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Social Media and Dentistry

Issue: Fall 2011
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Social media has taken off in dentistry! Dentists all over the country are starting to learn the benefits of social media and the new marketing opportunity it presents. This is not a phenomena restricted only to dentists. Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike are finding the benefits of social media. So is it all hype or is it a real opportunity? Just like any other marketing effort, some will have great success while others will flounder. Let’s talk about some successful dental cases and what they are doing right.

Web video can also be shared across many formats. Video is great to share on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Videos can also be embedded on Web sites and blogs, making them nice showpiece for these sites.

First of all, lets start with one of the most basic rules of social media. Personalize your office. Social Media marketing is never a hard sales pitch. Social media allows us the opportunity to present our office as a group of real people. Potential patients like real people! A potential patient will feel more comfortable coming into your office if they feel that they already know you. One office that has taken this to heart is Omega Dental Care, the office of Annelle Soberay, D.D.S. They have embraced the “fun” aspect of social media, and it has paid off. Fritz Soberay, who manages their Facebook page, relayed to me that they have gained several new patients from their page. They also have a photographer take a new set of practice photos every month. These photos are then used on their Facebook page,
and they make Omega Dental Care look like a very fun place to visit!

They have a good time with their pictures and it shows. Not only do these photos highlight the human part of dentistry, they also make for great Facebook fodder. Building a catalog of practice photos like these can be used in several aspects of social media. They can obviously be shared on Facebook all at once, but a gradual release of photos over time will give the average dentist something to post for weeks at a time. A photo session of 20 photos should be released 3 or 4 at a time. Dentists often ask how long it takes to manage social media. I tell them: “A slow release of a photo set will give you material for quite a while.” These photos can also be used on Twitter and photo sharing sites like Flickr. Photos posted to Flickr allow for great text descriptions that can be indexed by search engines and also in geotagging. Geotagging allows you to tell the search engines exactly where the pictures where taken. This activity will let the search engines know that your spot on the map is an active Internet presence. A similar service from Google named Panoramio.com is also a great place to share photos. This service will actually place your photos on a layer of Google maps. Once again, this will show Google that your blip on the map is an active spot.

Start taking your own photos now. Take as many as possible of your staff, your office, your work, and your dog. (Patients love dogs!) Building a great library of practice photos will give easy and effective material to post on social media sites. The second success story is an expansion of the first; the transition from pictures to videos. If a picture tells a thousand words, then video has to be a million! The invention of portable and easily accessible video can be a boon for any practice. Patient education has always been a big part of any successful practice and the use of online video extends the reach of any doctor’s patient education efforts. We recently worked with Dr. Don Deems of Cantrell West Dental in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was looking for a little more online visibility. We discovered that he had a knack for videos, but needed some slight improvement. He had great video content, but he was not using the power of YouTube and Google to its fullest. Many people fail to realize that Google owns YouTube, and they love to present video in search results when it is available. For instance, suppose someone searches on Google for the phrase “Gum Disease.” Google will present many Web site results, but at some point it will present a video result if it is available.

Web video can also be shared across many formats. Video is great to share on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Videos can also be embedded on Web sites and blogs, making them a nice showpiece for these sites. Facebook has also begun to filter how your posts are shown to your followers. A simple text post may be filtered out and never seen whereas a video post will be considered more important by Facebook and seen by more eyes. Using all of YouTube’s tools when creating these videos will make their use more effective when they are employed.

Dr. Deems videos were nice, but they needed some simple changes. One of which was optimizing the titles and the descriptions of his video. The simple use of a few keywords like “Little Rock dentist” and his proper business name “Cantrell West Dental” used in natural speech patterns, helped boost the page positions of his videos in search. We all know by now that having a nice position on a Google search page pays for itself. We also started to add annotations to Dr. Deems’ videos. These annotations give the viewer visual links to your Web site and your branding. They remind the user where to find you through the length of the video. At the end of any video should also be a written transcript of the video. Sure, it is nice to talk about your dental implant procedures, but Google can’t index the audio from your video. A text version of the video will ensure that Google picks up on each time you mention “Dental Implants.”

