By Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA
Social media has become the most pervasive medium on the Internet. In an online world where patients can choose from thousands of things to do, they spend more time on social media than any other Internet activity. With 85% of American adults online, it's likely most of your existing and prospective patients can be found on social media.
It's also clear that dental professionals are aware that the way to market their practices has evolved. In a 2014 national study by Sesame Communications, 70% of dental professionals stated that print advertising is no longer important to their practices. This same study revealed 82% of dentists believe a website is important to their success and almost half (48.8%) believe a social media presence is important. Social media is now a mainstream proposition and practices that want to continue to grow need to take a strategic approach to marketing within this powerful medium.
Whether you have started down the road of social media marketing or are new to the game, these three strategies will help you build a loyal patient community and expand your network of prospective patients.
Focus Your Efforts on the Most Valuable Social Media Sites
While there are literally hundreds of social media options, focus your efforts on these three sites to maximize exposure and engagement with your target market:
- Facebook - 71% of American adults are now Facebook users. This means that seven out of 10 patients (or more) are already using this channel to communicate and you need to be part of the conversation.
- LinkedIn - With 84 million Americans on this site and 79% of them 35 or older, the vast majority are in your ideal demographic.
- YouTube - This is the richest content channel online and provides an exceptional way to deliver concise messages to your market.
Expand Your Social Media Community
In the social media world, brand loyalty and community go hand-in-hand. When you consider that 50% of small business owners reported gaining new customers through social media -- most notably Facebook and LinkedIn, the ability to create a following on your practice's social media sites is critical. The question is how to gain that following. Here are three strategies your practice can use to grow your social media community:
- Promote your social presence everywhere - This is an offline and online effort. Use signage in your office, highlight it on your website, or add it as part of patient communication.
- Interact with your existing fans and followers - Social media is a two-way digital conversation platform. Timely and thoughtful messages build loyalty with existing patients and impress prospective patients.
- Run sweepstakes and contests - Engage your followers and their friends with this powerful Facebook strategy. This will help keep your practice "top-of-mind" and translate into improved practice loyalty and referrals.
Provide a Consistent Brand Experience
Social media is a core strand within the fabric of your online presence. However, that fabric can easily tear if your practice does not present a consistent brand experience. To keep your online brand and its unique character intact, follow these two simple rules:
- Use the same design across online mediums - Make sure you use the same logo and pictures so you and your practice are easily recognized at every online touch point, from Facebook to Healthgrades and everywhere in between.
- Optimize for mobile - 40% of cell phone owners use social networking sites on their phones. If they visit your practice website and it is not optimized for use on mobile, they will move on and you'll have undermined your entire social media strategy.
Social media is where your patients spend their time online. It is the new platform for word-of-mouth referrals. Making sure your practice gives attention to the sites that your patients frequent is critical. Just as important, make sure you are engaged in activities that expand your social media community. Finally, make sure you present a consistent brand experience within social media. By implementing these practices, you can leverage your social media efforts to foster a loyal patient community that refers friends and family to your practice.
More by Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA:
- Three ways to ensure online reviews drive new patient appointments
- 3 reasons your practice needs an online marketing "recare plan"
- Leveraging online patient engagement management
Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officerof Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year success track record in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact her at Diana@sesamecommunications.com.
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