Developing a Social Media Presence
How laboratories can use these online resources to gain a business advantage
By Deborah Curson-Vieira
Social media has become a way of life for both businesses and consumers. According to an article by William Griggs for MassRelevance.com,1 one out of every seven minutes spent online is on Facebook, and 75% of people use social media to find or share information about brands. In addition, social media has not only become a way for companies to talk with prospects and customers, but also a way to listen to their thoughts and opinions. Griggs notes that 81% of US respondents indicated that their friends’ social media posts directly influenced purchase decisions.
Even with these staggering figures, few dental laboratories are taking advantage of social media and its associated technology. Various statistics show that only 30-45% of small businesses are using social media, and when dental laboratories are looked at specifically the numbers drop even lower.
So what causes this phenomenon? The author believes that the biggest barriers to social media engagement include the perception that there aren’t enough people excited about the dental laboratory industry to talk about it online; the belief that the information shared by the laboratory community is not interesting enough for social media; and the notion that laboratory owners and technicians do not have enough time, money, and staff to support an online presence.
Lack of Excitement
Many laboratory technicians believe that there are simply not enough people excited about dental technology to discuss the industry on social media. However, 52% of dental practices already have a presence in social media,2 with dentists under the age of 45 more likely to use the technology than their older counterparts. While your dentist customers may not be chomping at the bit to discuss the laboratory industry on Facebook or Twitter, more than 50% of them are already present on these sites and are using them on a fairly consistent basis. As such, dental laboratory technicians should be there with them. By following the posts of their clients, dental laboratories can get a better understanding of what different practices are doing and how they can be supported.
In addition, social media is similar to having a large focus group. Asking questions on Facebook or Twitter about how customers use products or what they think of certain materials or trends can provide invaluable feedback.
Finally, other than large dental meetings and direct mail marketing, what other ways are there to communicate information about products, services, and events to 50% of the dental market all at once?
Lack of Interest
Many in the dental laboratory industry believe that information about dental technology is not interesting enough for social media. A video on how to take a pick-up impression for a crown under a partial or a blog post on shade-taking tips is not likely to go viral. However, using social media to post training material adds value for your customers, and thus to your business. Similarly, case studies and information on new technology or materials are probably not interesting to the general public, but to a smaller, more specific target audience they can generate engaged, meaningful discussions. By regularly adding new information and engaging content, laboratories can give dentists and their staff a reason to check Facebook or read a company’s blog, and can potentially generate business.
Many laboratory owners also use social media to showcase the personality of their business, including pictures of events or highlighting the laboratory’s team and their accomplishments.
Lack of Resources
Social media can be overwhelming, and there is often concern that there is not enough time, money, or staff to support an online presence. If a laboratory owner is active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest, among others, it is easy to spread one’s self too thin. From the point of view of a customer, there is nothing worse than a social media account or blog that has not been updated in months, so to be the most effective, laboratory owners must choose the right social media channel for the laboratory and stick with it. What is the right social media channel? It is the one where customers spend the most time and will get the most value. If there is a lot of video content, it is best to use YouTube and Facebook. If there is a great collection of short tips and tricks, it may be best to use Twitter or start a blog. Once it is decided which platform is best, a laboratory can choose a team member to be in charge of social media and commit to two to three posts per week as well as responding to all inquiries and posts to the page.
While social media was once considered “just a fad,” it is now an integral part of our everyday lives. Data shows that dentists and their staff are connecting online through a variety of social media websites, and in order to engage them, it is necessary to participate.
1. Griggs W. 13 Tweetable Facts That Reveal the Power of Social Media. MassRelevance.com. Updated April 2, 2013. Accessed August 1, 2013. http://www.massrelevance.com/blog/13-tweetable-facts-reveal-power-social-media.
2. Henry RK, Molnar A, Henry JC. A survey of US dental practices’ use of social media. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2012;13(2):137-141
Deborah Curson-Vieira is the marketing and communications manager for Dental Prosthetic Services.