Dentists around the globe deserve high praise for finally embracing this monumental opportunity known as social media. Neighborhood and cosmopolitan dental practices alike are connecting with their local communities on Facebook and tweeting away on Twitter too.
To what end remains to be seen.
When we really get down to brass tacks, how can Twitter possibly help dentists recruit more new patients, or keep a larger percentage of existing ones?
It could be as easy as…Synch, Tweet, Save!
Social media is not so new anymore, is your dental practice missing the opportunity to connect with your existing patients and surrounding local community, or are you just waiting for every other dentist in town to climb aboard the social media train?
Fortune favors the brave.
Most likely your dental practice marketing budget surpassed your CE budget a long time ago, and that’s not just because of state prerequisites or assorted travel nightmares associated with the yearly clinical CE requirements. Your dental practice survives – and thrives – from recruiting new patients and retaining existing patients. CE is what enables you to keep pace with technological advancements, remain qualified, and generally maintaining your dental practice competency.
When you attend a dental CE course, you probably do your best to ensure you are getting the most out of the course as possible. Does the same hold true for your practice marketing?
Here are some easy ways to incorporate the new and profitable world of social media into your dental practice in order to maximize return on investment – whether that is time, or money, or both.
Social media is all about participation. In order for your dental practice to profit from social media efforts, participation is paramount!
If you haven’t already, start a Facebook Business Page and Twitter profile for your dental practice, it’s easy and free. While you’re at it, LinkedIn should also develop into an integral part of your dental practice social media plan. Facebook and Twitter handle the marketing aspect – recruiting new patients, and enlisting existing patients toward that end – and LinkedIn provides the credibility and online reputation management so important in today’s digital world.
Google is the most popular website in the world, and every dentist we know wants to be there. Those of you that have been struggling with this desire to understand the hurdles involved with obtaining that Google recognition. Guess what the number two most popular website in the world is…Facebook. And all you have to do is take 10 minutes to initiate your dental practice business page – a heck of a lot easier than courting Google’s ever changing search algorithms.
LinkedIn can also be useful in developing, nurturing, and capitalizing on existing offline professional relationships. If you currently receive referrals from another dentist in town, or a specialist, or maybe you oversee a colleague’s practice while they’re off attending CE or on a vacation; LinkedIn is your professional digital practice connection.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have the potential to generate positive return on investment for your dental practice marketing plan, but first you need to join the fun.
Another word on participation; dental practice social media should be a constantly evolving medium of local community and patient communication. If you’re outlook is, “let’s try it out and see what happens,” you’re doomed. Social media for the dental practice is not a time specific campaign; it is something that needs to be incorporated into your normal practice management in order to remain visible and relevant to the public. There is no expiration date.
We’ve covered the obvious, but participation alone will not guarantee your dental practice social media success. Social media for the dental practice is not a field of dreams, there is no “if you build it, they will come.” After you initiate the prerequisite social media profiles for your dental practice, you then need to integrate those channels with any existing practice marketing in which you currently partake.
Get your practice Facebook page directly linked to your practice website(s), same goes for Twitter and LinkedIn. Aside from easily allowing website visitors a more personal window into your practice, the backlinks generated from your regular participation will eventually lead to a greater degree of online practice visibility. Meaning, the more links you have coming into your website(s), the better. Your social media profiles enable you to take control of this critical ingredient of having your site(s) found when people search online for a dentist in their area. Remember the Google struggle?
While you’re at it, integrate your practice social media profiles with every piece of dental marketing you currently utilize. And be sure to include your practice social profiles with any new practice marketing you undertake. Synergy is the goal; and the practical application of social media for the dental practice combined with existing dental marketing can take you from zero to hero in a hurry.
Does your dental newsletter enable recipients to connect with your practice on Facebook?
Did you know LinkedIn can help you solve staff recruitment issues?
How can Twitter possibly help your practice recruit new patients?
The third key we’ll discuss here to using social media for the dental practice effectively is a little self promotion. Of course Twitter can help you recruit more new patients, by simply offering a discount or special offer Twitter goes from inane online text message to local dental patient recruitment medium.
If someone can potentially save money from simply ‘following’ your dental practice, wouldn’t you think they’d do so?
It’s just up to you to develop, publish, and regularly track the social media promotions you probably already run in some form or another.
Run a promotion to recruit ‘followers’ on Twitter and ‘Likes’ on Facebook, then reward participation. Give away a toothbrush, enter all your patients in a raffle, or even cross promote some existing national level dental news. April was National Oral Cancer Awareness month, you could have used Facebook and Twitter to locally market your “Free Oral Cancer Screening Day” to keep existing patients up to speed, and even recruit new patients.
