A Dentists’ Guide to Getting Started With Social Media
Originally published 10/6/16, Updated 12/31/18.
1. An Introduction to Social Media for Your Dental Practice
Despite the popularity of social media, many dentists have yet to get in on the social networking craze that has become an integral part of the average consumer's daily life. If you haven’t built up your business’s online social network, you're missing out on a major opportunity to increase your online presence and gain the benefits that are part and parcel of participating in social media.
Your potential customers are using social media.
I know I personally have been influenced by social media and have actually made purchases from brands I was introduced to on social media.
Indeed, social media is one of the most relevant modern phenomena in the world of advertising and marketing.
Social media provides businesses with a highly personal outlet they can take advantage of when sharing their products and services. Social media integration positions you as a relevant, in-touch business that truly connects with its customers.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get started with your dental practice on social media.
First, I’ll tell you the social networks you should consider using; then we’ll get into what you should and should not do as a dentist on social media.
2. Social Networks Your Practice Should Consider Using
Now more than ever, “Likes,” “Favorites,” and “Shares” are essential to any marketing campaign. Not only can you get potential customers from social media, but Google and other search engines factor in the size and engagement of your business’s social media network. All things being equal, a dentist that is active on social media will rank higher in search results than one that does not engage on social networks.
Some of the most commonly used social media applications include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. Each of these platforms has a distinct tone, allowing you to reach a broad and diverse audience if you cover all your bases.
Everyone knows about Facebook, and just about everyone has an account. Facebook is a useful tool for people trying to stay in touch, but it’s also a valuable tool for your dental practice to use for advertising.
You can easily create a corporate Facebook page through which you can advertise coupons, sales, product promotions, and services, as well as events for product releases or big company celebrations. Furthermore, you can develop customer loyalty via image shares and other compelling content that people like or share from their own Facebook profiles. This way, users of your products or services advertise for you, bringing you both revenue and attention in an indirect way that is more convincing to potential customers than would be an advertisement that came directly from you.
Creating a Facebook page for your small business allows you to establish a more open forum of communication with your patients. It provides a more casual environment and encourages dialogue and engagement. If a patient “Likes” your page, your posts will show up in their news feed, and the more views, the better. As I work primarily with dentists, I've seen the power of Facebook, and its ability to humanize your office and staff.
Twitter is different from Facebook in that users don’t typically develop highly personal accounts; Twitter is more about sharing information. Users share up to 280-character “tweets” (used to be 140) that can take the form of opinions, updates, hyperlinks, replies to other users, etc. Dentists can usually get the most from Twitter by sharing pictures of new products or services, releasing coupon information, or updating followers on office events and promotions.
Twitter is a useful platform because it’s built for extremely frequent updating, which means you can run extensive advertising and marketing campaigns without being obnoxious – a continually updated Twitter feed is something people want to see, so tweet as much as you like!
Twitter is an excellent way to get information out fast. Although the number of characters that you can tweet is limited to 140, you can craft a tweet and include a short link that will drive traffic to your website — the more impressions, the better.
Go ahead and set up a Twitter account for your business if you haven’t already.
Twitter is an excellent way to get information out fast.
Instagram is unique in that users share snapshots rather than text. Sharing pictures might not seem to have any business value at first blush, but in actuality, images of products or services can be an extremely effective way to get patients to visit your office for a checkup or other dental needs.
Visual information appeals to a different segment of the market than that which would be pleased with purely textual advertisements, so many dentists have started making extensive use of Instagram to appeal to this different area. Millennial's, in particular, are active on Instagram — according to eMarketer research, by 2019, two-thirds of all millennial smartphone users will be on IG.
Taking advantage of this increasingly popular social network is a surefire way to get more exposure, which means more business. You can also include one link in your bio, which might be a link to your business website’s homepage, or to a promotional landing page for whatever special you currently have on offer — dentists often share an image representing a product or service, and then indicate in the photo caption that you can purchase the item through the “link in bio.”
What are you waiting for? Go ahead and set up your business Instagram account for your dental practice today.
Like Instagram, Pinterest is also great for both sharing photos of products and linking those photos to your website. While Instagram displays photos in a type of news-feed, Pinterest displays posts in a gallery format.
Pinterest can be a great place to showcase your services.
You can also post articles and links in Pinterest’s gallery format for your dental office. You can share tips and links to useful information on your website, such as blog posts.
