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Facebook for the Dental Practice

Issue: Spring 2011
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The opportunity to take control of your online destiny holds multiple possibilities for the practicing dentist. The most effective form of dental marketing, word of mouth, has taken on new life with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Foursquare. So how do you implement this new technology in your office? Last quarter we explained social media in a general sense. Now we will start to break it down and get into specific practices for social media.

Let me recount a real life social media occurrence that happened this morning that tied in several types of social media platforms. Every morning I do a quick scan of my social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter. This morning several people used a service called Foursquare to “Check in” to their office. Checking in involves visiting the Foursquare Web site, finding an establishment from a list of those nearby (using GPS technology of the phone), clicking that establishment, and leaving a comment. In essence this check in is saying “I am here now” and “this is what I think about this place”

Their “checking in” then shows up on my Twitter feed and I can see who is doing what and where. You are probably asking, “ How does this help a dentist?” I now know who works down the street and that they are active in social media. The fact that they are active means they may be more responsive to social media contact. I then went over to the ad center on Facebook and constructed an ad for the company down the street.

I find out that 400 people who work there are on Facebook. I can now target advertising to 400 people at a reduced cost instead of using the “shotgun” approach of traditional advertising. The saturation level will be very high with these 400 people – and the price will be kept low due to the
small numbers.

As you can see, different types of social media can give you insights into your advertising. Foursquare tells me where people are and what they are doing. Twitter spreads this information out to people that wouldn’t ordinarily know this information. Facebook then allows me to reach out to these people in a nonconfrontational way and get them in the office. Pretty amazing. So lets talk about some real world implementation of social media. We will start with Facebook.

Facebook recently reached 500 million users. Users in every age range, class, color, and creed have joined Facebook. Over 50% of the entire US population has a Facebook page. Let’s look at this from a marketing standpoint. Does any one television channel, radio station, or newspaper reach 50% of the population for over an hour a day? This may have happened in the 50s, but not today. Traditional media is so fractioned that no one outlet can reach out to the majority of the population. Look at the information Facebook gathers about its users. They have birth dates, E-mail addresses, place of work, interests, known associates, education, and the list goes on. They can use this information to effectively target marketing.

Once you have a thriving Facebook page, stay active. Post something at least twice a week.

When starting Facebook as a dentist, the question of privacy comes up quite often. Many dentists want to protect their privacy but still gain visibility for their office. There have been several news stories about privacy breaches within Facebook. Most of those breaches were not breaches at all. The users did not change their privacy settings. They left all of their information out in the open for the taking. It is quite simple to change privacy settings and should be the first thing you do when you start working with Facebook. Privacy settings can be set where no one can find you and they cannot see what you post. They can be set to remove your name from the Facebook search. In essence, you are a Facebook ghost. Facebook only really requires an E-mail address and a birthdate to start a personal profile. You don’t even need a picture. The initial profile for a Facebook account must represent a real person and not a business. Fake names are not permitted. California has even outlawed falsified profiles.

Dentists should create their own Facebook profile even if they don’t plan on running a social media campaign. They will need to use this profile to claim ownership of all social media efforts. The dentist should have complete access to any profile and retain all passwords. Imagine if a staff member has all the passwords and controls a Facebook presence and then leaves on bad terms. Who controls the Facebook presence of the practice? You guessed it; the angry ex-staff member.

Dentists should also have personal profiles because building a Facebook presence usually starts with friends and family. It always helps to get the ball rolling with people that you know. Once a personal (initial) page is established for the person or persona, a business page can be created. The business page must be managed by personal profiles and will be admins of the page. A business page can have multiple admins. Many dentists have their staff run the page as admins. The page must be created from the dentist’s personal profile so they are the original admin and can never be removed. The business page will be the best representation of the practice on Facebook.

Many people ask, “What do I post on our practice business page?” The answer is “everything!” Start out by informing people about your practice. Share links to your Web site and your local search profiles. Google will provide you with a link to your profile from the search result. Links to blogs make great material for sharing. They add a little spice to your links because the topics are always changing, but it is your own material. Pictures also make for great business page fodder. Pictures naturally catch the eye and users can actually “tag” people in the picture. Users can also be tagged in videos as well. Videos are one of the most powerful things that you can post on Facebook. A video can really tell a story about your practice and can pack in a lot of information. Many dentists have had success answering frequently asked questions in video format, recording patient testimonials, and using videos to teach. The use of portable video recording devices has made recording videos easier than ever. The Flip camera can record videos quickly and upload them to the Internet in a flash. When it comes to subject matter, think about what you already know. Think about questions that people ask all week in the dental office. In fact, write them down as they happen. This will help you write content later on. Many of us get the same questions over and over, “Will bleaching work for me?”… “Are tooth-colored fillings better than silver?”…and the most recent topic…“Are we getting too much fluoride?” Use these hints to post good content. Write a blog post, record a video, or take a picture to illustrate then post it on Facebook. Save excess content for a rainy day. Twenty photos of your office should be released a couple at a time over a period of time. This will make it easy to always have something to post.

A Facebook page should never be a replacement for a Web site, but it does have some advantages over a website. A Web site visitor will come in; look around; and hopefully make an appointment. Most often they will visit and go without leaving a trace. When someone becomes a fan of a page on Facebook they have opened a line of communication. Any time a new post is added to the business page, people who like the page will be updated.

Building a fan base is the next big step when building a Facebook fan page. Start out by “advertising” your Facebook page at your office. Put up signs or posters about your page on Facebook. Add links to your Facebook page in your E-mails and on your Web site. Facebook has several great tools that you can add to your Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/badges/. Chances are, over half of your patients are on Facebook, and so they should be happy to connect with you there.

Once you have 25 Likes on your Facebook page, claim your vanity URL. A vanity URL is the Web address of your Facebook page, i.e., www.facebook.com/dentistrichmond. The URL can be claimed at http://www.facebook.com/username. Try to claim a name that is rich in the terms that people use to search for a dentist in your area, i.e., “Boston dentist” or “Cleveland dentist.” The URL is the first thing Google sees so a well-designed URL may appear in search engine results. A custom URL will also be much easier to share on business cards and Web sites. It will also be easier to remember.

Try using Facebook ads. As we mentioned before, Facebook ads can be targeted to very specific audiences. A recent study showed that Facebook ads were the most effective way to gain more “Likes” for a page. Remember, a Like means an open line of communication with a patient or potential patient. You can also use Facebook ads to direct people to your Web site or reputation software. Facebook ads are paid, so be careful and set a reasonable budget before getting started.
Once you have a thriving Facebook page, stay active. Post something at least twice a week. An easy way to do this is to use an application named “Networked Blogs.” This Facebook add-on imports your blog automatically to your Facebook page. Your weekly blog can now go directly to your Facebook page. Another great application to use is Tweetdeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com). This program allows you to update multiple social media profiles from one interface. It is a great tool for those using Facebook and Twitter. Make your Facebook page give value to your fans. Give them good information even if it isn’t your own. Make them feel that it is to their advantage to join your page.

Many people don’t realize that the profile picture for the page is a big part of the first impression. The picture can actually be up to 180px X 540px. This is a large picture! Always use a smiling face in the profile picture. Potential patients will make more a connection with a person rather than a logo or a building. Many people create a composite picture that shows all three. Remember to always have a person in the picture, even if it is a group shot of the staff.

These are some of the basics of Facebook business pages. More in-depth instructions can be found in “Social Media for Dentists” at http://www.socialmediadentist.com.