Should your Dental Practice be using Instagram?

Should your Dental Practice be using Instagram?

There are so many social platforms and only so much time and effort, so Instagram may not seem like the obvious choice for a dental practice when it comes to online marketing. It may seem like a frivolous platform made for selfies and pictures of dogs, but even massive companies are now using Instagram successfully to market their services or products visually.

Is Instagram Worth it?

According to the 2016 Fortune 500 Instagram Report, 250 major brands now use Instagram, twice as many as in 2013. In fact, if you count brands that are parented by those 250 companies, use of Instagram by business outclassed Twitter and Facebook for the first time ever in 2016. If Fortune 500 companies can leverage the platform successfully, so can your dental practice.

The Dental Side of Instagram

A picture can take the place of a thousand words. Dentistry is by nature visible – it’s all about the smiles. Dentists can use this platform to boost their online visibility, show off their patient’s smiles (with their permission, of course) and draw in audiences with positive, emotion based content that helps them associate dentistry with happiness and fun.

You can post many types of images to Instagram besides patient smiles. Consider the following as a jumping off point to start implementing Instagram as part of your marketing strategy:

  • Images of your office space and procedure rooms
  • Special offers for aesthetic options like Invisalign
  • Images of your staff participating in community events and charitable functions
  • Patient and Hygienist of the month

Don’t Forget the Hashtags

Like Twitter, Instagram is hashtag heavy – even more so than Twitter, because multiple hashtags are encouraged on each post. Tags like #dental, #dentalcare, #dentist, and #dentists are obvious choices, but also try more generic, fun terms like #smile. You should also be using geographic hashtags to draw in people specifically from your coverage area.

Need More Ideas?

Track some of the big brands and see how they are leveraging Instagram. They spend millions on advertising and marketing every year, and sine they are using Instagram more than ever, their approach is working.

Southwest Airlines was an early adopter of Instagram, taking advantage of the shift to mobile. Southwest targeted travelers, and encouraged them to share their pictures from vacations or business trips, then turning around and re-sharing their stories on Instagram and Twitter. This is easy adaptable from images of amazing destinations to images of amazing smiles.

Starbucks, another early adopter, still holds the top brand slot when it comes to interaction on Instagram, and is in second place for raw follower count. Their 2012 Behind the Scenes campaign met with massive positive reactions, and dentists can take a leaf from their playbook and share the “real stories” of what goes on in the office.

Fortune 500 companies continue to hold down the top slots in various categories; the most “popular” Instagram account is Nike, the most “impressive” one is Publix, Footlocker has the most avid followers, and Disney makes the best Instagram videos.

Should you Filter?

Filters are used much by the big brands, but they can be ideal for a dental practice to boost the fun factor. Consider a filter of the day and post images of as many patients and staff members as possible, or ask patients to post their own images using their personal favorite filter. When you post without a filter, hashtag #nofilter and see even more interest.

Advertising on Instagram

Advanced features on Instagram offer a pay-to-play option, with three different selection. You can use plain photo ads, which are simple and inexpensive to run, and encourage viewers to call your office for an appointment. You can create video ads and talk directly to your target audience. You can even create an entire gallery of photos and upload them as a carousel for smartphone users to swipe through.

Get on Board with Instagram Today.

You can start using Instagram today, and build your account up month by month. Don’t miss out on this Fortune 500 favored platform – it could do your practice a world of good!

Four Things Your Dental Practice Should Be Doing on Facebook

Your dental practice is on Facebook. You are trying to stay abreast of best practices, and tie your offline and online marketing plans together into a cohesive whole. But are you really leveraging Facebook to the fullest extent possible?

In 2016, these 4 methods can help you increase your practice’s online presence, and give you an actual return on investment when it comes to the time and money you are spending on social media marketing.

Go Back to Basics

Your Facebook Page is best leveraged when it is complete. Does your practice page have:

  • A completely filled out “Page Info” section, including a short and long description?
  • A tagline that evokes the image you want your practice to have?
  • A beautiful cover photo that matches the rest of your branding?
  • A call to action, encouraging visitors to call your practice?

Making sure your Facebook Page is always correctly updated and kept looking fresh is one of the first steps towards success.

Show, Don’t Tell

If there is anything that is certain about social media, it is that nearly every platform is making the shift to be more visual. Sharing images of your practice, your team, and your patients (with permission, of course) can be the single greatest thing you do on Facebook this year.

Visual content already makes up the best performing posts on Facebook; in fact:

  • Posts with images receive 94% more views than posts without. [1]
  • People retain 65% of what they see online if it is accompanied by an image, compared to 10% of text only posts.[2]
  • Infographics get shared on social media 3x more than other kinds of content. [3]

Facebook makes it easy to show instead of tell.

Start Paying to Play

While Facebook’s early appeal was that you could build a large organic online following for your practice with only a time investment, everyone knew eventually the platform would monetize. Facebook’s Power Editor allows you to:

  • Run campaigns to raise brand or local awareness, or increase website clicks and conversions on your practice website.
  • Target audiences based on location, age, gender, interests, and familiarity with (or no knowledge) of your practice.
  • Tailor campaigns to your budget, and test campaigns or ads against each other for effectiveness and ROI.

