WE’VE NOTICED SOME WIDESPREAD, DISTURBING TRENDS lately when it comes to dental and orthodontic practices using Twitter. There’s a HUGE disconnect between objectives, tactics, and desired results.
(illustration courtesy of Hugh MacLeod)
Innocent, Learning Curve Mistakes Are One Thing, But…
There is a bit of a learning curve to using Twitter effectively. Some aspects are not very intuitive. There really aren’t any rules set in stone either—so, over time, you will develop a Twitter “style” all your own. However, there are still some smart rules of thumb to follow when you define Twitter objectives for your practice.
The problem is we’re seeing (what appears to be) bad Twitter advice for dental practices coming from website development companies and/or SEO-centric consultants. Best case… These well-intentioned service providers simply don’t have enough social media experience or background to offer good advice. Worst case… These not-so-well-intentioned service providers are taking advantage of many dental practices’ social media naiveté.
Another Bad Twitter Example In Dentistry
Important Note: We’re not trying to be mean spirited. Honest. Including this specific example isn’t meant to criticize a particular practice or advisor. It’s just a good general example to help illustrate the point.
A couple of days ago, we got an email notice that the practice below was following our @SocialPractice Twitter account. As always, we’re excited and appreciative when somebody follows us, so the first thing we did was carefully look at who it was in an effort to learn from them, strike up a conversation, or provide help in some way, etc. We noticed that the practice had very recently signed up on Twitter (October 17th), and that so far they had tweeted three times. Great!
Then, We Glanced At Their Stats…
Yes, we know. Stats aren’t everything. In fact, sometimes they really don’t mean much of anything. However, in cases like this, they tell a story:
Really?? Surely You’re Not Serious!
So… You’ve been on Twitter two weeks, you’ve tweeted three times, and now you have over 2,000 meaningful relationships established on Twitter? Wow… You’re even “listed” 12 times? What incredible awesomeness!! Not. Gimme a break.
If the practice created this scenario as a result of their inexperience, then we totally understand. It’s OK. They just need some guidance. But if an outside marketing resource created this scenario for this practice, shame on you. You don’t “get” Twitter at all and you’re misleading your client.
Twitter Is NOT Traditional Mass Marketing
Seth Godin (serial entrepreneur dubbed by many as “America’s Greatest Marketer”) puts it this way:
“First, ten. This, in two words, is the secret of the new marketing. Find ten people. Ten people who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you… Those ten people need what you have to sell, or want it. And if they love it, you win. If they love it, they’ll each find you ten more people… Repeat… This approach changes the posture and timing of everything you do. You can no longer market to the anonymous masses. They’re not anonymous and they’re not masses. You can only market to people who are willing participants.”
Just because you opt-in to some goofy Twitter “auto-mass-follower/following-scheme” doesn’t mean anybody is listening. Real Twitter conversations only take place one-to-one.
It All Comes Back To Twitter Objectives
When some practices begin using Twitter, their first question is often, “How can I use Twitter to promote my dental or ortho services!?” As with all social media strategies, the better question is probably, “How can I use Twitter to connect with my patients, learn about their needs, build loyalty, befriend new patients, and become a better business!?”
The dental practices getting the most traction from Twitter are the ones sharing interesting content and engaging in conversations with both their patients and others in their communities.
Two Primary Objectives
In our humble opinion, Twitter serves two primary objectives when used by a dental or orthodontic practice:
- To build relationships with prospective new patients in a practice’s geographic area of influence through meeting, befriending, and starting conversations—one-on-one, one at a time.
- To drive practice awareness and gain viral momentum over time through the relationships and conversations that are created.
In addition to these two primary objectives Twitter has some secondary benefits:
- An at-your-fingertips resource for relevant, current, live content and ideas practices can use in their marketing, and in online conversations with patients and prospects.
- The ability to drive additional views to a practice’s blog, Facebook page, and other social media tools.
- Some soft-sell potential, once a practice has achieved some critical mass.
- There are even a few practices out there talking about how they’re encouraging their patient base to follow them on Twitter, and then they’re using Twitter to fill open spots in their schedules at the last minute (and at a 10% discount), etc.
- Access (you would not otherwise have) to influencers.
- Personal learning. Must everything you learn from Twitter or talk about on Twitter be dentistry related? Absolutely not.
Twitter And Geography
Looking down through the lists of “Followers” and “Following” on this account, you’ve got to ask yourself… If these are people that this (North Carolina based) practice is following, do they expect that their next patients will be coming from Israel, Amsterdam, and Montana? If not, are they following them because they are trying to learn things from them that will make them a better practice?
On the other hand, if these are people in Israel, Amsterdam, and Montana are followers, what’s the point? They’re likely NOT looking for a North Carolina based oral surgeon, and based on the three tweets they’re likely not following to learn or connect. Go figure:
You CAN Do This RIGHT!
With traditional marketing you used to write a check to the direct mail company or billboard company (for example) and then forget about it. Twitter (and all social media marketing) is participatory. It doesn’t need to take a lot of your time—but it does take a little bit of your time. And if you invest that little bit of time, it will absolutely come back to you. Just exercise a little patience and be consistent.
Don’t Be Seduced By The Counter
But, be aware of it. You don’t want your ratio of followers to people you’re following WAY out of balance. The reason? One of the first things people look at in your Twitter profile is how many people you are following and how many people are following you back. There should be some parity. If you are following 1,000 people and only 23 are following you back, you will appear as though you do not understand Twitter and perhaps you are just using it to spam your stuff. It is better to grow those two numbers together (approximately).
Now, make a goal to find, follow, connect with, and befriend five, REAL local people each week. You can do this!
Ready To Get Serious About Twitter And Social Media Marketing?
Do you want to learn how to effectively use social media in your dental or orthodontic practice from people who specialize in social media—instead of from web development companies and SEO-centric consultants who seem to be jumping on the social media bandwagon? If so, call us. It’s the right time to keep your practice on the leading edge and to take advantage of social media marketing. We look forward to visiting with you.