Does your dental practice have a social media presence? Is it well managed? Itâ€™s no longer sufficient to simply put up a website and expect to attract new patients, or retain current ones. In todayâ€™s information age, content is key. So is keeping your patients engaged.
In 2017, it’s a foregone conclusion that dentists need to have a social media presence. It’s a standard for credibility, says Tim Vassilakos, director of integrated marketing for Henry Schein. The real issue is: How are dentists managing their social media presence?
Vassilakos recalls a recent relocation and getting a friend’s recommendation on a dentist. He Googled the dentist and went to the practice website, which was “a standard digital business card.” But the second listing in Google was the dentist’s Facebook page, which left a lot to be desired.
“It was in shambles,” Vassilakos recalls. “And it made me second guess how well put together his practice was.”
RELATED: More Dentist’s Money Digest® Practice Management Coverage
It emphasized the importance of dentists being where their customers are. Caitlin Meuser, senior manager of integrated marketing for Henry Schein says that recent statistics indicate 76 percent of Facebook users and 51 percent of Instagram users visit these platforms at least once a day.
“And I emphasize ‘at least once a day’ because it’s probably tenfold that number,” Meuser says. “As a dentist, you want to make sure you’re part of somebody’s daily routine, and have visibility in that space.”
A MIXED BAG
A dated Facebook page can be as deadly as year-old magazines in the waiting room. But what content should be on dentists’ social media sites? Meuser says the content can and should be interchangeable, depending on factors including the practice location and customer demographics. But there are three main points that should frame any content strategy.
“Inform your customers to educate them, but also to entertain,” Meuser says. “Have a balance between what types of products and services you offer as a dentist, but also be human about it. You want to make sure the human behind the computer comes through in all of the content.”
Also, be able to read your audience, know their interests, and when you post, evaluate which posts are getting the most likes and shares. In other words, what’s generating customer engagement?
“It’s a story-telling platform,” Vassilakos says of social media. “You’re a dentist, and you want to tell your dental story. That could be patient stories, or innovative things you’re doing in your practice. It all leads back to telling a story.”
But don’t hit patients over the head. Meuser explains that patients are usually checking social media during their leisure time, scrolling their newsfeed while trying to unwind from the day or during a lunch break. Knowing that, share stories that people can connect to and digest in a way that is not too product focused.
“I think building that type of a relationship online, you create a certain level of trust,” Meuser says. “And, by creating that trust, inevitably, the business will come from it.”
CALL TO ACTION
There are, of course, no guarantees that people visiting your practice’s website or Facebook page will soon visit the office. But there are steps you can take to potentially increase foot traffic into the practice, and it starts with making sure the content on your social media platforms has a call to action. That can be a call to join the practice’s email list, sign up for a newsletter, or book an appointment online.
“Having these calls to action perhaps doesn’t exactly measure foot traffic in the door,” Meuser admits. “But at least you’re capturing the customer’s information and having some type of measurable follow up.”
It’s also important to engage current patients when they’re in your office. Says Vassilakos, virtually every one of them has a smart phone and partakes in social media. Have your office manager flag one or two patients a day who might be willing to share something about their visit.
“Engage your patients in your office and that’s going to make them engage their friends and family online and have that reverse kind of word of mouth, where you’re having your best patients tell the story of your dental practice,” he says. “Engage them as your advocates.”
ANOTHER TOOL IN THE TOOLBOX
Vassilakos and Meuser agree that social media is not the entire equation. Rather, it’s part of an overall marketing strategy—albeit an important one.
“If you have a message or story that you want to have for the practice, you need to make sure that’s supported on your website, that it’s going out in your e-mails to your customers, that there’s signage in your practice,” Meuser says. “And then social media is another point of contact in that overall equation.”
Social media, Vassilakos adds, doesn’t live in a silo. It’s part of an overall brand.
“If patients look at one thing from you in the mail and then they see you on social media, it should look, feel and sound the same,” he says. “Make sure you have one centralized approach across all of your marketing efforts.”