By Dr. Edward J. Zuckerberg
Father of Facebook Founder Discusses Online Strategies for Your Practice
Facebook debuted in 2004 as a way for Harvard University students to connect with each other. Membership criteria expanded to students at other universities in the United States, then to students abroad and finally to anybody over the age of 12 with an email account in 2006.
Then in 2008, Facebook rolled out a game-changing feature: businesses were allowed to have a presence, with features that were unique and previously unavailable for personal profiles. These included but were not limited to:
- Unlimited audience size (personal profiles are limited to 5,000 friends)
- Advertising network and tools
- Clear and consistent business information including location and hours
- Visitor check-in tools
- Event, contest and offer tools and hosting
One of the most compelling reasons for a dental office to establish a Facebook presence is the ability to reach both current and potential patients. While almost every practice maintains a website, most website visitors are not current patients, but rather consumers trying to determine if the office is a good match for them. To be competitive, a practice should have a well-designed website that has been optimized for key word searches to appear higher in search engines, and portray the practice in a positive manner, in order to convert a prospective customer into an active one. However, this is not a zero-effort, no-cost effort; there are web hosting fees and site developer and maintenance costs. Furthermore, once a patient has selected a dental practice, they will rarely, if ever, visit its website again.
Therefore business websites, while important, are not the most effective way to disseminate time-sensitive information about new technologies and techniques, recent accomplishments or relevant healthcare news. Websites also lack the ability to tap into the existing patient base to generate referrals or to encourage them to come in for both regular maintenance and restorative care.
Instead of waiting for people to visit your website, reach them where they already are—on social media platforms. A recent Pew Research Center report (is.gd/pewsocial2016) indicates that nearly 80% of Internet users in the United States are on Facebook and 75% of those log on to the social network every day. That means that 60% of Internet users are on Facebook on any given day.
Getting your message to people is as simple as boosting your posted content and using other marketing efforts to get their attention on the site you already know they are visiting and spending time on. For many, this seems to be the most challenging part of social media marketing. Many dental practices have successfully attracted more than 1,000 fans to their page and are posting content frequently, although engagement numbers and reach for the content are low in most cases. Early adopters were beneficiaries of the easy and free penetration into the news feed that they were able to gain six to nine years ago when competition wasn’t as steep as it is today. With the average user having approximately 200 friends and 50 or more business pages in their “likes” list, there is a tremendous amount of content that will render yours unseen, unless you take steps to increase viewership.
For most dental practices, a modest budget is all it takes to get your content seen, not only by your page followers, but by others in your targeted geographic and demographic areas, as well as by tapping into the networks of your existing fans to harness “word of mouth” referrals.
For an office that posts content five days a week, a budget of $5 to $10 per post will cost $1250 to $2500 annually, much less than the average dental practice used to spend on print media only a decade ago. An additional budget of $5 per day to gain new fans or “likes” for a page amounts to $2,000 annually, for a total Facebook marketing budget of less than $5,000 annually.
Dental practices can also increase the quality and engagement of posted content by assigning staff members a day each week for which they are responsible for posting content (or less frequently in larger offices) and then having a monthly or weekly incentive for the staff member whose post gains the most engagement. This could be in the form of a bonus, dinner for two or an extra vacation day. Using Facebook’s advance scheduling feature, staff members can create posts well in advance, whenever inspiration hits them, which helps solve the problem of who in the office is responsible for generating content. And, it’s always a good idea to designate an editor in your practice who can review and approve posts—or send them back to the drawing board, if necessary.
Hiring third-party companies to generate content can also be successful, but rarely will these types of content reflect the personality and behind-the-scenes viewpoints of your office. Gaining online engagement is the key to a successful Facebook marketing effort. It’s something that can only happen if the content provides information that is useful to existing and prospective patients, and comes across as sincere. When you are fortunate enough to receive positive engagement on your online content, you should reinforce it with timely comments and responses to publicly show appreciation for patient loyalty and support.
At the American Academy of Implant Dentistry’s (AAID) Annual Conference last October in New Orleans, I demonstrated the use of Facebook Live to the audience as another tool for engagement and to enhance their practices’ online presence. I also had the opportunity to present to dental students at the Dugoni School in November. We were streaming live from both of these presentations and you can see the videos on facebook.com/PainlessSocialMedia. With this tool, you can conduct live, streaming video presentations—using just your smart phone. A dentist can demonstrate a new technology or the latest equipment being used in his or her office. You can also showcase before and after images of a patient using video. Any users following you will have the ability to “tune in” to the broadcast. People can comment on your streaming video, share your video and like your video in real time. Ask for feedback, respond to questions and make the live experience as participatory as possible. You can also promote live events in advance and ask people to submit questions before the broadcast. There are a variety of things you can promote using live, streaming video and this is just another tool you can use to interact with your patients and potential patients online.
All of these suggestions sound like they take some time and effort—because they do. But including your Facebook presence in your marketing plan will pay off.
Edward J. Zuckerberg, DDS, is CEO and founder of Painless Social Media LLC.
Social Media Resources
In the past decade, there has been tremendous growth in popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp, Pinterest and many others. At the end of 2016, there were almost 2.8 billion active social media users around the globe. Social media is here to stay so it’s important for dentists to tap into these vital resources for connecting and communicating with their patients online.
There are numerous articles, books, websites, etc. for dental practitioners to learn how to incorporate social media into their marketing strategy. Here are a few online resources:
California Dental Association | cda.org CDA Practice Support’s Guide for the New Dentist Guidance on Advertising and Marketing a Dental Practice YouTube Video: Five Social Media Tips for Dental Practices How Dentists Can Optimize their Yelp Profile
American Dental Association | ada.org ADA’s Practical Guide to Social Media Planning Managing Marketing: Social Media Social Media: Five Rules of Engagement Social Media and Your Dental Practice
Dental Economics | dentaleconomics.com Social Media Marketing: Effective Strategies to Accelerate Dental Practice Growth
Dentistry IQ | dentistryiq.com The Growing Importance of Social Media for Dentists Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Dentists and Dental Teams
Connect with the Dugoni School on social media at dental.pacific.edu/x7030.xml