Social Media. Two words that can strike fear into the hearts of many! Also, with so many things these days described as social media it is worth defining exactly what we mean by the term. One of the simplest and best that I am aware of is:
Online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other
In other words, it is how we can all communicate interactively and effectively online whether it be with friends, strangers or customers. I am sure that many of your reading this piece are already using social media in your personal lives. In fact in most practices it would be fair to say that the nursing team are the most social media savvy. Facebooking friends, viewing videos on YouTube or some of you may even be writing a blog. But how can we all use it more effectively to communicate with and engage both patients and potential patients?
What am I using social media for?
Good question! And many people who don’t ask this question initially are then surprised to find any social media marketing that they attempt is unsuccessful. Social media lends itself to:
- Updates and News
- Customer Service
Whilst it is true to say that some kind of practice presence is better than none at all, it should be part of an overall strategy. It is worth saying at this point that social media won’t replace existing marketing techniques – it complements them. Your practice should still be considering a website, internal marketing, email and so on. Indeed many practices have found great success by linking social media and more traditional methods such as printed materials.
What is clear is that such a huge amount of the population are now using some form of social media, your practice is at risk if you don’t.
Engage and Involve
Do it regularly
‘Join-up’ with other marketing
Just sell at people
Start it and lose interest
Start until you have a clear idea of your objectives
I will concentrate on 4 of the major social media platforms:
There are of course others, but we have a limited amount of space!
There are around 400 million users of Facebook worldwide with some 23 million in the UK. What are the ways in which your practice can use Facebook?
- Set up a practice page – the first step and a very easy one. All business pages on Facebook are tied to an individual account. On your own page simply click on ‘Ads and Pages’ in the left hand column. This will take you through to your favourite pages and there is an option to ‘Create a Page’. Add your logo, pictures, videos and anything else that you think relevant.
- Invite patients and friends to ‘Like’ the page – this can be done on Facebook itself but as you are unlikely to be Facebook friends with all your patients(!) this is one of the occasions that illustrates the need to use other media to promote the page. For instance, the Facebook logo and your page details should be on your website, advertising, appointment cards etc. Everyone who visits the surgery should be informed of the page and encouraged to ‘Like’.
- Keep updated with news, promotions and items of interest. Really try and engage people – ask questions, find out what you could do better as this will greatly improve the regard that patients hold you in.
- Facebook Ads – To gain new patients then you can consider a targeted ad campaign on Facebook. Simply click on ‘Ads and Pages’ in your left hand column and then ‘Create an Ad’. You are then able to create a very targeted campaign based upon location, age, gender, education, interests and so on. You set the budget (minimum of £1 per day) and Facebook will advise you on a likely ‘cost per click’. You can then amend the campaign as you go along. Some ads that you may want to consider would be tooth whitening, adult orthodontics and dental implants. These will then appear in the right hand column of your target’s homepage.
- Facebook is best at updating and educating patients and improving customer service.
Facebook is a very good low cost way to stay in touch with clients. One of the beauties of it is that friends see other friends ‘Like’ the page and it can very quickly snowball. If you do decide to then tweet, blog or use YouTube, these can all be featured as links on your Facebook page.
A website that allows members to keep people up to date with ‘What are you doing now?’ in 140 characters. It is always supposed to be favoured by the young but actually demographically has an older audience than Facebook. Setting up a Twitter account is very straightforward – visit www.twitter.com and follow the instructions to set up a new account. All you will need is an email address and a password.
- Like all social media but particularly on Twitter, it is a conversation – in my experience people don’t react well to: we do x at only £199! It is a case of building up trust and a relationship.
- Be interesting! Remember, people buy people and nowhere is this truer than on Twitter. Engage with people – talk about your passions, your interests, something you’ve seen etc and people will check out who you are.
- How do I get followers? Firstly, see above! Secondly, ensure that you ‘tweet’ regularly about your practice and why people should want to visit you. Interestingly the Twitter website itself is quite poor! If you want to gain more followers I can recommend the software ‘TweetDeck’. This is free to download at http://www.tweetdeck.com/ and can be used on your desktop and iPhone and iPad. The major benefit that TweetDeck has is that you can load many columns that search for terms you wish eg. Dentist, whitening etc. When anyone uses any of that term in their tweet, Tweetdeck will notify you and you can then follow the people in question if you feel they will be relevant.
- Be human. People like the ‘busy day’, ‘off out for dinner’ and so on but don’t fill it with this.
- Twitter is really a great way of running promotions aimed at new patients.
A blog is short for weblog – meaning a diary in effect. Again this is easy to set up – visit www.wordpress.com and follow the instructions. This blog can then be updated regularly and even integrated into the practice website should you so wish. Benefits include:
- The more you blog, the more interest you will generate
- Cynically, if nothing else, regular blogging linked to your website will generate major search engine optimisation benefits – another topic for another day.
- Again, be interesting! Encourage debate. Frankly, you can afford to be a bit antagonistic to do this. You cannot be all things to all people – a blog should and will contain opinions – don’t be afraid of this.
This is social media but it also orders borders upon general marketing and websites – many practices load videos that they have had produced on to YouTube as well as their website
Video marketing is a fantastic way to promote the practice.
- Video speaks to a customer in a way that text never will
- If included on your website, makes you look ‘of the moment’.
- SEO benefits again
- If it’s funny/different, always the option it can go ‘viral’ and you the practice can have more patients than you know what to do with!!!
I know from experience that many dentists and practices are concerned about patients posting unfair remarks on social media. The honest truth is though that if a patient wants to do this there are already forums where they are probably doing it! By using social media and encouraging feedback and comments, you can respond to their questions, requests and gripes. These concerns would always have existed anyway – now you can do something about them. There is nothing more effective at building a good reputation than dealing quickly and well with complaints and being seen to do so. (Large corporations in the US now employ people solely to deal with online issues and solve them quickly.)
If you start a conversation with you patients, you may be surprised at the feedback that you receive. Some positive, some negative – perhaps some that you hadn’t even considered. But only by starting the conversation can you obtain this vital information for the future success of your practice.
I have tried to give you an overview of what social media is and what it does. In my opinion dental nurses are uniquely placed to make the most of social media for a practice. They generally have friendly relationships with patients and they often hear what dentists don’t eg, that’s expensive, do you do this, the practice would be nicer if and so on. (One of the reasons that nurses are often the most effective sales people in the practice). This knowledge can then be used to full effect in social media to answer concerns, deal with potential issues and promote ideas and services that patients actually want and desire.
As with all marketing, a joined up approach will always deliver the best results. Eg.
- If you blog, tweet a link to the blog
- Facebook a link to Twitter
- Add videos to your website and Facebook
- Tweet about Facebook
But this is no different to ordinary marketing! Another point I will also make is that frequency and regularity is the key. I would recommend that a practice tweets everyday, posts a Facebook update at least once a week and if a blog is written then at least once a fortnight. Where do you get the time to do this?! Make the practice aware of the benefits that this will bring and then make time – it is the direction in which the world is heading.
A final word – this stuff is (mainly) FREE – make the most of it!!
About the Author – Chris Baker runs Corona Design and Communication, an agency that specialises in dental practice marketing. If you have any questions about the article or any other facet of dental marketing, contact him at email@example.com or on 0845 370 2211.