How your patients' cell phones can bring in more business

Most of us have had patients who are surgically attached to their cell phones.

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Jason Lipscomb, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: social media, mobile Internet, cell phone, Facebook, customer loyalty, Dr. Jason Lipscomb.

Most of us have had patients who are surgically attached to their cell phones. Many of us find the need to institute a "No cell phones please" or "Please turn off cell phones" policy in the dental office.

Now dentists are concerned with patients disrupting treatments by texting. People love their mobile devices and are addicted to the constant stream of information they provide. While these devices are an inconvenience in the dental office, they are a powerful tool in the next generation of social media and Internet marketing.

Mobile Internet usage is on the rise. Nielsen states that mobile Internet usage has increased almost 34% to 72 million users. Apple sold almost 8.75 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2010.

The Internet-friendly Android operating system is now on more devices than Apple. Many of these users are not only surfing the Web, they also are visiting their favorite social network, Facebook, in record numbers.

There are more than 150 million mobile Facebook users. These users are twice as active as chair-bound visitors, and they log on more often. Many times they use these mobile devices to circumvent workplace network settings that may block the site.

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With Twitter Post, the patient checks in at his or her local dentist's office using Foursquare.

These active users afford businesses that use Facebook an extra boost. Newer versions of Facebook mobile allow for more business page viewing than previous versions. Dental offices that share videos, pictures, and links can now be seen just as easily as personal profiles. Those mobile users who kill time on Facebook can easily receive updates from your practice and get your message on the go.

In a recent "study" by Mashable.com, it was found that more than one-third of women between ages 18 and 35 check their Facebook as soon as they wake up. Most of these women visit the site by picking up their mobile phone. Imagine your office being the first place consumers see when they wake up in the morning.

Foursquare.com, the leader in the geo-location market, creates lists of landmarks based on current GPS position. The platform allows you to "check-in" on a mobile device when visiting an establishment. The check-in is often accompanied by a review or comment (e.g., "Dr. Smith at ABC Dentistry is very nice").

Friends of that user will see the check-in and review, and other mobile users will see the reviews on the business profile. These profiles allow new users to discover your office based on their GPS location.

Users who check in the most at a certain location can become "mayor" of that location. Several landmarks have heated competitions for mayorship.

Large corporations such as Starbucks are realizing the potential within these platforms. They offer a discount to the mayor of each location. Several other companies are following suit by offering discounts to this online customer loyalty. This real time location stream offers companies (even dental practices) the opportunity to do their own market research.

Consumers who make dental decisions on the go will most likely visit Google mobile. Google maps has released newer mobile versions that emphasize Google Places listings. These are the same business listings that are shown on the first page of a regular Google search. A well-rounded Google local profile also will help make a good first impression on the mobile device.

As more Internet traffic moves to the mobile environment, the basic rules of social media and Internet marketing become more apparent. Staying active in the social media world can lead to more exposure on mobile devices.

Keeping up with new developments can put a dental office in front of the competition. A well-rounded infrastructure including a mobile-ready Web site, completed search engine listings, and active social media campaigns can lead to success in the mobile marketing environment.

Jason T. Lipscomb, DDS, is a general dentist in Virginia where he operates two dental practices. He educates dentists on how to market a practice with social media. Dr. Lipscomb and his partner, Stephen Knight, have released a social media book for dentists, "Social Media for Dentists." Learn more about Dr. Lipscomb at www.socialmediadentist.com.

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