Roger P. Levin, DDS
Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform used by dental practices, according to an online survey conducted by the Levin Group Data Center from July to November 2015. Nearly nine out of 10 dental practices (88.8%) use Facebook to promote their services.
But is Facebook an effective marketing vehicle? Is it worth the extra time and effort? Do Facebook and other social media sites lead to more patients joining the practice?
Yes, they do, according to our respondents. A substantial majority (58.9%) said social media helped them gain new patients. Perhaps even more important, especially in this era of "practice shopping" by patients, 73.4% of dentists said social media helped their practices strengthen relationships with current patients.
What other social media sites are right for your practice?
After Facebook, the next three most popular social media sites used by practices, according to survey respondents, are:
• Google+: 64.1%
• Twitter: 50%
• Instagram: 42.4%
Dentists weren't big fans of using Tumblr (3.3%), Flickr (3.3%), or Vine (1.1%). Three other platforms were used by about one-fourth of survey participants:
• LinkedIn: 29.4%
• YouTube: 28.3%
• Pinterest: 22.8%
The reach of Facebook
It is estimated that there are more than 150 million Facebook users in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of adults who go online also have a Facebook account.1 I would encourage the 11% of dentists who said they don't have a practice Facebook page to reconsider that decision.
Will the use of Facebook or other social media sites result in dozens of new patients calling your office every month? No, but Facebook and at least one other social media platform should be part of your online marketing approach.
In the 1990s, many dentists resisted having a practice website, believing it wasn't necessary or that the internet was a fad. Of course, now, virtually all practices have a website. It's a necessity, not an option. The same goes for social media. As society changes, businesses-including dental practices-must adapt.
How often should your practice post?
More than a third (37.1%) of practices are posting on Facebook several times a week. This is the frequency we advise our clients to aim for when participating in social media. Keeping your Facebook page updated with fresh, relevant content gives you the best opportunity to engage current and prospective patients.
Five percent of respondents are going above and beyond by posting several times a day, with another 13.22% "Facebooking" once a day. That type of commitment to patient interaction is commendable, though it may be difficult for many practices to attempt or sustain.
That said, most offices are falling short on posting frequency for Facebook:
• Once a week: 15.7%
• Several times a month: 13.22%
• Once a month: 7.4%
• Less than once a month: 9.9%
More than three-quarters of responding practices (76.5%) have a designated employee to handle their social media efforts. For most practices, it makes sense that the marketing coordinator run the social media sites, with oversight from the dentist or the office manager.
Nearly a third of dentists said their practices received negative comments via social media, yet about half (52.7%) of offices lack a policy on how to respond to such feedback. Sooner or later, your practice will receive complaints from unhappy patients or visitors online. It's best to have a policy in place, so you and your team will know how to handle such complaints.
Social media is extremely popular. In fact, Facebook and many other platforms continue to add millions of users annually. For dental practices, social media represents an opportunity to engage current and prospective patients more easily than ever before. Practices that incorporate social media into their marketing efforts will be strategically positioned to grow in the digital economy.
What social media sites do you use to promote your practice?
Source: Statistics from the Levin Group Data Center based on a survey conducted July to November 2015
1. Social Networking Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/. Accessed March 18, 2016.
Take a look at ROGER P. Levin, DDS's seminar schedule for 2016. His newest seminar, "Ignite Your Production," includes the latest online strategies for achieving the success you deserve . . . and he'll be presenting it in many new locations this year. For details and to sign up, go to levingroup.com/gpseminars.