May 2015
Volume 11, Issue 5

Stop Questioning the Value of Social Media

Start harnessing its power to make it work for your practice

Rita Zamora

It's not surprising that many dentists and office managers question the value of social media. Beyond being a relatively new marketing tool, social media is also dynamic. Everything from functionality to opportunities can change daily, which is frustrating for those new to the game or averse to change. For those who don't use social media, the thought of deriving benefit from spending time on Facebook can be downright dumbfounding.

However, 74% of online adults use social networking sites.1 Statistics confirm social media's popularity, making it a marketing and communication tool worthy of attention. This type of marketing is a blend of art and science. Part of the science lies in knowing where to spend time and how to measure the success of that expenditure. Part of the art is learning what to post and grasping the nuances of social media etiquette. Below are tips and insights to help make social media work for dental practices.

Assess Where You Are

Drivers rarely get behind the wheel of their cars without knowing where they are going. And they certainly know from where they are coming. With that in mind, the first step in making social media work for you is to assess your starting point.

At what level is the practice's social media knowledge and skills? Some dental teams feel they know nothing about social media. Once you have a sense of the skills and knowledge level of the team, it is easier to determine whether the practice can manage social media internally or if would be better to seek the help of an outside partner to devise an effective social media plan of action.

If you are a novice, reading about social media should help provide some insight or you may want to consider registering for some continuing education. Whether it involves attending a course at a local or national dental association meeting or signing up for a webinar, there are many options to help enlighten the entire dental team, no matter what each person's skill level.

Know Where to Spend Your Time

It's easy to jump on the social media bandwagon and open social media accounts everywhere. Some practices choose to implement "set it and forget it" automation to make life easier. In some situations, a Facebook account can be linked to Twitter so content is posted automatically, eliminating the need for human interaction.

The problem with too much automation is that it isn't really social. People are involved in social media to interact with others, or at a minimum, to get current, relevant, or personalized information. Over-automated accounts tend to have very few followers (unless followers are bought) and little to no interaction on their accounts.

Evaluate where to spend your time. To make the most of social media resources, the author recommends focusing on the tools that are best suited to the individual practice. Here's how:

1. Master the most important tools first. When making the decision of which platforms to use, consider the fact that Facebook has the most users and, because it's a Google product, Google+ has potential for increased search engine optimization.2

2. Ensure you have a variety of positive online reviews. People today want the reassurance of others before making decisions.

3. Create a video of the team and location. Video is one of the most powerful ways to engage people online.

4. Consider the available resources. Look back at step one. Have you mastered Facebook and Google+ before moving on to other options?

5. Choose resources in keeping with your own interests. Beyond Facebook and Google+ are Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more. If you dislike using Twitter but love Instagram, chances are you will have more success with Instagram.

Understand What Type of Content Is Best

Some practices say they are giving up on social media because they are tired of having to entertain people. Whoever said your social media content needed to entertain dental patients? Most often consumers are looking for the following online:

• What people are saying about you

• Who the care providers are

• What your practice looks like inside

• What makes your practice special

According to Google's commissioned study, the Zero Moment of Truth, people often follow a similar online research pattern when they are vetting new products and services.3 They may first come across your website, but they will then visit your online reviews, watch video about you, and check social networks for more information.

Therefore, it's time to stop worrying about entertaining people, and instead focus on achieving the objectives above by:

• encouraging patients to post reviews.

• showing people who you are by posting updated photos of the doctor and team. Share your human side so you come across as personable.

• providing a video with a 360° tour of the inside of your practice.

• sharing what is special and unique about your practice through updates about your philanthropy, services you excel in such as dental implants or Six Month Smiles, or how you network with others in your community.

The occasional comic, motivational quote, or whatever authentic, personal tidbit you'd like to share is also great. Understand what type of content is necessary to fulfill the research needs of patients, and, most importantly, to support your brand. Knowing you are posting the best content for your practice can help you stop questioning and get into action to make social media work for you.

Monitor Your Success

One of the best ways to confirm the value of social media and make it work for you is to track and monitor. There are several ways to learn if patients are seeing your social media, and if so, what they thought about it.

One method of tracking is via technology that already exists in your practice. Check with your patient communication systems provider to learn if you can customize your patient intake forms. Dentrix and Solutionreach both have the ability to collect this information from patients. For example, your online forms could ask, "Have you seen our Facebook page? Google reviews? YouTube videos? Twitter account?" Forms should be customized specifically for your practice. Allow patients to use radio buttons or check boxes so they can easily click where they have seen you online.

Another option to track where patients have seen you is to simply ask them if they have seen you on social media. While this isn't high tech, having a conversation like this with patients can reveal valuable information.

Patients often report being motivated to become a new patient in a particular practice because of photos on its Facebook page. Online reviews are becoming a main referral source as well. Monitoring where patients see your practice online can help you stop questioning and start taking action to make social media work for you.

Put These Tips into Action

Review and discuss the tips above with your team. You may have someone on your team eager to help and motivated to get into action. Or, if you are confident working with an outside vendor is best for you, commit to inform yourself enough to properly hold your providers accountable. Lastly, while social media may be modern, the old adage "knowledge is power" still holds true. If you are still questioning the value of social media or are struggling to make it work for you, chances are there is still much more to learn. What steps will you take next to make social media work for you?

About the Author

Rita Zamora is an international speaker and published author on social media marketing and online reputation management. She and her team provide experienced social media training, mentoring, and support for clients across the globe. Rita's advice on managing your online reputation was published in the American Dental Association's Practical Guide to Expert Business Strategies. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado with a bachelor's degree in business and marketing and has over 20 years experience working in the business of dentistry. Learn more at RitaZamora.com.

References

1. Social networking fact sheet. Pew Research Center website. www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet. Accessed March 26, 2015.

2. Top 15 most popular social networking sites, April 2015. eBizMBA website. http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites. Accessed April 2, 2015.

3. Zero moment of truth (ZMOT). Think with Google website. www.thinkwithgoogle.com/collections/zero-moment-truth.html. Accessed March 26, 2015.

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