IN SEPTEMBER OF 2008 I attended an event in Las Vegas called Blogworld & New Media Expo. It was the second time this event was held, and social media’s popularity was just beginning to emerge. I remember truly sensing a revolution in the making. Some of the people around me were tweeting. I had no idea what that was… And when I checked into it, frankly, I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. “How on Earth could this be useful,” I thought.
I opened an account anyway (because I didn’t want to feel left out) and became approximately the 16 millionth registered user with this first tweet:
Little did I know at the time that from that day I would be inspired, fueled, and consumed by this new media revolution—and in particular, its application to dental marketing—for the next 5+ years.
In preparation for a recent speaking opportunity I asked myself, “If a dentist asked you to list the three most important things you’ve learned about dental social media marketing, how would you reply?” As I worked to answer that question I distilled, and distilled. Here’s what I came up with…
1. Today, ALL Dental Marketing Is Digital Marketing
Dental marketing has changed forever. In the old days, consumers had limited choices, limited places to buy goods and services, limited messages to pay attention to, and they believed advertising. Not today.
People don’t pay attention to traditional advertising anymore. They “opt in” to the messages they want to receive. And according to a recent Nielsen study, 84% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices as second-screens while watching TV. I’m one of them. I can’t remember the last time I watched TV without a second screen in my hands… Whether that was my laptop, iPad or smartphone. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I watched live TV and sat through the commercials. Maybe you’re the same way.
Your patients and prospective patients constantly move between the online and offline worlds. And social media has become DEEPLY embedded in this very fluid space.
Regardless of how someone first hears about your practice, marketing your practice almost immediately becomes digital and social. If someone recommends your practice over lunch, or receives your direct mail postcard, the first thing that happens is the smartphone comes out of the purse and your practice is checked out. Even when you make a treatment recommendation inside your practice, patients will use social media to ask their trusted friends about those recommendations—and about you.
A pediatric dentist and client of ours, Dr. Mitzi Hines, recently wrote us a note about this very thing. “We get new patients from social media, but that’s not the best part. There are lots of people out there who are looking at our Facebook page to find out what we’re ‘really like’ before they bring their son or daughter in for their first visit. Whether they hear about us from a referring dentist or from other advertising, we know almost everyone is ‘checking us out’ on Facebook.”
Which brings me to the second important thing I’ve learned about dental social media marketing…
2. Social Media Favors Small, Local Businesses—Like Your Dental Practice
Nike has 17,000,000 Likes on their Facebook page. But typically when they post content the amount of interaction they get is proportionally low. When they recently posted about a half marathon, 684 people Liked the post and 70 people commented… Which at first glance seems pretty good, until you do the math. As a percentage of their fan base, very few people Liked the post and an even smaller percentage commented.
Contrast that with a dental practice example where the practice asked their fans to guess the date when their hygienist would deliver her baby. 21 people Liked the post and 68 people commented. Again, when you do the math, you begin to see the significant difference between the proportional level of interaction on big corporate pages vs. small business pages.
Small businesses—like your dental practice—are relationship based. Big corporations aren’t. And this brings me to the third thing I’ve learned about dental social media marketing.
3. Effective Dental Social Media Is About People, Not Media
Whoever started using the word “media” to describe social media really messed it all up for everyone and made it all very confusing. I understand what it means to be in business, and the importance of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing spend. But while big businesses earmark tens of millions of dollars crunching numbers in an effort to attribute some arbitrary dollar value to a fan, savvy small business owners seem to already “get it”. They intuitively understand the monetary value of having strengthened relationships with their customers… Especially given the tiny amount of monetary expenditure necessary to maintain and strengthen those relationships.
When you use social media as a stage for communicating your own unique practice story, through people, and through valued relationships, profound and unexplainable changes start to happen. For small businesses—like your dental practice—social media provides a simple, systematic way to reinforce to your patients, members of your team, your community, and to YOU, that what you do each day matters. That dentistry isn’t just a commodity. That the way you practice dentistry each day makes a difference… Which in turn strengthens relationships, trust, loyalty, referrals, case acceptance and patient retention.
Effective dental social media marketing in the future will belong to those dentists who care about other people, who are awake to the opportunity dental social media marketing provides, and who believe in their gut that better relationships matter. Embrace what this revolution can do for your practice. Embrace what this revolution can do for you personally.