I haven't seen much (actually any) in the way of dentists using Pinterest to actually gain new patients, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening. That said, I'd focus on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram before Pinterest.
But, test it out! Don't just take my word for it. Test anything you do when it comes to marketing.
Set up your business’s Pinterest account here.
LinkedIn provides a way for you as a dentist to expand your contact base, gain new customers, and build brand loyalty and credibility. For example, you can post articles or start discussions with other experts in your industry.
LinkedIn provides you with another way to start a dialogue and builds your reputation as a subject matter expert (SME). LinkedIn has recently started allowing users to blog on their sites. It makes sense as a form of SEO for dentists or any other profession where your reputation is paramount. LinkedIn is also important for branding, marketing, and even hiring.
In addition to setting up a LinkedIn account yourself as an individual professional in your industry, you can also set up a LinkedIn dental office page. Get started with LinkedIn for small business today.
Contrary to previous reports, Google+ is not disappearing.
Actually, as I update this on 12/31/18, Google + is disappearing! It is shutting down in April 2019. That said, Google My Business now allows for business owners to make posts on their Google Local page, and have that show up in branded search results. For more information on how to create a post in Google My Business, read the Google help guide.
Sure, it has evolved and changed over the years, but it still has an active and large community! Not only does a Google-branded social media presence increase your business’s search engine traffic, but it also functions similar to a review website such as Yelp, letting customers leave and read reviews. It also integrates with Google Search and Maps, allowing searchers quickly contact and navigate to your dental office using their smartphone.
Your business’s social Google account additionally links to your YouTube account, which can be another form of advertising for your business. You can also host “Hangouts” with your followers — a Google Hangout can be a place to host a fun, casual promotion such as a drawing for a free iPad, or you can use it a more formal “webinar” type event.
On all of these applications, there is a way for customers to “Favorite” or “Like” your posts. They can share posts with their contacts, comment on them, send you a direct message, and all the while provide more impressions the more a post gets shared. You can also include links to your business website, which boosts your overall online presence as well.
One thing that’s a little confusing about it is that the name of Google’s business arm seems always to be changing. You can currently manage your business’s Google+ account under Google My Business (i.e., your business’s Google+ page is now managed through your Google My Business dashboard).
Though often overlooked, Google’s social network is among the most powerful ways for your dental practice to extend its reach and become a local leader in your area. Even if you don’t use Google+ often, you need to claim your business’s Google My Business listing so you can start managing your online reviews and contact information.
Note that while all of these networks are free to use, you can pay to advertise on them as well, getting even more exposure for your posts. Paid social media advertising might not be economically feasible to do year-round, but you might want to consider a short-term promotional campaign on Instagram, Facebook, etc., to advertise a business location opening, limited-time sale, or other promotion.
3. Common Social Media Mistakes Dentists Make
Now that you know which social platforms your dental practice needs to be on, it’s time to start posting. But wait — you don’t want to post just anything! Before I get into the best ways to capitalize on your business’s social media accounts, let’s first take a look at five social media mistakes you don’t want to be making.
1. Not Using It
Don’t be so intimidated about getting started with social media that you don’t use it. That can be an extremely costly mistake. You may not see the benefits immediately, or maybe even not within the first year, but eventually, if you use social media properly, you will reap the rewards. I recommend at the least getting a Facebook Business, a LinkedIn Company Page, and a Google+ Business page. By not using social media, you are screaming loud and clear to all your potential patients that technology isn’t important to you, and that you are behind the times.
2. Inconsistent Posting
So you set up your profiles and pages, and you maybe even added a background cover photo. You posted once or twice, and that was it. Months go by and you don’t post. A year goes by, still no posts. Imagine a potential customer coming to your Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since November 2015. It would be similar to looking into a storefront window and the lights being off, and nobody in the store. Same message. So, be consistent! You can use a tool like Hootsuite, which will allow you to post to all your social media platforms at once. It even allows you to schedule your posts for the future as well.
3. Too Edgy/Opinionated
Social media is not the place for a dentist to express political opinions or to post on edgy or controversial topics. You don’t want to alienate your customers or potential patients. One wrong tweet could cause thousands of dollars in damage. Think before you post. How many potential patients would you alienate if you posted something political (see below example) that offends half of your patients or potential patients?
