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September 2014
Volume 35, Issue 8

The Business of Social Media

Edward J. Zuckerberg, DDS, FAGD

For the dental office, marketing can essentially be broken down into two categories. Internal marketing relates to efforts made to retain the existing patient base and encourage those patients to not only increase their usage of basic services but also to consume a greater scope of services. External marketing describes efforts made to obtain new patients. Overlap of the two can and should occur, as existing patients are the most valuable source of referrals for new patients. Social media serves as an ideal means to achieve both objectives.

A broad definition of social media would include not just popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but also any venue for communication with existing and potential patients that did not exist 15 years ago. This would include appointment reminder services that use email and texting—such as Solutionreach, Demandforce, Sesame, Lighthouse 360, etc.—along with companies that help dentists manage their online reputations and encourage reviews.

Running A Successful Program

In evaluating the costs of a quality social media presence for a dental office, begin with the staff. Implementing a successful program requires significant staff time and may entail hiring additional personnel who keep social media in mind when dealing with existing and potential new patients. Budgets previously designated for print ads, including those in the phone book, can be trimmed or completely eliminated and replaced by subscriptions to appointment reminder services and reputation management support. A monthly budget of $500 is recommended to be allotted for these services alone. Some offices can handle content updates to the office Facebook page themselves, but in offices that either lack the time or creativity to post great content on a regular basis, companies such as Likeable Dentists (affiliated with Henry Schein) and My Social Practice provide such services for a monthly fee starting at $200.

Another expense to consider is the cost of the programming changes needed to update the office website to link to social media sites and encourage patients to write (hopefully) positive reviews. While many offices already have staff member(s) who can easily navigate Facebook and post pictures, updates, contests, promotions, etc., few have a programmer on staff who can make the necessary website changes. One useful website tool is the Social Beacon offered by Einstein Medical. It enables visitors to an office website to review their recent office visit on a five-star scale, and the office can determine the review sites to which the reviews are then posted (eg, Google+, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc).

Print costs to support the social media presence need to be considered as well. Business cards and other print materials should be redone to include the URL for the office Facebook page in addition to the office website, and signage should be placed throughout the office to remind patients to “Like” the office on Facebook. Contests, giveaways (including anything from an electric toothbrush to an iPad), and check-in promotions can be used as incentives to encourage engagement with the Facebook page. Consider the costs of the giveaways in these promotions as well. The better the incentive, the greater the desired response the office can expect.

Two Key Goals

The last significant expense is the actual advertising cost to develop and maintain a successful Facebook page for the office. While Facebook is a free site, and no fee is required to set up a page or post unlimited content to a page, the reality is that there are two goals that a successful Facebook page needs to attain. The first is to obtain as many “Likes,” or fans, for the page as possible. If an office has 2,000 active patients, it can be assumed that at least 1,200 of them are on Facebook. Getting half of that target number would be excellent; it would also attract people who are not yet patients and encourage them to Like the page as well. This will require a combination of promotion inside the office via signs and cards and by directly advertising on Facebook to gain new Likes for the page. This can cost as little as $5 per day—ie, approximately $1,800 year. Page promotion can be stopped any time the office attains a desired number of Likes, although the practice should always strive to gain more fans.

The second goal would be to have the office content seen by those fans. The Facebook newsfeed has become a very competitive space, as the growth of the site means that more people are on Facebook, and more businesses are not only on Facebook but are also aggressively marketing their presence on the site. The newsfeed is the default start page on Facebook where users spend most of their time on the site reading about their friends and brands that they like. Without boosting (for a fee), updates on the posts of an office can only be expected to reach about 10% of its fans. For a relatively small fee per update, the message can reach not only a higher percentage of fans of the page but also the friends of those fans, carrying an implicit word of mouth recommendation. Therefore, the typical office should have an annual boost budget of about $1,500.

Evaluating the monetary success of a social media campaign can be tricky. The benefits are cumulative and not easily measureable. Facebook does supply some helpful analytics, but the onus is on the individual offices to evaluate the return on their social media efforts.


Edward J. Zuckerberg, DDS, FAGD

Dr. Zuckerberg lectures nationally and internationally on technology integration and social media marketing for dentists, in addition to treating patients part-time in Palo Alto, California. The father of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, he maintains a Facebook page,, with tips for promoting dental practices using social media, as well as a page for his patients,

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