The opportunities to profit from social media in your dental practice are virtually limitless, but participation, integration, and promotion are paramount to your success. Just missing one of these essential ingredients can take your dental practice social media sojourn from an enjoyable and profitable experience, to a waste of time and money.
How will you apply social media in your dental practice?
What has been your experience with social media?
Why have you not yet secured your good name on 3 of the Top 20 most popular websites in the world?
What are you waiting for?
Do you wish you could prescribe yourself a pill that delivers maximum online visibility for your dental practice?
Unfortunately the treatment regime for dental practice marketing effectiveness is a bit more involved, and it often takes years to cultivate. It doesn’t hurt to have the solid foundation of a healthy and active practice marketing lifestyle either. Foundational dental practice marketing methods vary according to location, patient base, certain environmental variables, and even financial considerations, but a dental website is a good start.
Hopefully we can be sure in stating dental practice marketing is no longer only for the aggressively minded practices. Dental practice marketing was formerly relegated to those most unfortunate practices that did not have enough existing patient word of mouth to sustain themselves. Or at least that’s what the naysayers would have you believe. Not so long ago, marketing for the dental practice was considered taboo by many a dental professional. Not so long from now, those same dental practices will not be viewed as professionals by their surrounding communities because they have no digital practice identity.
Because people turn to the Internet for everything these days…and people believe what they read, at least for the most part. It’s up to you as both a dentist, and a local business owner, to make sure that what people read is authentic, accurate, and informative. A professional website is your foundational dental practice digital marketing element, and social media is the perfect complement. If you still need convincing on that point, you’ve probably long since hung up your dental tool belt.
But what if there is nothing out there to read about your dental practice?
Don’t be so naïve!
Right now there is probably at least one good thing OR one bad thing relating to your dental practice out there on the Internet. Most likely this digital word of mouth resulted from an actual patient, and it could have come from anywhere…Google does a pretty good job of making the necessary connections.
Wouldn’t you rather be in control of the information?
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it more, even if you never visit this website or blog again; social media is the single biggest dental practice marketing initiative to take place since dentists started worrying about Google placement.
No more procrastinating, no more excuses. Get your practice connected and begin using social media for your benefit. If you don’t, it’s quite possible others could use it to your detriment. Control the environment, monitor your digital word of mouth, and enlist the help of your patients.
Social media 100% sustainable dental practice marketing, it’s not a “let’s try it out and see what happens” approach. That will get your practice nowhere in a hurry, we promise. Consider social media an ongoing effort, much the same as your efforts to attain or maintain a highly visible practice Internet presence.
Take social media and combine it with local search, well now you’ve gone and amplified that digital word of mouth. All right smack dab in the middle of your immediate (and virtual) local area.
Think local and get social, the smart dentists and local community business owners are already doing so.
Are you going to wait until the cost increases or until your competitors dive in?
If understanding is what you need, fret no more – subscribe to this blog and get the elementary info spoon fed to you on a twice weekly basis!
Wait, we know. You require the empirical evidence gleaned from others of your ilk…please check out these articles from the never-ending digital marketing and dental social media archives.
We thought this dentist said it best:
“I am thrilled to be able to allow my patients the opportunity to gain valuable dental health information through the creation of Facebook and Twitter”, said Dr. Petruccelli. “Considering the ever-growing number of people that use the Internet every day as their main source of communication and information, the decision to create social media channels was easy.”
This article offers some standard caveats, and also hits the marketing angle:
Facebook can be a tremendous networking tool. Business pages on Facebook can elevate your Web site status through Search Engine Optimization. In addition, if you have a Facebook business page link on the opening page of your Web site, potential patients will feel that they know you and your office before coming in for their new-patient experience. I know of dental practices that have gained new patients simply because of their business Facebook page! Think of Facebook as a bit like a cocktail party, where people circulate and share snippets of conversation.
And if you have an Office Manager or any staff prone to such things illustrated in this article, you’ve got bigger fish to fry! And please don’t take on ANY dental practice marketing if you’re dealing with that type of employee nightmare. You will only lose money, and quite possibly lose face.
If you’re still reading, you can click here to see how this group of dentists polled have lingered in no man’s land with social media marketing efforts in their practices.
Why do you think dentists have yet to realize the marketing potential of social media for their practice?
Sure social media is a great way to get your practice some social street cred, and dedicated local search efforts will get your practice listed within the highly visible local search engine environments. But, communication is the engine behind any dental practice marketing.
And communication is a two-way street.
In order for your dental practice to start effectively communicating through social media and local search, you first need to define who it is you are targeting, and what it is exactly that you will be communicating.
