Media & news

5 reasons your practice should use social media

by: Michael Stuart

If you’re not already an active user, the wealth of social media options can easily feel intimidating. Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs – the list goes on. “How will my practice benefit?” and “What if I’m too busy to post updates?” are questions that often pop up when clinicians consider social media tools for the first time.

Facebook offers great benefits for dentists

While it’s true that some effort and thought are required to start, and more importantly maintain, a social media presence, the return on your investment in time can be very worthwhile. Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn present a great marketing opportunity to promote your practice. If you’re not already building your online social network, here’s five reasons why you should start. 

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1. It’s where your patients are talking about you

Social media channels have become a normal part of people’s everyday lives. Facebook alone is used by 890 million users around the world every day. In the US, over half of online adults use not just one, but multiple social media sites.1 This makes them arguably the most powerful marketing tool available to any business today, including dental practices. Social networks give you access to incomparable, voluntary patient engagement and allow for powerful one-to-one communication.

Plus, with over two-thirds of online adults actively using social networks,2 your patients are probably talking about you on social media anyway. Eight out of ten US Internet users search for health information online, and 74% of these people use social media.3,4

The social phenomenon is no longer restricted to the young either. Those over 50 are joining the networks on a large scale and are increasingly turning to social media for health advice and exchange with peers. More than half (56%) of all online adults 65 and older in the US use Facebook – that’s 31% of all seniors.

Unless you’re part of the online conversation you’ll miss out on being able to see, and address patients’ concerns and taking advantage of any positive conversations to promote your services.

2. It’s free!

All it costs to get started with social media is time. Of course, that’s at a premium, but, once you’ve set up your Facebook page or Twitter account, monitoring what’s going on and posting regular updates doesn’t have to take up a lot of your day. All major social media channels have mobile-friendly apps, so you can quickly add a post from your phone between appointments or during a coffee or lunch break.

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3. Your old marketing methods aren’t working

You’re probably familiar with the more traditional or ‘outbound’ marketing methods. Messages are sent to potential customers via mailers, radio broadcasts, TV commercials, flyers or telemarketing. With the right amount of investment and market research, outbound marketing can lead to a number of good, high-quality leads. But the rapid growth of the Internet leads more and more people to turn instead to online media for product and company information. This makes finding a large following with traditional channels an increasingly difficult and expensive task, as the below graphic explains: 

social media marketing is a cost-effective way to improve patient flow

Sources: 1 Federal Trade Commission, 2 hubspot.com 3 The Guardian 4 stateofthemedia.org

4. Being on social media gives you a competitive advantage

Social media can help you stay ahead of the competition. Currently 72% of dentists in the US currently use Facebook as a marketing tool, and they've also reported higher revenues.5

Demonstrating that you're on top of the latest technological developments increases your image as a high-quality provider and, consequently, patient flow to your practice. By sharing patient-friendly updates on the latest dental techniques and research, or commenting on news stories that are getting attention, you underline your status as an expert.

Social media will also boost traffic to your website. By including links to your website in your social media posts, you can drive more visitors to your practice’s site. This also works the other way around if you place a prominent link to your social media activities on your web pages.

Having a social media presence can also improve your website’s ranking in search engines, meaning patients looking for your services online can find you faster. 

Discover more cost-effective practice promotion in the Practice Resource Center

5. You can see it working – immediately

dental practices get immediate feedback on their social media marketing

Social media channels offer immediate feedback which you can use to improve your marketing efforts. Perhaps you get more likes and comments for posts with short videos? Maybe your followers are more likely to share your content with others if there’s a special offer, or practical advice on caring for their teeth. You can see the responses as they happen, evaluate, and use the information to inform your future posts.

Just a few things to keep in mind...

LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook are key tools for dental practices

While social media channels have the potential to give a big, cost-effective boost to your practice, there are a few common pitfalls to avoid. Never forget that your social media presence is a reflection of you. This is a great advantage for building relationships with new and existing patients, but only if you always maintain high ethical standards and compliance. If you wouldn’t say something to a patient in person, don’t put it on social media. Post cautiously and with respect, keeping your personal and professional lives separate.

Some people outsource their social media tasks to an impersonal service provider. We really recommend against this. Your patients want to get to know their practice, not a consultant. Finally, once you’re up and running, keep at it to make sure your social media presence is always up to date.

Stick to these guidelines and you’ll quickly see positive results. Followers on Facebook and Twitter will soon turn into patients in your waiting room.

   

References

2014 Social media update, Pew Research Center (published January 2015) http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2015/01/PI_SocialMediaUpdate20144.pdf

Global Web Index quarterly report on the latest trends in social networking , Q4 2014. http://www.slideshare.net/globalwebindex/gwi-social-report-q4-2014

Von Muhlen M, Ohno-Machado L. Reviewing social media use by clinicians. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2012;19 (5):777–781.

Childs LM, Martin CY. Social media profiles: striking the right balance. Am J Health System Pharm.2012 Dec;69 (23):2044–2050.

Dental social media guide, Wellsites.com.au