In our previous post, we discussed the benefits of social media to establish, promote and better “connect” a dental practice with their local community. For this next entry, we’ll delve deeper into the major forms of social media touching on their differentiators.
You’ve decided to take the plunge further into social media, but you have questions. Which social media platform is best for my practice? How often do I post? What do I post? All good questions! Here are some brief “notes” to help provide you with some answers:
Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram
These platforms are widely recognized as the social media outlets that are likely to be beneficial for your practice.
Facebook, despite its many critics, is still the undefeated champ of social media platforms due to its size and reach. A good Facebook page/presence is a must-have for your practice because virtually all of your current patients and potential patients in your area are active on Facebook. For a large number of people, Facebook is the “go to” social media platform.
Twitter may be a good fit for you if your practice seeks to interact with other dental professionals, or if you want to reach those who are tired of the family/food/Fido Facebook posts. While some of your potential patients may have Twitter accounts, the platform’s often controversial culture, and political personality abbreviated messaging combined with its more difficult to understand interface does make it less popular than Facebook.
Linkedin is a must for the dentist who wants to communicate more about his or her practice, professional image, or to reach out to other dentists. Many dentists find the Linkedin groups to be beneficial as social media networking tools. If you haven’t been on Linkedin for a while, or you view it as strictly a networking-to-job-search platform only, you may be pleasantly surprised by the Facebook-inspired newsfeed. This change has made Linkedin more attractive to account holders.
Instagram (IG) is the youngster of this grouping and as such, it appeals to a younger social media audience. Its users spend less time on Facebook and more on Instagram, favoring IG’s focus on images and individual stories. IG is a hashtag-based platform, which will allow you to target patients in your area using your town’s hashtag and other targeting tools.
So, how often do I post?
That depends. There really is no definitive answer that applies to all dental practices. As you become more active on social media or give it more attention, you will get a better sense of what resonates with your followers and that will help to guide you as to how often, and what to post. Put yourself in your patient’s position: what do they want to know about your practice or their oral health that would be useful? One rule of thumb is that your social media content should be 50 percent your own generated content (news from your practice, new hires, new issues, etc) and 50 percent from other sources—perhaps news articles from health care media covering new dental procedures, for instance. Additionally, these platforms do include built-in tools to help you see the who/what/where/when of your audience. It’s not an all or nothing proposition, you can be active on more than one platform.
Beyond the free portion of these platforms, you can augment them with a new avenue - paid social media advertising. Up until several years ago, people with business Facebook pages didn’t need to think about paying to reach potential patients as their content was well received. However, over time, platforms like Facebook adjusted their algorithm to lower the rate that people viewed content from any single site and this change helped boost the focus on advertising. What does this mean for dentists? Social media platforms should be part of your annual marketing budget as it is a good idea to set aside a modest portion to help ensure your content reaches the audience that is meaningful to you. Every major social media site allows and encourages paid advertising.
It’s important that you establish/strengthen your practice’s presence on social media. Make no mistake: being on social media requires some time/effort and incurs some cost. However, you can be more creative with photos, video, content, and frequency (especially on a cost basis) to stand out more versus just using traditional marketing/advertising. Social media is not suggested as a complete replacement for traditional forms of marketing/advertising. Successful practices include social media in their marketing mix to help expand/relay their brand/story and patient experiences to the widest audience possible.