by Dr. Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS, and Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA
Your essential social media platforms
Think of social media platforms as your online marketing toolbox. The questions are which tools in that toolbox are necessary, and what is the best way to use them?
In order to determine which social media outlets and content will reach and resonate with patients, you must first understand the delivery mediums.
- Possible marketing objectives include:
- Search engine optimization so new patients can find my practice
- Provide educational materials to help facilitate treatment plan adherence
- Provide helpful advice to improve patient retention
- Drive more cosmetic treatment opportunities from existing patients
- Improve potential referral business from existing clients
Setting a clear marketing objective will act as a guide to ensure you derive value from your social media marketing efforts. Patients have different expectations for each social platform and it's imperative that your objectives align with those expectations.
Vital networking tools
The blog -- Adding a blog to your website gives your practice a simple way to share information, whether it's office news, photos, videos, or other information. A regularly updated blog educates patients, promotes your dental brand, differentiates your practice from the one down the street, and keeps your patients up-to-date on exciting developments in dentistry and your dental practice. A blog can be used as an extremely effective channel to promote new dental technology and cutting-edge products and services sold in your office, share in-depth information about specific treatments performed, or promote community events.
Fifty-seven percent of companies have acquired a customer from their company blog. A blog has the ability to provide expansive information in each posting, giving readers a more thorough understanding of the featured topic as well as an inside look at who you are as a person, who your team is, and what your practice philosophy is. Who will manage the blog? A blog needs to be updated regularly if it is to be successful. Designate a staff member to update the blog at least once a week or make time on your schedule to do so, even if it's just to remind patients about a contest. Alternatively, hire a company with dental-specific social media expertise to manage the postings on your behalf.
Facebook -- Facebook has become an integral platform for all individuals to connect, and an effective platform for businesses to reach new and existing clients. Sharing photos, events, and information through specially designed Facebook Business Pages is easy and enormously productive. The additional benefit is that this channel introduces your practice to prospective new patients through information delivered to them from a member of their own trusted network.
Twitter -- Twitter is widely regarded as a powerful marketing tool, used to share quick and focused updates, connect with patients, learn from customers' past experiences, and connect with professional peers. Maintaining a Twitter presence is fairly easy. It is much more convenient to tweet a message in seconds than to use a time-consuming media platform. Your dental office can reach out to millions of potential patients in a matter of a few clicks. How it works: Twitter is an interactive stream of messages that are limited to a maximum of 140 characters each.
In order to optimize the benefits of Twitter, it is important to:
- Post often with relevant information to patients.
- Monitor your newsfeeds for interesting stories that relate to the field of dentistry.
- Even if it is not related to your dental practice, if it's interesting and relevant to patients, tweet it!
- Don't forget to link back to your own website and/or Facebook page often.
- Remember, keywords, site links, and intriguing content are the key ingredients of a great tweet.
- Follow as many dentistry-related accounts as you can find. That includes other dentist offices, dental associations, dental bloggers, dental specialty fields, and dental product manufacturers.
Google+ -- Google+ is Google's answer to Facebook. Their services are a powerful social media resource that dentists cannot ignore. Its primary benefit is the way it positively influences Google search results. Google's social sharing feature is proven to drive traffic to your website, increasing your visibility in the networks' integrated search results. One of the key features of Google+ is "Circles," which are simply groups that contain your contacts. Set up a profile for your dental practice and then start adding your patients (if they agree to it), local businesses, and other dental-related professionals to your public circles.
YouTube -- Despite being known as a video network first, YouTube is also the second largest search engine in the world, with 100 hours of video uploaded every minute and 4 billion videos viewed on a daily basis. There are many different ways you can utilize the power of video. Whether filming patient testimonials, a demonstration of a treatment, or just a simple office tour, dental practices are harnessing the marketing power of YouTube. When patients enjoy your content, they share it with their friends and families on their own personal social networks.
Pinterest -- Pinterest is a pin-board, or bookmark style, photo-sharing site. Users create theme-based image collections that include favorite events, hobbies, interests, and more. It is interactive; users can browse other boards, repin images to their board, or "like" images. For example, your dental practice may pin items such as "Top 5 Ways To Keep Teeth Healthy," "Teeth Whitening Techniques," or "Foods You Can Eat While in Braces." If they agree, using your patients' before-and-after dental photos can create valuable content on Pinterest. Pinterest drives more referral traffic on the web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit, and LinkedIn -- combined.
Sweepstakes and contests -- No matter which form of social media you use, contests and sweepstakes are an excellent and quick way to expand your social media footprint, while serving as a proven way to market your dental office, increase your contacts, and energize your patient base. Contest platforms that integrate with social networks, particularly Facebook, allow your practice to run anything from a simple enter-to-win sweepstakes to a more involved "Share Your Smile" photo contest, while offering appealing prizes to patients like electronics, gift cards, and more.
While sweepstakes and contests can be a powerful addition to your social marketing efforts, it is important to pay attention to the finer details and rules surrounding online contests. Work with a provider who monitors and keeps your promotions within Facebook guidelines and government regulations, while assisting in driving activity through promotional email blasts and newsletters to patients. Furthermore, ensure the contest platform you choose allows you to capture entrant contact details for later marketing efforts.
The benefits of online contests and sweepstakes for a dental practice are documented in a 2012 study by Sesame Communications looking at 48 dental and orthodontic practices and 64 distinct contests and sweepstake campaigns. The results showed that, on average, these patient engagement campaigns drove 194 new "Likes" per practice, per campaign, as well as four appointment requests that originated with filling out an entry form. Just as significant, for each sweepstakes and contest, participating practices received an average of 17 recommendations on Facebook -- testimonials that will exist on their page and benefit them indefinitely.
Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS, is the president of Pride Institute. He is a sought-after educator in digital marketing methods and operational practice management. You can contact him at [email protected].
Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year success track record in leading dental innovation and marketing. You can contact Diana at [email protected].
Past DE Issues