By Glenn Lombardi
Before we get to the title points of this column, let's start at the beginning. Social media is more important to practice marketing than many dentists care to acknowledge. Even though it started as simple entertainment, it is now much, much more than this. It's a connection point. It's a branding opportunity. It's a referral network. It helps your SEO. It's one of the most powerful tools you can use to increase your patient base. If you are not already using it, it's time to start. But even if you are, odds are you could be doing better. How? By avoiding the following common social media pitfalls.
Not paying attention to demographics
Catering to common themes in your patient base may be the strongest way to build a valuable social media platform. When your content takes aim at common denominators, it builds loyalty, increases engagement, and is more likely to earn referrals from pleased patients. Ask yourself the standard questions: Do the majority of your patients fit into a particular age group or income bracket? Are they predominantly female? Mostly parents? The answers to these questions are crucial when considering your practice's voice, and will provide the foundation for content planning.
These answers can also tell where to spend the majority of your social media time. Of course, every practice should be using Facebook. It has the most users and holds the greatest chances for success. But paying a little extra attention to patient demographics can tell you which other services might be worth adding to your platform.
Women, for example, are five times more likely to use Pinterest than men. If your patient base is predominantly female, Pinterest is probably a good idea. The other side of the coin is Google+ where the majority of users are males, especially those who work in technical fields such as engineering. In the same vein, when compared to other segments, African Americans are almost twice as likely to engage with brands on Twitter. The bottom line to all of this is to make sure you spend social media time where patients spend theirs.
Not highlighting your strengths
Every practice has something unique that sets it apart from the competition. Your social media presence should be built to showcase this special something. Think specifically about your specialties, and the things you can offer that nobody else can.
For example, if you have state-of-the-art equipment, flaunt it. Even if the majority of your patients cannot identify the machinery, a short explanation alongside a picture can portray your practice as cutting edge. Be sure your patients know that your practice is the only place in town to get this specialized treatment. If your practice strives to be a family-friendly environment, let it show in your content. Include blog posts catered to family decision-makers, particularly mothers, such as tips for helping kids feel comfortable during their visit. You can also share articles that focus on children's health. Whatever it is that you do best, make it part of your social media. It's a perfect way to start building a brand and a reputation.
Not budgeting your resources
Budgeting is a crucial part of social media marketing, but most of the time, money is not the concern. In fact, the vast majority of social media services are free to join. What it will demand is a fair amount of your staff's time. Before beginning, commit to training staff members and setting reasonable expectations for them. You will need to allow time to create, curate, and regularly post strong content; to keep your social media outlets current; and to respond to posts directed at your practice. It may not seem like much, but it can stack up quickly, especially if you start having success. Remember, big marketing departments have people whose full-time job is to monitor a company's social media programs. There is no shortage of work to do. While it is possible to be successful with much less, do not expect a cakewalk. As the old saying goes, nothing good comes easily. It will take a little sweat.
Regardless of the effort required, social media is an absolute must for the modern dental practice. If you do not have the necessary resources, consider a professional service that can manage social media and blogging for you.
Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, a leading provider of dental websites and Internet marketing strategies, including social media, search marketing, reputation management, and mobile websites. Officite has built thousands of websites that have generated more than a half million new patient appointment requests since 2002. For more information, visit www.officite.com or call (800) 908-2483.
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