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How dentists can cut through the hype of social media

June 29, 2016
Manage your expectations and keep a consistent posting schedule to keep your schedule full.

Manage your expectations and keep a consistent posting schedule to keep your schedule full

We’re all familiar with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets that consume the free time of millions of people. It’s why social media has become a powerful marketing tool for businesses of all types. Maybe you’ve already hopped on the bandwagon by setting up a Facebook business page. But is your social presence producing new patients? If not, join the crowd.

While social media is an essential part of your dental marketing strategy, it’s important to have realistic expectations about its impact on new patient acquisition. The reality is, your Facebook page aloneisn’t going to produce many new patients.

What not to expect
A strong presence on social platforms such as Facebook can certainly improve your overall online presence. But it’s far from being your primary source of new patients. According to Smile Marketing’s New Patient Tracker, which monitors the performance of thousands of health-care websites and tracks the source of website visitors who actually become new patients, Facebook is the low man on the totem pole. In fact, less than 2% of new patients are generated from Facebook.

Many dentists use their Facebook page as a substitute for a practice website. But Facebook isn’t where new patients find you. Think about it. For instance, where would you go to find a new accountant? Unless you received a referral from a friend, you would most likely turn to Google.

That’s what many dental patients are doing. They search something like “dentist in Chicago” to find a list of practices near them. They then browse the list of websites that come up in their search results until they find a dentist they feel comfortable visiting. It’s the website, not a Facebook page, that converts them.

Also by Stephen Anson:10 dental practice marketing tips to make 2016 your best year yet

What to expect

While social media isn’t the driving force behind new patient growth, it’s still an important component of your online dental marketing strategy. You can attract new patients, they just come in a different form.

Have you ever seen a request for a referral on Facebook? A friend posts, “Hey, I’m looking for a new pediatrician for Jane. Can anyone recommend a good one?” Another friend responds with a link to her beloved pediatrician’s Facebook page. The new patients your office gets from social media typically come from your existing patients in the form of referrals.

Social media marketing is also a great way to improve patient retention. By keeping active on your profiles, you stay at the top of patients’ minds all year. Regular social posts serve as reminders for patients to get their biannual checkups.

Furthermore, Google’s algorithms understand how popular a website is on social media. It’s a measure of authenticity. Therefore, a strong social presence linked to your website is a signal that your site is credible, and this could help it rank higher in search engines.

Related Reading: Canadian dentists set record highs in use of social media and practice computerization

How to get the most out of Facebook

Now that you know what you should and should not expect from social media, you need to know what to do to get the most out of it. After all, the referral and retention benefits are well worth the effort you put into being social online.

Here are a few tips to optimize your social media strategy:

• Post regularly—Keep your followers engaged by posting daily or a few times each week. Pose a question, share a new blog, or update followers about an upcoming promotion.

• Join the conversation—Keep in mind that followers can interact on your page, whether it be through comments, photos, status updates, or even reviews. Monitor these interactions and respond when necessary. Remember, having an impactful social presence requires you to be social.

• Fix incorrect information—Verify that all the information on your page is accurate and up-to-date. This includes your website, phone number, map listing, and other details relating to your practice.

• Ensure consistent branding—Your social profiles should have the same look and feel as your website. While they’re separate entities, patients should recognize your branding across all marketing channels. Your social efforts should support your website.
• Consider advertising—If you want to reach more people on Facebook and help potential new patients in your area become familiar with your practice, consider a Facebook ad campaign.

Boosting awareness on social media is a great way to build exposure for your practice. If patients see that you’re active and willing to educate them on the importance of oral health, when a checkup or referral opportunity comes along, you’ll be their go-to dentist.

Managing your expectations and keeping a consistent posting schedule will go a long way toward keeping your schedule full. For a step-by-step look at how to set up a Facebook page for your practice, post engaging content, and start advertising, download The Dentist’s Guide to Facebook.

Stephen Anson is the cofounder of the dental website service Smile Marketing. He is a new patient marketing specialist who has been helping health-care professionals generate new patients from the internet for over 10 years. Steve can be reached at [email protected].

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