With the interest of generating some digital word of mouth, your existing patients are the audience, and enlisting their help is the message.
Believe it or not people actually like to help.
And by constructing this virtual patient communications foundation from digital practice word of mouth, you can enlist their help to acquire more new local patients all while improving the level of care (read: increasing profit per patient) for your loyal existing patients that are so willing to spread the positive word of mouth.
Your dental practice needs your patients’ help. Gone are the days of only reaching out to your patients a week before their next appointment to warn them about cancellation fees.
Today it is essential to maintain patient communications above and beyond what was formerly considered the norm. The dentist-patient communication paradigm has shifted.
From a practice visibility and dental social media marketing standpoint, the relationship has become symbiotic. But only for the smart practices out there actively nurturing, collecting, and digitally broadcasting existing patient word of mouth.
Would you ‘Like’ to be the most highly recommended dentist in your local area?
Go From Telling to Asking
So many dentally focused patient communications ‘TELL’ us what to do – schedule an appointment, whiten your teeth, screen for oral cancer…etc. We suggest taking more of an ‘ASK’ approach.
Ask your existing patients to partner in your success!
- Ask patients to follow your practice on Twitter.
- Ask patients to ‘Like’ your practice on Facebook.
- Ask patients why they choose you to be their dentist.
- Ask patients how you can improve or enhance their dental care.
- Ask your patients to submit a review of you and your practice in their chosen online community.
The best part is your patients are totally willing to lend a hand with increasing your online practice visibility.
But you need to ask them to do so otherwise they will continue to only communicate with your practice twice a year – if you’re lucky.
If you’re not so lucky, some other dentist in town will be happy to ask your patients how they can improve their dental care and save a few bucks at the same time.
If you’re afraid to ask the questions, or hear the answers, you might have more pressing concerns.
If that’s the case, your patients are already broadcasting your worst fears to their friends, followers, colleagues, families, and so on and so on and so on.
Either way you cut it, you are doing your dental practice and your local community an incredible disservice by not participating in the conversation.
It’s been said a good mechanic, a good doctor, and a good mattress, are life essentials. A good pair of shoes couldn’t hurt either. Maybe attorney, accountant, and dentist should be added to the list too.
A monitored and engaging digital footprint is fast becoming an essential addition to the dental practice online visibility and new patient acquisition equation.
Will your dental practice keep step with the rhythm?
Do you know where your patients congregate online to discuss such things?
Is your practice a visible member of the online local community or are you a card-carrying member of the silent majority?
Take a tip from Tempur-Pedic®, in case you haven’t seen their TV commercial here it is:
Get in the game Maverick, it’s time to engage!
Building a Twitter following could begin with inviting friends, family, staff, professional contacts, and patients to follow your practice – just like the Facebook contact list previously discussed in an earlier post. Twitter also makes this very easy, you can notify your entire email address book (or LinkedIn network…) or search for friends by email. To start just click the ‘Who to Follow’ tab in your practice Twitter profile, then either choose the search by email application or search by individual email address shown here:
Again, is notifying all of these people of your practice Twitter profile important to them? Can THEY benefit at all from following your practice on Twitter?
If so, great. If not, just adjust your tack a bit. With Twitter you can also search out people (and companies, suppliers, associations, schools…etc.) by interest. If you’re not into the suggestions Twitter provides, you can click the ‘Browse Interests’ option and sniff around a bit.
That’s the easy part.
It’s ok to let people know you follow your dental school and belong to a dozen associations – those are all good foundational connections that lead to practice Twitter profile credibility. What you really want is to nurture a loyal, engaged, and participatory following.
A reminder, as with anything else it’s probably good to avoid following topics that could promote controversy. Remember, nobody really cares what you have to say on Twitter – they care about how what you say can benefit them. For the dental practice that means promotional offers and socially inclined practice news. The news should be delivered directly from your practice blog, and the special discount offers should be distributed regularly.
For example, a discount promotion could be a 2-for-1 Tooth Whitening special that awards your Twitter followers with 50% off your chosen whitening procedure. That is a reason to follow your practice on Twitter. Yes, the regular blog links educating your patients on dental news improves your overall online visibility, and notifying your following that the staff CE meeting in Miami was spent at the beach is great. But, what keeps your followers coming back is benefits. And when it comes to benefitting dental patients, saving them money is the key to an engaged following that participates in your social media success.
Start slow, invite every single patient to follow your practice on Twitter – and give them a beneficial reason to do so…
Did you know the search engines track tweets and likes?
Can you see how that can affect your online practice visibility?
Follow us on Twitter and you’ll learn how.