Stay on Top of Changing Best Practices

Finally, stay abreast of the latest news from Facebook regarding potential marketing options and preference given to types of posts. Things changed significantly in 2016, including a continued shift away from organic views, a battle between text and visual content (visual won), and better Facebook Ad experiences, including an updated Ad Manager and a comprehensive Power Editor.

In 2016, things will change yet again, with plans in the works for:

  • Live streaming video (great for real time updates when your practice team is participating in community events).[4]
  • Instant Articles. This tool is still in beta, but dental practices may soon be able to take advantage of it to publish fast loading informational content that loads instantly on mobile – the device of choice for more people every year.[5]

Follow these four steps to increase your practice’s reach, visibility, and conversions in 2016. Facebook can be one of the most powerful online marketing tools at your disposal, but only if you commit to using it to your advantage. Start revising your strategy today and see how much better 2016 can be than last year.

[1] Blog post about visual content. KissMetrics website. Published August 2015. Accessed February 1, 2016.

[2] Article about Facebook content trends. Social Media Today website. Published December 2013. Accessed February 1, 2016.

[3] Blog post about visual content trends on social media. Published February 2015. Accessed February 1, 2016.

[4] Article about Facebook Live Streaming options. Forbes website. Published January 2016. Accessed February 1, 2016.

[5] Article about Instant Articles. Instant Articles FB website. Published November 2015. Accessed February 1, 2016

Your Dental Practice & Facebook Ads

Whether you are an old hand at Facebook, or are just getting started, Facebook ads appear to be here to stay. The rise of paid content promotion was fast and emphatic; between July 2012 and July 2013 alone, paid reach increased by 221%. Since then, many practices have seen their ROI dropping, and new-to-Facebook practices have found it harder than it might have been a few years ago to establish a foothold.

Allocating some of your digital marketing budget may be the answer, but simply throwing money at Facebook won’t magically solve everything – like any other marketing tactic, you need a plan. The first step is understanding why paid social is worth the time and money.

What about Organic Reach?

Previously, many dental practice owners found it easy to maintain an organic presence on Facebook by dint of high quality content creation and interaction. With the advent of pay-to-play social, some balked – “Wasn’t social media supposed to be the great free branding platform?”

Facebook rules have changed, however, and paid social is here to stay. The sting of the cost of promoting posts is mitigated, however, by the fact that (compared to traditional advertising strategies) Facebook ads are still relatively inexpensive – and can be remarkably effective.

  • FACT: Facebook ads are the lowest cost per 1,000 impressions ad in history, averaging around $0.25 per 1,000, which is only 1% of the cost of TV ads.
  • FACT: Paid ads are far more likely to result in action than simple views, and lead to direct results such as a potential patient calling your practice, requesting an appointment, or otherwise converting.

Facebook Ads in 5 Easy Steps:

There are five steps to effectively using Facebook’s post promotion option.

  1. Research. Your practice’s brand, your dental niche, and topics of interest to your patients should generate keywords you can use in your ads. FACT:  Buzzsumo is an excellent comparison and research tool; use it to search social media for mentions of your target keywords, and filter directly them through Facebook. This will show you what is working and what isn’t among competing practices in your area.
  2. Create. While sharing great content is fine, you also need to be bringing smoothing original to the table. Consider making short videos; after all, more than 50% of people who use Facebook every day in the US watch at least one video daily, 76% of people in the US who use Facebook say they tend to discover the videos they watch on Facebook, and videos alone accounted for 80% of all interactions on Facebook in December 2014!
  3. Target. Facebook’s “Custom Audience” feature (great for subtly reaching out to patients you haven’t seen in a while) lets you use email lists to either create a custom audience, or to exclude them if you want to reach out to a fresh, new audience using a New Patient promotion.
  4. Budget. While “promoting” a post via Facebook’s Ad Manager is a little more complex than simply “Boosting” a post, the former method makes up for its complexity by allowing you more control when it comes to targeting.
  5. Measure. A 2013 HubSpot survey revealed that 34% of businesses either cannot or do not calculate their inbound ROI at all! What are they thinking? Facebook hosts a handy conversion tracker on-site, so you can see exactly who has interacted with your ads!

Once you have these five steps figured out, all you have to do is rinse and repeat for winning Facebook Ad strategies that create a positive impact on your practice. From there, move on to other platforms that have instituted a paid social model – Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and other platforms are close on the heels of Facebook and you can adapt your strategies for each platform. Pay-to-play shouldn’t be the end of your social media involvement, just a new chapter in your practice’s marketing direction!

Reaching Patients Where They Are – Millennials & Social Media

Are you and your practice reaching as many millennials as you should? They aren’t in their teens and twenties anymore. They’ve grown up, matured, and are a force to be reckoned with – and they spend more time online than any other generation to date.

