Practices Urged to Harness the New 'Word of Mouth': Social Media

May 6, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

Tech consultants say practices that don't have an Internet marketing presence are falling behind and missing growth opportunities.

Dental professionals attending the 2016 Texas Meeting were reminded of the increasing importance of social media before they even stepped foot inside the exhibition hall.

Just outside the entrance to hall was a “selfie wall” encouraging attendees to take their photo in front of a Texas Dental Association sign and then share the photo on their social networks.

Like it or not, social media and Internet marketing are becoming nearly indispensable for dental practices. More and more patients use social media and online review boards to choose dentists, or to vent their frustration if they have a bad experience.

Gary Kindle, an Internet marketing advisor at the web design and marketing firm ProSites, said dentists and practice administrators can’t ignore their web presence, and social media in particular.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to word-of-mouth business.”

Kindle said even dentists with basic websites may be missing out because websites today need to do much more than they did a decade ago.

“Websites used to be used as a business card,” he said. “Now they’ve grown into so much more. You can use it to market yourself directly to patients.”

Modern practice websites are mobile-friendly and interactive with maps, one-click calling, patient intake forms, payment system integration, and yes, links to a practice’s social media pages.

Chad Jenson, a marketing consultant with Social Dental, said maintaining a practice’s social media isn’t as much of a challenge as some might think because technology can now enable near-seamless social media integration.

To wit, his company’s software integrates photography, HIPAA compliance, and social media sharing altogether in one app. They even supply customers with an iPad.

For example, a receptionist can ask a satisfied customer if they’d like to show off their newly perfected smile at the end of a visit. If the patient says yes, they can take the photo using the iPad’s camera. The app then directs the patient to sign a HIPAA compliance form. Once the patient authorizes the practice to share the photo, practices can post it on their own social media pages all at once with the tap of a button. Meanwhile, the patient gets a text message with a copy of the photo so they can share it, too.

“This platform makes it super easy to manage social media from one spot,” Jenson said.

The service comes with a one-time up-front fee, and then a monthly service fee thereafter.

The platform also makes it easy to review a practice. It sends patients a link to review the practice on Google. Positive reviews are published; negative reviews remain unpublished but are sent to the dentist for review.

That’s key because online reviews have become a major way people choose dentists, and they’re the first thing a person sees when they search for a practice on Google.

Jenson said the immediacy of the request, along with the ability to do the review on a mobile phone, makes patients much more likely to review the practice. The company says 55% of patients who are asked to review using the company’s software say yes. By contrast, only about 6-8% of patients comply when the review request comes in another form, such as by email.

Both Jenson and Kindle said interest in their services has been high at The Texas Meeting, though many practices have yet to adopt a robust Internet marketing strategy.

For Kindle, the message to dentists—reluctant and otherwise—is simple. Internet marketing is a business essential.

“It absolutely does add value to your practice,” he said.

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