Seven reasons your practice should get involved in social media in 2011

March 1, 2011
If your practice is not already actively using social media, now is a good time to start. Four out of five businesses with 100 or more employees will use social media ...

by Kristie Nation

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: social media, trust, exposure, online visibility, branding, revenue, Kristie Nation.

If your practice is not already actively using social media, now is a good time to start. Four out of five businesses with 100 or more employees will use social media heavily this year. Smaller companies and practices are quickly following suit, often with more success since social media is even more effective on a local level.

Why is social media such a powerful tool, and what can you expect if you divert some of your marketing budget in that direction?

Exposure. Social media is the virtual answer to traditional word-of-mouth (internal) marketing. It puts you in contact with your existing and potential patient base on a personal level, and lets you talk to them naturally. Keep in mind that this is not the appropriate place for direct marketing. Come across with a hard-sell attitude, and you will destroy any hope you have of creating long-term relationships.

Trust. You can use social media to position yourself as an expert. People use social media to share information. So instead of selling, take the chance to inform. People will appreciate your helpfulness and be more likely to turn to you as a trusted source when they need your services.

Online visibility. By participating in social media, you can promote your practice and services lightly through announcements of special events or discounts on social media pages (Facebook is perfect for this) and drive traffic to your Web site.

In addition, as more people share your content with friends and family and links to your Web site, the higher your rankings will climb for those who use online search to find services in their area.

Branding. Branding used to be incredibly expensive for small businesses to achieve. Now even the smallest practice can effectively brand itself using social media. It is inexpensive, highly targeted, and incredibly effective, particularly at the local level.

Your practice name, image, mission, and purpose can be created and expanded on the social network platform, using Facebook and Twitter as a launching pad and spreading beyond to reach your target audience in a variety of venues.

Referrals. People love being asked their opinions, and you can leverage social media to encourage current and future patients to talk about your practice and services. One of the huge advantages of social media as an information-sharing resource is that it caters to people's need to get input from others before making a decision.

If their choice is between two practices, one of which has glowing testimonials from happy patients on their Facebook page and the other with no social presence, the one with feedback from other consumers is a clear winner in the eyes of many social media users.

Networking. Social media isn't all about the end user. It is also about building a healthy relationship with other providers in your niche. Specialists can make contact with potential referring doctors, while general dentists can improve relationships with community leaders, charities, and businesses. You can also discover the "real time" news in the dental industry as featured on social networks.

Revenue. The end goal of any marketing endeavor is return on investment. Social media has one of the highest ROIs compared to other online marketing tactics, and can create a positive experience for potential patients who frequent social networking sites.

The information-sharing technique works as a soft introduction, leading potential patients to your Web site and eventually to your practice by building confidence and trust.

Don't miss out on the opportunities social media offer you. In many markets, it is the preferred medium for consumers to find trustworthy information and services they need. You should take full advantage of every opportunity. Set aside a budget for social media marketing in 2011, and watch your practice flourish.

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 at (888) 557-6443.

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