Focus on Facebook
Get your practice started in social media.
Interacting with patients has always been an integral part of dentistry, whether it’s attracting new business, communicating with current patients, or generating word-of-mouth referrals. In fact, after clinical ability, patient relationships are perhaps the single most important element of a successful dental practice. Given the importance of patient communication to reinforce the relationship, if there was a new tool that helped dental practices reach out to patients better, faster, and more often—for free—most dentists would certainly want to take advantage of it, wouldn’t they?
Regardless of where any individual dentist falls in the Facebook debate, there are some key factors to consider when it comes to making a decision about whether and how to use this ultimate patient communication tool.
First of all, Facebook is where patients are. Of the more than 845 million monthly active users on Facebook, 50% of them log in every single day. There’s never been such a rich and immediate channel for patient interaction in the history of marketing. On top of that, the average Facebook user has 130 online friends. In the past, the volume of word-of-mouth referrals was limited to the number of people a patient might see or speak to on a given day. In contrast, today patients are communicating with college friends, extended family, acquaintances, past coworkers—and their potential referral networks have exploded as a result. By tapping into the power of Facebook, a dental practice has access to more potential new patients from word of mouth than ever before.
Here’s another compelling reason to create a Facebook presence: quite simply, patients expect it. In the digital age, patients are used to researching and interacting with businesses and service providers online. If a dental practice isn’t active on Facebook, it risks being rendered invisible in the online marketplace.
Facebook also offers a unique advantage in that patients have to actively choose to opt-in, or “Like” a business in order to see its content. In other words, a practice’s Facebook audience has elected to interact and receive information, so communication is naturally targeted toward a group with a strong affinity for the practice already, and wants more. From a marketing perspective, having a group that has this kind of bond with the practice is an incredibly valuable asset.
Finally, remember that using Facebook is leveraging technology to harness what has always been the best source of new patients—word of mouth. When patients decide to “Like” your practice on Facebook, they’ve effectively chosen to recommend you to all of their friends and family at once. That means that any practice that has considered word of mouth to be a major source of new patients in the past should take a close look at Facebook to drive word-of-mouth referrals in this new era of social connectivity.
For practices currently not using Facebook, step one is to simply set up a Facebook page. At its most basic level, a Facebook page should have all of the same basic content contained on the practice’s website: name, logo, hours, philosophy, team/dentist photographs and bios, areas of focus or specialty, contact information, and a map and directions. If providing this information on a Facebook page feels redundant, remember that patients are much more likely to visit a Facebook page first than a practice’s website. In marketing, it’s important to be wherever your customers are, so having a Facebook page only serves to strengthen your ability to reach patients online.
After establishing a Facebook page, it’s time to get patients, friends, and family to “Like” the page. How? Send an e-mail to the entire patient base about the launch of the practice’s Facebook page, providing a link to the page and asking them to “Like” it. Put links to Facebook (and other social media profiles) on the practice website and in the footer of all patient e-mails. Mention the page or include the “Like us on Facebook” icon (downloadable from the Internet) in a practice newsletter. Include the URL on business cards. Put a sign in the lobby that announces that the practice is on Facebook and invites patients to “Like” the page for great updates, contests, and practice info.
The goal is to build an audience so that all of the practice’s online activities reach as many people as possible. This shouldn’t be a daily sales pitch, but rather compelling content, news, and information to share with patients. The important thing is to keep it varied, and make it something patients can interact with.
Some examples of great dental Facebook posts are:
- • Before-and-after photographs of a patient success story or a video testimonial from a happy patient (Note: never post photographs or video of a patient online without obtaining a signed release)
- • An announcement about new extended office hours
- • A link to the practice blog
- • A last-minute opening in the hygiene schedule
- • A recent news story about the link between oral health and overall health
Of course, even though Facebook is free, this is still an investment of time and energy. Once the process is started, it’s important to keep the page current with regular posts; an outdated page can look worse to patients than not having one at all. Once the practice has an audience, someone on the team should be designated to start monitoring and posting approximately three times each week.
Now comes the fun part. Remember, the real power of Facebook is engaging patients, and having a real, two-way conversation. Practices should brainstorm ways to get patients to participate, such as posting questions on the practice’s Facebook page such as, “What are your best tricks to get your kids to brush and floss?” or “Which celebrity has your dream smile?” Facebook is an interactive medium and users are used to commenting and responding. Once they do, they’ll also likely come back to see how other patients have answered. It’s hard for patients to forget about the practice when they’re reading (and even commenting on) your practice’s Facebook status regularly.
Another great tip is hosting polls and contests. Try a simple poll using Facebook Questions, like “How often do you floss?” or host a contest asking patients to post a picture of themselves brushing their teeth and offer a prize based on creativity.
At the end of the day, many dentists may be surprised to find how many of their patients want to join in the fun or, even better, share the photographs and stories with friends. In the world of Facebook, this type of “social sharing” is precisely what generates excitement, engagement, and, ultimately, word-of-mouth referrals. Don’t get left behind.
About the Author
Naomi Cooper | Ms. Cooper is the chief marketing consultant for Pride Institute and the president of Minoa Marketing. Naomi works one-on-one with dentists who are looking to develop a cohesive marketing approach. For information about Pride Institute's seminars and marketing consulting services, call 800-925-2600 or visit www.prideinstitute.com. Ms. Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.