4. Unprofessional Attitude
This is similar to #3. But by “unprofessional,” I am referring mainly to a couple of mistakes in particular — how you treat your patients that engage with you, and your grammar. Be sure that you treat your customers that interact with you like gold and that you are extremely professional with them. As far as grammar? Check, double check, and have someone else check as well. Being unprofessional in either of these regards will reflect poorly on your business.
5. Insufficient Control
Sure, you can have one of your admins help manage your social media platforms, but just make sure that you trust this person implicitly, and that you are reviewing what is being posted. You could have a mess on your hands if the employee has sour grapes for some reason, or if somebody accesses their social media accounts and then gains access to your account.
Hopefully, by now you understand the big no-nos when it comes to social media for dentists. If you need help getting started with social media, contact me; I can help!
4. How to Win at Social Media for Dentists
Unfortunately, it will take a bit more time and effort than simply setting up your profile and posting sporadically if you want to see results. But there are plenty of ways you can make your social media accounts stand out from the pack.
Let's face it. Social media for dentists isn’t easy. But by following these 10 tactics, you'll be able to stand head and shoulders above the pack.
1. Post Regularly, but Don’t Over-Post
Here, I’ll elaborate a little more on #1 from the previous section. An important aspect of social media that you're sure to appreciate is that most users get instant updates when you post something new. But not everyone checks their Twitter or Instagram every day, or at the time of day when you happen to post. So, it's in your best interest to post regularly if you want to maintain the interest of followers.
Whether you're linking to new blog posts, sharing industry news, touting an updated dental website design, or letting followers get to know your staff via candid office photos, keeping up with the conversation is an important part of managing your social media accounts.
All that said, if you participate in social media from a personal perspective, then you probably know how annoying it is to get pinged incessantly because someone is blowing up your pages with overly frequent posts.
Unless you want to risk raising the ire of your followers and getting unfriended as a result, it's a good idea to limit the number of items you post daily. Note, however, that you can post on Twitter more frequently than on other networks.
3. Use a Conversational Tone
Business websites are formal, professional, virtual extensions of the real-world businesses they represent. And while social media profiles are linked to those pages, they are certainly more casual in tone.
Of course, you want to maintain a professional demeanor at all times in order to preserve your authority and credibility in your field. And of course, you want to make sure that your social media activities support and enhance your overall brand image.
But you should also adopt a more conversational tone when using social media. It is definitely a more relaxed forum, and a stiff, sterile, or technical tone won't get the engagement or traction that an informal, personal tone will get.
4. Reach Out
Dental office SEO ensures that all of the platforms you use on behalf of your business are more visible to both search bots and consumers. But when it comes to social media, retention demands that you try to communicate directly with followers.
A good way to do this as a dentist is to follow up with patients after they visit. You can ask them to rate your practice in the form of a review, participate in surveys, or share their experiences so that you can post it for other followers to see.
5. Get Personal
Your social media accounts are more than just a forum to inform followers about new blog posts or new services your practice is offering. They also provide the opportunity for you to show a more personal side of your business.
Adding a personal face to your professional accounts makes you far more relatable, trustworthy, and frankly, more interesting.
Now you don’t have to spill your guts about your life’s problems. But DO NOT continually try and pitch for your services. It doesn’t work. Nobody likes being pitched to. Instead, show what you do, show what you offer, but throw in some funny, zany, quirky stuff every once in a while. Show that you are a normal person and normal business owner. Be smart, though, and don’t discuss politics or religion.
6. Provide Value by Giving Solutions
Be creative. Being creative will drum up interest. Some status updates may include ways that your product or service can improve one’s everyday life. Don’t be too “sales-y” in these posts, but be more interesting and engaging. In other words, you need to provide value.
So, what, exactly should you include in status updates? Here are some ideas:
- Photos of your business
- Photos of products/people using products
- Photos of your staff and staff highlights (brief bios of your staff, tagging their photo)
- Photos of customers or patients
- Recent blog posts published on your website
- Shared posts from other professionals in your network
- Answers to customer questions
- Videos (business tours, answering questions, funny montages, etc.)
- Quote of the day
- Recent customer reviews
- Weird or interesting facts about your profession
As long as you provide valuable information, insights, or entertainment in your posts, people will find them interesting and engaging.