Dr. Deems’ YouTube efforts are also successful because they help unify his library of videos. When someone completes watching one of his videos, they are quickly prompted to view the next one. We like to call this his “web of influence.” He is setting up his material so that the viewer will be inclined to watch one video after another. Thus the viewer is trapped in his web of influence by listening to his messages. Now Dr. Deems’ videos are often about real-world topics. He talks about the questions that many patients have. He also finds dental news reports and relays them in his own words, with his own spin. He doesn’t need to come up with the topics; he just needs to offer a professional opinion. This is something that every dentist can do.

I will give a few words of advice about recording your own videos. 1. Smile! Even if it hurts! 2. Watch your lighting. Many mobile devices don’t do well with light, so always keep the brightest light in front of you. Don’t record in front of windows during daytime. 3. Be brief! Try to keep your videos short if possible. YouTube likes it when someone watches a video the whole way through. We don’t want people to jump ship because they get bored!

The third example I am presenting is the blog of Albert Mendez from Pittsburg, Kansas. Blogs are often overlooked as requiring too much time and effort and not getting any results. The truly wise among us realize that all the efforts we put into social media and adding content to the Internet will be a synergistic experience. Blog posts may not seem like they are individually successful, but they are a very important piece of the Internet marketing puzzle.

Dr. Mendez of Mendez Family Dental recognizes that a blog is very important to social media marketing. He also realizes two important factors. Blogs can be fun and they don’t have to be tedious pieces of prose. They can also be informative while being fun. For those of you who don’t know what a blog is, I won’t bore you with a long description. It is an online journal of sorts. More importantly, it is a Web site to which you can add content all the time. Many of us don’t know how to create or change a Web site at all. A blog can easily solve that dilemma and allow a normal dentist to create great Web site content without a lot of technical know-how.

One of the biggest new fads in marketing is the QR code. These bar codes can be scanned by most smartphones and often contain a link to a Web site, a phone number, or Facebook. A simple scan from a smartphone can lead someone to your Web site in seconds.

Why is this so important? Google is always looking for good text information on the Internet to populate its search results. A formal Web site can only showcase so much text before it starts to look like a page out of a phonebook. You have to find that fine balance of just the right amount of optimized text for your Web site. Your blog, on the other hand, could house the library of congress and still be a great resource. Even better, Google can index all that text. A nice blog could have hundreds of mentions of “Dental Implants,” “Sedation Dentistry”, or any other set of keywords. This large footprint of work will often be rewarded by Google.

Dr. Mendez does a good job of recognizing the need for a great story, plus adding the foundations needed to get a blog indexed by Google. Blog titles should be eye catching, but also include keywords that will help Google rankings. Want to have more visibility in a Google search of dental implants or sedation? Write a blog about it. Want to show up on Google for sleep dentistry in your area? Write a blog about it. Blogs are Web sites! Building a nice catalog of blog posts about a certain topic will power your appearance on Google.

By now, many of you are saying, “I don’t want to write a blog!” or “I don’t have time to write a blog.” Contrary to popular belief, blogs don’t have to be big productions. Think of 10 questions that your patients ask you every week: e.g., What are implants? Will bleaching hurt my teeth? Do composite fillings last longer than amalgam? These are all topics that you could answer in your sleep. Use these ideas to write a blog post. These blog posts don’t have to be very long and can be completed with only a few paragraphs. Don’t feel like writing? Record a video and embed it in your blog. Don’t have your own video? Find a video in the news, embed it, and write a commentary about it. All of these Web sites that host videos provide embed codes because they want you to share them! The key is to get started now. Building a great online footprint has to start somewhere.

Finally, one of the biggest new fads in marketing is the QR code. These bar codes can be scanned by most smartphones and often contain a link to a Web site, a phone number, or Facebook. A simple scan from a smartphone can lead someone to your Web site in seconds. I even posted one in the window of my office. They present a great way to easily give your information to the consumer with little effort. Many docs are starting to use them on businesses cards, T-shirts, and throughout the office. When considering using QR codes, consider the device that scans them. Your QR code should lead to something that is easily used or viewed on a mobile device. You should use a QR code to lead to your Facebook page, your telephone number, a text message, or your contact information. These bits of information are optimized for mobile devices and will have the most impact. You wouldn’t want to create a QR code to your blog or your wordy Web site. The person scanning will probably not read a blog on their phone. Only create a QR code for your Web site if it is optimized for mobile viewing. No one will read a tiny Web site on a smartphone.

As you can see, real dentists can find success by using social media. The possibilities for creative marketing are endless. Give it a try today and see what opportunities await your practice!