Why your dental practice can't just "do" social media

June 11, 2014
There's a disagreement between many great social media adopters as to how to go about getting started with social media.

By Kristie Nation

There's a disagreement between many great social media adopters as to how to go about getting started with social media. One camp says it does not matter if you know what you are doing as long as you are doing something, and that just getting out there and becoming visible is the primary goal. The other insists that a plan is necessary from Step 1, strategy is key, and that goals should be distinct and measurable. The second camp is correct!

What are your goals?

Let's be clear. The goal of social media is not to be good at social media …the goal of social media is to be good at attracting new patients and retaining existing ones. Never forget that everything you do to promote your practice, on or offline, should circle back around to the primary goal of bringing in new business and keeping the patients you already have.

Social media isn't "free"

Despite what many social media "gurus" would like people to believe, social media is not free. You will pay in either time and effort or cold, hard cash. It's all worth it, though. Word-of-mouth patient referrals have always had the highest return on investment of any type of campaign, and social media can be a powerful new implement to add to yourinternal marketing toolbox.

The three social media plan questions you have to ask

Whether you opt to do social media management internally or hire it out to an expert, there are three things that should be asked before committing to any campaign:

  1. What is the goal of this social media plan? When you are just starting out, the main thing is to set a time frame and a target number to aim at, so you have something to measure against. For example, if you currently get 10 new patients via internal marketing per month and have 75% of existing patients keep their appointments, your goals could be to increase new-patient bookings by 20% and get your appointment-kept numbers up to 85%. You may find later that you have vastly overestimated or underestimated your potential. This is not a problem. You can revise goals and expectations once the time frame for the original goal has expired, and you have had a chance to examine the results, including what worked and what did not work.
  2. How will return on investment be determined? Social media results can be harder to analyze than other types of advertising, especially since online visibility and brand recognition can result in leads panning out weeks, or even months, after the initial impression. Web analytics can help you determine the number of old and new patients interacting with your office as a result of your social media efforts. You can also track activity by patients on your social platforms.
  3. How does the campaign leverage "real-life" actions? Social media cannot stand alone. Your online community and your local community are made up of the same people, and patients should know what your practice is doing in their world. Real-world community involvement should be the cornerstone of any social media campaign, whether you are volunteering time at a local hospital to provide dental care for disadvantaged children, sponsoring a local youth sports team, or bringing your staff into town to participate in a charity fun-run.

Social media management for your practice will always have to be more than simply signing into platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and posting dental-related content. This is "shouting," not "sharing." You have to join the conversation, ask for input, and share great content that interests real people. You have to actually be social, not just do social media.

Having a solid social media plan in place increases your practice's chances of success in terms of new patient acquisition. Asking the right questions helps ensure that plan is developed from the beginning.

Kristie Nation is the founder and CEO of myDentalCMO, a marketing consulting firm that provides strategic marketing "treatment plans" exclusively for dental practices. The firm was founded with a mission to prevent dentists from wasting countless dollars marketing their practices ineffectively. She can be reached at [email protected] or (877) 746-4410.

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