7. Hold Promotions
Free giveaways? Drawings for free stuff? Sure, whatever you can think of, if it makes business sense. But don’t do it just for the sake of doing it. You want to get something in return, even just a retweet, or a Facebook “share,” or a “check-in” to your location.
Though you will probably spend more on promotions than you receive in return, you should still do them. If you have a high lifetime value of a new patient like most dentists do, then it makes sense to draw people in with a “loss leader.” You know that with the amazingly awesome service you provide, people will want to come back.
How do you do this?
- Have occasional drawings for cool free stuff, but make people do something to enter, i.e., something that raises awareness to your brand.
- Give existing customers additional value by having some sort of loyalty club.
- Have a 12 days of Christmas, a Christmas in July, etc., where you give something away every day.
- Host limited-time sales or offer online coupons that are only valid for a short time.
Once your have your promotional plan all set up, advertise it by sharing the links and information on your Twitter and Facebook (the most popular social networks) for the duration of your contest.
8. Focus on Share-ability
Dental practice SEO and online marketing will only get you so far, especially if your budget for online campaigns is limited. Luckily, social media gives you the chance to encourage others to do some of the heavy lifting for you.
When you post items of interest and make them easy to share via a single-click action, you're likely to extend your reach by a significant margin and gain access to an ever-widening circle of potential followers (and prospective patients).
You offer great services and products, right? So, be excited about it! Be creative! Be exciting!
Focus on creating easy-to-share blurbs, links, graphics, infographics, and even viral videos that could take off like wildfire on social media.
9. Prep for Posting
When you run a thriving business, you might not have a lot of extra time to spend on updating your social media accounts daily. But there are tools that can help keep you on track, even when you’re short on time.
For example, you could use automated tools that do your posting for you, provided you pre-load them with content. This should save you some time each day on having to post.
Of course, you'll still need to check in with your profiles regularly in order to manage the flow of communication, but prep work can make your daily operations a little smoother. Try to plan out posts across all of your social networks a month in advance.
10. Remember Communication Is a Two-Way Street
This means that it's not enough for you to post to your profiles and for followers to comment. If you're able to get a foot in the door and inspire action (i.e., commentary), you can’t afford to not follow up.
Building and maintaining relationships is an important part of your online operations. Your business website can certainly offer interested parties the information they seek, but social media is much better for making a connection and forging an emotional investment in your brand.
This occurs largely as a result of ongoing, personal interactions with an otherwise anonymous, online community.
When your fans engage with you by commenting, sharing, liking, reviewing, whatever it may be, thank them! Maybe ask them a question. If appropriate, share their comments or tag them in a reply. This will get you more exposure, and encourage others to participate in the discussion.
11. Monitor, Track, and Analyze
Social media requires constant monitoring of your accounts, as well as the tracking and analyzing of associated metrics.
Use tools like Facebook Page Insights to see how your audience is growing, and to view how many shares and how much engagement you get on your posts. You should also track the amount of sales, new customers, and website visitors you get from social media.
I’ll be the first to admit that social media often doesn’t provide a quantifiable ROI, at least not initially. HOWEVER, it is where your target customers are. Go where they are. Build relationships, add value, and when they are ready to buy, you’ll be in a better position.
Social media strategy for dentist comes down to strategically positioning yourself as a leader in your market and industry. Build and engage with your following so that when people are ready to buy, or are ready to procure a service, they remember you.
Conclusion: Get Started Today
Let’s face it. Social media is everywhere. Not only is it a way to keep in touch with friends and family, but it’s a way to build professional contacts and customer bases. It’s a way of procuring new business and keeping existing customers.
Social media provides small businesses with different avenues to promote your business. Besides one of the fastest ways to disseminate information, it’s a way to slowly build an interested following over time.
When you take time to see how users are interacting with and passing along materials posted to your social media profiles, you can spot trends in usage, adjust your strategy accordingly, increase effectiveness, and improve the overall experience for followers.
Setting yourself apart from competitors in the social networking sphere doesn't have to be a Herculean task. There are simple steps you can take to make the social media associated with your small business really shine.
With a commitment to quality, a willingness to personalize the experience, and a few ideas about how to engage with followers and encourage sharing, you'll be able to make the most of your social media profiles.
I can think of countless other reason why you need to start using social media, so why not start today by requesting a free consultation? You can also download my free eBook on social media and other online marketing for medical professionals, including dentists.