Getting seen on social media is the goal of dental practices nationwide. However, it seems the days when a Facebook post could achieve thousands of organic reaches are behind us. No longer will a single but powerful Instagram post generate the visibility it once did. Today's social media platforms are pay-to-play, and managing your marketing dollars for maximum return on investment can mean walking a tightrope.
Social platforms change their algorithms every year to prevent the system's gaming and to increase revenues. How well you stay on top of trends and leverage your paid ads will determine your social media success. It's not enough to post daily and throw money at boosting posts to increase the audience.You must carefully consider your curation tactics, follow the increasing demand for visual content, and identify your audience before opening the purse strings on your marketing spend.
A 2019 study revealed that organic reach is only 6.4% of a page's total likes after a 2018 algorithm shifted focus in the newsfeed to friends and family posts to spark conversation and meaningful interactions. Meaningful interactions for Facebook were defined as:1
- Multiple people replying to each other's comments.
- Responses to page posts shared through Messenger.
- originating from a page post reshared by an individual.
- Comments on or interactions with a page's live video.
- A page's response to an individual's comment on their post.
Facebook subsequently implemented artificial intelligence (AI) to help filter out controversial content and demote clickbait deemed sensational or misleading. Facebook also announced the details of how it is now using machine learning (ML) to personalize content for each user.2
Facebook inventories all posts available for viewing in a user's network to predict the content someone might want to see. Each post is scored based on the signals such as likes, shares, comments, and tags to indicate its value to the user. All posts deemed unlikely to engage the user (based on past behavior) are discarded, and relevant posts are ranked based on how likely they are to prompt user action. The final posts are presented based on final scores to deliver a variety of content to the individual. This process is repeated for each of the platform's 2.8 billion active users.
Instagram also heavily weights its algorithm based on engagement.3 When you post a photo, it's first shown to a small percentage of your audience, and Instagram measures how quickly it is interacted with in the form of comments and likes and how much interaction is taking place. Finally, the engagement is compared to engagement on your other posts shared at similar times on similar days. When photos attract a lot of engagement, Instagram shows them to more people in your audience. It can even be shown on "explore" pages. If the engagement is sustained, the photo can remain at the top of other users’ newsfeeds and attract even more attention.
So, how do you achieve the engagement that drives reach?
Focus on Facebook
On Facebook, there are three ways you can slide your content into user feeds by leveraging some of the only organic approaches left.4
- Facebook Stories: Stories are not part of the newsfeed. Instead, they "float" above it and are not governed by the algorithm. They're also amazingly effective at driving web traffic: 58% of people say they've visited a website for more information after watching a Story.
- Facebook favorites: Facebook allocates only 30 slots per user for favorite pages and people and prioritizes showing content from these sources on their feeds. So, find ways to encourage engaged followers to put your practice page on their favorites list.
- Branded Facebook groups: Facebook also prioritizes content from groups a user consistently participates in and visits frequently. Joining a community group where you can actively post can provide a place to share high-value content and news about your practice that your community may find valuable.
Reach out and touch somebody
Making your content emotional without resorting to engagement bait such as scare tactics or controversial topics can increase interactions and get your audience engaged.5 Focus posts and videos around an appeal to these six emotions.5
- Admiration: Inspirational content is alive and well. Find a cause that you’re passionate about, support it, and celebrate the achievements of those around you. Make your dental practice stand for something.
- Amazement: There may be nothing new under the sun, but there's always something new to someone. Find content that makes you go "Wow!" and then share your excitement and awe, whether it's a unique talent your assistant has or a thank-you card a patient recently sent you.
- Astonishment: Can you believe this? Some of the most shareable content delivers a surprise twist. Spark interest with something unexpected, even if it's a bit off-brand. Sharing a photo of your hygienist's pet frog getting a bath could be just the content your audience craves.
- Curiosity: Did you know that surprising facts and statistics give people something to talk about, and they'll love sharing content curated to pique interest and drive conversations. Explaining how chairside tooth whitening works is exactly what many in your feed want to know.
- Interest: People turn to social media for information on topics that interest them. Deliver engaging content that answers questions and encourages feedback. For example, how much radiation does your new digital x-ray machine deliver compared to a cell phone?
- Uncertainty: Social media platforms provide an anonymous environment where people can talk about their fears or concerns and receive a full range of peer feedback. Tell patients with anxiety about your sedation options and how to request them.
Seeing is believing
Social media is increasingly visual. A recent survey revealed that more than 60% of marketers think visual content is crucial for their social media strategy. It's a simple fact that Facebook posts with images get more than twice the engagement as those without images.
Video is even more compelling, and Facebook Live videos get six times as much engagement as traditional video.4
YouTube is on the rise again, with simple search engine optimization (SEO) tactics gaining ground when developing YouTube videos. Videos show up before articles on the Google search engine results pages (SERPs).6 If the keywords you want to target are oversaturated with blog articles vying for front-page real estate, a video could leapfrog over them all and gain extra visibility. Launching a native YouTube channel for your practice can pay off. (Don't forget to close-caption your videos and make them as accessible as possible!)
Paying the piper
Finally, no matter what organic reach you achieve by tweaking your content to play to social platform algorithms, don't forget to budget some of your ad spend for social. However, before you allocate those dollars to specific campaigns, make sure you're targeting the right audience or else it's money straight down the drain.
On Instagram, for example, create an ideal patient persona. Then, consider their age, income level, and geographic location to increase the chances of reaching your most valuable audience.7 Look for users who have already interacted with your practice's brand on Instagram, and retarget those who watched, shared, liked, or commented video content, developing similar ad creatives to leverage existing interest. By getting your targeting right, you can make the most of every marketing dollar.
Want to be seen on social? These tips and tricks can put you on the right path for maximum visibility.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the August 2021 print edition of Dental Economics.
1. Gollin M. How the latest Facebook algorithm changes affect marketers. Falcon. May 7, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021. https://www.falcon.io/insights-hub/industry-updates/social-media-updates/facebook-algorithm-change/
2. Lada A, Wang M, Yan T. How machine learning powers Facebook’s news feed ranking algorithm. Engineering FB. January 26, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021. https://engineering.fb.com/2021/01/26/ml-applications/news-feed-ranking/
3. Forsey C. How does the Instagram algorithm work? Hubspot. May 25, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-does-the-instagram-algorithm-work,
4. Cooper P. How the Facebook algorithm works in 2021 and how to make it work for you. Hootsuite. February 10, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021. https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-algorithm/
5. Gollin M. 15 essential tips to increase your organic reach on Facebook. Falcon. May 13, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021. https://www.falcon.io/insights-hub/topics/social-media-strategy/increase-organic-facebook-reach-tips/
6. Martinez D. YouTube SEO: How to rank in YouTube search. Social Medical Examiner. June 1, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021.https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/youtube-seo-how-to-rank-in-youtube-search/
7. Sonnenberg A. Instagram ad targeting: 8 valuable audiences. Social Media Examiner. May 24, 2021. Accessed June 2, 2021.https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/instagram-ad-targeting-8-valuable-audiences/
Kristie Boltz is the founder and CEO of myDentalCMO, a marketing consulting firm that helps dentists make smarter marketing decisions and trains dental teams to execute on those decisions. As a result of her head for numbers and passion for teaching, people often say their practice marketing dollar has never been more effective. Schedule a chat with Kristie at mydentalcmo.com or call (877) 746-4410.