Social media has forever changed American culture.
Where handwritten letters or even emails were previously sent, major life milestones are now marked on Facebook. Rather than writing personal insights in diaries, people today share them on Twitter. And instead of taking Polaroids and organizing them in albums, we now upload our memorable photos to Instagram.
The popularity of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ has exploded since social networking sites first gained traction in the general market beginning in 2007. Now, more than 73 percent of adults use a social networking site of some kind, and 42 percent use multiple sites.
The usage of social media has evolved over the past decade; no longer is it limited only to personal use. Increasing numbers of consumers are connecting with businesses they like through social media.
Who exactly is using social media? Teenagers or Millennials may first come to mind, and while it is true that these groups are mass consumers of everything digital, social media usage is pervasive across all age ranges. It may come as a surprise that the fastest growing demographic on social media is adults age 55-64. In fact, social media usage among the baby boomer and senior populations has grown 79 percent since 2012.
Today’s dental practice owners are certainly leveraging the power of social media to connect with existing and prospective patients.
According to a 2014 survey by Sesame Communications, 48 percent of dentists responded that having a social media presence is important to the success of their practice. However, while many dentists may be familiar with using sites like Facebook and Twitter in their personal lives, developing a social media plan for their business requires a shift in mindset and a new set of marketing skills. Just as a treatment plan lays out a course of action for patients, a social media strategy focused on reaching a variety of patient demographics will help make a dentist’s online efforts most worthwhile.
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The 7 tips for any dentist looking to reach patients of all ages online:
1. Focused efforts: Quality is certainly better than quantity when it comes to social media engagement. Create one stellar profile that truly engages the audience, baby boomers and seniors included, instead of trying to maintain multiple profiles. According to Pew Internet research, 57 percent of baby boomers and 35 percent of seniors prefer to use Facebook; however, dentists should identify which site is most popular among their current patient base. This can be accomplished through a survey or by simply asking at check in/check out.
2. Collect content: When building an engaging social media profile, consider what type of information will be shared. It is always a good idea to vary the types of content so be sure to include a mix of dental industry-related articles that would be of interest to patients, oral health care tips, links to blog posts, pictures and videos.
3. Practice good online etiquette: Just as in face-to-face interactions, no one likes to be around someone who only talks about him or herself. Practice the 80/20 rule in social media: 80 percent of the content on a dental practice social media profile should be about others (patients, colleagues, community, industry leaders, etc.). The remaining 20 percent may consist of news and promotions specific to the dental practice.
4. Create a schedule: Social media management can often get pushed to the back burner as other issues arise in the practice. Nip that problem in the bud by creating a social media calendar, and post updates ahead of time using an online publishing tool such as Hootsuite (hootsuite.com) or Buffer (bufferapp.com). This way, the practice’s social media profiles will be updated consistently no matter how the practice’s day-to-day priorities mays shift.
5. Engage: To truly realize the many benefits of social media, it pays to engage. Simply posting an update without acknowledging patient interactions such as likes, shares, favorites, retweets and even positive comments keeps the conversation very one-sided. Recognizing audience contributions will elevate the practice’s social media engagement from good to great.
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6. Encourage: Encourage patients to follow the practice on social media through signage at the front desk encouraging patients to “check in,” having free WiFi in the waiting room and including a “like us” message on all email signatures and in practice newsletters. A simple verbal reminder for patients during one-on-one conversations is effective, too.
7. Delegate: Dentists have enough on their plates without having to worry about managing their social media pages. Hire a professional vendor, such as Sesame Communications (sesamecommunications.com), My Social Practice (mysocialpractice.com) or WPromote (wpromote.com) for optimal social media management. At the very least, get the staff involved and delegate the day-to-day responsibilities of posting on social media to a team member who is not only qualified to post on behalf of the practice but who also has the time in his or her daily schedule to do so.
For dentists who still believe social media tactics only attract a younger population, it is time to re-evaluate. Older adults are adopting digital technologies at a fast pace, a trend that will only grow in the coming years. Dentists who take advantage of the online tools and build social media marketing habits now will enjoy rich, long-lasting and multifaceted patient relationships well into the future.
For more from Naomi Cooper, including “Sticky situations: How to handle a negative online review of your dental practice," go to dentalproductsreport.com.
About the author
Naomi Cooper is president and founder of Minoa Marketing and serves as chief marketing consultant for Pride Institute. She is a respected dental marketing consultant, author, speaker and opinion leader who co-teaches Pride’s marketing course, The New Rules of Dental Marketing. She can be reached at email@example.com and blogs regularly at minoamarketing.com. Follow her on Twitter (@naomi_cooper) or “like” Minoa Marketing on Facebook at fb.com/minoamarketing. For information on upcoming courses, call 800-925-2600 or visit prideinstitute.com.