These days, online marketing and Social Media are responsible for bringing in more than half of many dentists’ new patients. With that in mind, it makes sense for the average dentist to spend some time acquiring knowledge in these areas!
The beauty of Internet Marketing is that it’s really not all that hard to learn. It’s not just a matter of hiring an online marketing company; there’s a lot that you can do (or rather, that your office manager or PR director can do) to improve your online presence and reach potential new patients via the Internet. With that in mind, let’s focus on Social Media.
First of all, what is Social Media?
Social Media is a crucial part of Internet Marketing because it uses social networking sites (Facebook, Google+, ZocDoc, Yelp, etc.) to forward an overall marketing strategy, message and communication to specific publics. Through the posting and sharing of text, photographs, graphics and videos related to your practice, you can connect and build relationships with prospective new patients and maintain communication with your existing patient base. Social Media efforts also help drive prospective new patients to your website (if you have one).
Here are four ways to turn Social Media into more new patients:
Facebook epitomizes what Social Media is all about, which is reaching people through friends and contacts. As the largest and fastest growing social networking site on the planet, Facebook reigns as the “king” of Social Media. Here’s a few fast facts about Facebook:
• As of September 2013, Facebook had 1.19 billion monthly active users and 728 million daily active users.
• The average number of people who used mobile devices to access Facebook daily was 507 million.
• To dispel the myth that Facebook is most popular amongst teens and college students, we found that the biggest demographic on Facebook is men and women between the ages of 35 and 50.
• Facebook users spend an average of 18 minutes per visit, or 46 minutes per day.
• The average Facebook user has 130 friends.
With its tremendous user base, you can see why Facebook is the best (but certainly not the only) Social Media channel to tap into.
The best way to start cultivating your Social Media presence on Facebook is to create a Fan Page for your dental practice. Why? First of all, it’s incredibly easy for people to “like” your Fan Page and become fans. (And their Facebook friends will also be able to see that they “liked” your Fan Page.) Every time you post a new interesting tidbit of news, a special offer, a picture and even a video, it will appear on your fans’ News Feeds. Your posts should stimulate warm, constructive dialogue and interaction with your “fans,” including potential new patients. In fact, this applies to every social networking site you use to promote your practice. And it’s a really good indicator of how well your Social Media efforts are going.
Facebook algorithms also have a ripple effect in that every time one of your Facebook followers “likes” a post on your Fan page, it is displayed on their friends’ News Feeds. So think of it from a mathematical standpoint: the number of “likes” you get times 130 friends (every user averages about 130 friends) is your potential reach.
Facebook also has the option of placing paid advertisements in a person’s News Feed, which appear as a normal post. These ads can be targeted to people by location, demographical information and interests. We’ll cover this more in-depth in a later webletter installment that discusses paid online advertisements, as well as a few other features you can use with Facebook.
Facebook’s top competitor, Google+ (Google Plus) is the second-largest social networking site with 343 million monthly users. Although Google+ is a bit more complex to navigate than Facebook, it is less personal, more open and a great place to connect with people who have similar interests (as opposed to only people you know or are friends with.) Like Facebook, you can build a profile for your practice with graphics, your marketing buttons, messages and other pertinent information, as mentioned above. Google+ is also great for conducting searches on people according to various categories and demographics, such as location, occupation, and interests. In this way, you can directly reach out to your specific public using this social networking site.
Another important point is that Google owns Google+ and seeks to connect YouTube, Gmail and a host of other Google-owned web services together. All of these Google entities are linked and related to each other. So if you start getting a lot of traffic (responses) on your Google+ page and perhaps a lot of views on your YouTube channel, this will raise your rankings on Google’s search results. That’s fantastic for your Internet marketing because it would mean more traffic to your website and leads to your practice. (We will talk about Google rankings and SEO in our next webletter on Internet Marketing.)
Rave reviews from happy, satisfied patients are a powerful way to promote your practice through word-of-mouth. Yelp is a relatively new (and ultra-popular) social networking site and mobile application that allows prospective consumers (patients) to find out where your practice is located and read the ratings and reviews that existing or past patients have written about your office. ZocDoc is another Social Media website that allows patients to rate and review health professionals, including dentists. There are several other similar sites (such as Doctoroogle.com and rateMDs.com) that you can also take advantage of.
Encourage your patients to rate and review you on Yelp, ZocDoc and even your own website. Reviews carry a lot of weight with prospective new patients, so get as many good reviews as you can to really overshadow the one or two bad ones.
Of course, not everyone has an account on these sites or knows how to leave a review. At MGE, we have a template for an instruction sheet to give to patients, which walks them through creating an account and leaving reviews on some of the main review sites. (Contact us to get a copy of this template for free.) This instruction sheet also serves as a reminder for them when they get to their homes.
As you can see, a good social media campaign takes time to plan and implement on a regular basis. Social Media should be a part of your PR Director’s hat or part of someone’s hat who can keep on top of this day in and day out.
4. Use the information from the MGE New Patient Workshop to Drive your Social Media Efforts!
Whether it’s print or an Internet marketing campaign, (or both), the same fundamental marketing principles taught at our New Patient Workshop still apply. So before launching your social media plan, you would do the vital market research steps at the beginning of the MGE New Patient Workshop. Using this information, you’ll have a clear idea of what direction to take your marketing campaign, including any Social Media efforts. For clarity you always push one overall message, no matter what media channels you use.