pivot” to video in an effort to stay competitive.

Pros

• YouTube is now considered not just a video-sharing platform, but a social media site and a search engine in its own right with over 72 hours of video uploaded every minute.13 This means vast reach and interaction are available to users.

• Viewers can access content on a variety of devices, and patients can even leave video comments and testimonials while still in the office if provided with an enabled tablet or phone.

• The ability to include a transcript of each video improves SEO, and you can brand your videos with a selected image.14

Cons

• YouTube comments must be constantly monitored for spam and trolling, which can be time consuming.

• Video production can be intimidating to many dental professionals. You can overcome this by hiring someone to help you produce several short videos. The cost of video production has decreased significantly in the last five years. Always make sure you have patient permission if patient images are included, even in B-roll footage.

YouTube can provide you with a central location to store and share content from across your other channels. Educational (discover how digital x-rays work), how-to (using a water flossing system), and FAQ (what is a dental implant?) are the types of dental videos most patients search for, but you can also have fun with YouTube by making funny videos, doing song parodies, and more.

Using social media effectively will be key to your practice’s success in 2019. Remember these three basics: (1) choose your platforms wisely, (2) adapt your content correctly for each platform, and (3) closely monitor engagement for the chance to shine. You can leverage these online opportunities into practice growth by attracting interest from individuals or families who most closely fit your “ideal” demographic and who will remain lifetime patients.

References

1. Jorner J. 4 ways dentists are using social content to educate patients. Adweek website. https://www.adweek.com/digital/james-jorner-effective-inbound-marketing-guest-post-dentists. Published August 15, 2017. Accessed December 3, 2018.

2. Fox S. How healthcare leaders can fuel care for the next generation. Health Tech website. https://healthtechmagazine.net/article/2018/09/how-healthcare-leaders-can-fuel-care-next-generation. Published September 10, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

3. Bevan C. How the top social media platforms have changed and what it means for marketers. Social Media Week website. https://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/07/how-the-top-social-media-platforms-have-changed-and-what-it-means-for-marketers. Published July 13, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

4. Reasons US adults did not visit the dentist more frequently in 2015. Statista website. https://www.statista.com/statistics/699622/reasons-for-not-visiting-the-dentist-us-adults. Published 2015. Accessed December 3, 2018.

5. Hathaway S. A dentist’s guide to selecting the right office location. TDA Perks website. https://tdaperks.com/a-dentists-guide-to-selecting-the-right-office-location. Published August 3, 2017. Accessed December 3, 2018.

6. Carter R. A painless guide to social media marketing for dentists. Sprout Social website. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-marketing-for-dentists. Published May 2, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

7. Mangrolia A. Which social media platform is best-suited for your dental practice? Practice Builders website. https://www.practicebuilders.com/blog/which-social-media-platform-is-best-suited-for-your-dental-practice. Published May 11, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

8. Coleman R. What’s the lifespan of a social media post? Rebecca Coleman website. http://rebeccacoleman.ca/2017/04/21/social-media/whats-the-lifespan-of-a-social-media-post. Published April 21, 2017. Accessed December 3, 2018.

9. Rafferty L. 7 tips for nailing venue management. Bizzabo website. https://blog.bizzabo.com/venue-management-tips. Published June 8, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

10. Clarke T. 24+ Instagram statistics that matter to marketers in 2019. Hootsuite Blog website. https://blog.hootsuite.com/instagram-statistics. Published October 5, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

11. Smith A, Anderson M. Social media update 2018. Pew Research Center website. http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018. Published March 1, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

12. Mangrolia A. How to use Instagram to grow your dental practice. Practice Builders website. https://www.practicebuilders.com/blog/how-to-use-instagram-to-grow-your-dental-practice. Published May 25, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

13. YouTube for Dentistry: Getting video involved in your practice. Sesame Communications website. https://www.sesamecommunications.com/blog/youtube-for-dentistry-getting-video-involved-in-your-practice. Published October 22, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

14. Espinales M. Thinking about video to promote your dental practice? 6 YouTube must-haves. DentistryIQ website. https://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2018/01/thinking-about-video-to-promote-your-dental-practice-6-youtube-must-haves.html. Published January 5, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

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