Gen M is Plugged In

According to direct-response marketing company Koeppel Direct, millennials spend a staggering eighteen hours per day consuming digital media. Their news, music, television, work contacts and social set are all online – and this generation is fully plugged in and engaged.

Unsurprisingly, they spend almost a third of their time on social media, with the average user clocking an average of 5.4 hours a day on such platforms as Facebook and Twitter. If your practice isn’t right there beside them, you could be missing out on the change to target what could be your next wave of “bread and butter” patients!

Why Social is Important for Reaching Millennials

While many dentists view social media with distrust and unease, these platforms could be your direct path into the inner circle of your most valuable demographic.  The larger medical community has embraced social media – nearly 60% of physicians agree that it can be a positive and useful tool for helping the patient community – and it’s time for dentists to get on board. Millennials in particular are becoming more and more likely to use social platforms to become educated about their health:

  • More than 40% of consumers overall say that information found via social media affects how they deal with their health, according to MediaBistro. As part of the health care world, dentists are starting to recognize their ethical responsibility to ensure that those who use the internet as a resource have access to accurate, understandable information.
  • A whopping 90% of respondents between the age of 18 and 24 say that they would trust medical information shared by people on their social media networks, according to Search Engine Watch.
  • Almost as good, 60% of social media users are more likely to trust posts by medical professionals over any other group, according to a report by Infographic Archives.
  • Finally, nearly 20% of smartphone owners now have a health based app on their phones, according to Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group. (Amazingly, the number of health based apps for iPhones alone exploded from under 3,000 apps in 2010 to over 13,000 apps in 2013!)

Tips for Reaching the M- Genners

Social media can be a powerful tool – but only when used correctly, and in tune with your target demographic’s behavioral tactics. Being present, listening, and providing solutions all beat out “shouting into the void”, so make sure you have a plan that includes growing trust in the community and being prepared to interact when needed on a personal basis.

  1. Start conversations. Ask questions, request feedback and input, and let the millennials tell the story. Be there with input and answers of your own, when needed, but let users drive the content creation. That way other viewers see it as unbiased and trustworthy.
  2. Go mobile. Your website needs to be accessible and mobile friendly. You may consider creating an app that is specific to your practice and to your audience’s needs. According to the Pew Center, half of all millennials report using their cell phones as their primary form of internet access, so take this opportunity to be there for them!
  3. Use visuals. Millennials are more visual than almost any generation so far, according to Wideo, with Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest being interaction hotspots for image based content. 9 in 10 millennials use social media sites, 8 in 10 post their own photos to the web, and 1 in 3 Pinterest users is a millennial female.

Whether millennials are the parents of your pediatric patients, the target demographic for your general practice, or the future patient base of your cosmetic and implant based office, reaching out to them and building those trust filled relationships should start now. By showing that you are comfortable in their world, you can invite them into your own!

4 Myths Stopping Dentists From Using Social Media

Dental practices and social media may not seem like an obvious paring at first. Your childhood dentist almost certainly didn’t have a Facebook Page, and you still may not be able to find your local Endodontist on Twitter. For many in scientific or medical fields, social media may seem silly and superficial. However, these lighthearted platforms are where most of your patients spend a large amount of their time – and you might be surprised about things you think you know about social media that are in reality not correct at all!

Persistent myths abound when it comes to social media, discouraging professionals from dipping their toes in the pool and thus depriving them of a valuable resource. Let’s take a look at four of these myths – which, when examined more closely, should be seen as reasons your practice should be on social media, instead of deterrents from participating.

Myth 1: Serious Professionals Don’t Use Twitter and Facebook

Facebook and Twitter are where a large segment of the American public “hang outs” – but that doesn’t mean professionals should steer clear; in fact, unless your target demographic is not “the public”, it’s exactly where you need to be. Many in medical or scientific fields think of social media as an unprofessional place to hang out, and opt instead for the more business oriented atmosphere of LinkedIn instead. This is often unproductive; LinkedIn is more focused on job networking, and unless you plan to only treat other dentists in your practice, you should be spreading your net wider.

Sure, Facebook may have started as a misogynistic joke between college fraternity brothers. However, today it’s a sought after platform by 80% of the Fortune 500. Twitter has the same level of reach among top companies, with 83% holding accounts, and 8 of the top 10 can be seen to Tweet almost daily.  Is your practice bigger or more professional than General Motors, JetBlue, or Nike? No? Then you can feel secure in following their lead.

Myth 2: No-One does Important Research on Social Sites

Hang out on any social media platform, and you’ll see plenty of cat videos and images of restaurant meals. However, it’s also a place where people routinely seek the advice of their peers on more serious matters – whether it’s which crib to purchase for their newborn or what dentist offers conscious sedation for cleanings.

People don’t shun social when it comes to serious matters – in fact, the National Research Corporation recently published results from a survey in which over a third of respondents said they have sought health advice from peers on social media. A hefty 45% look for health information on social sites as opposed to scholarly medical sites. Finally, a staggering sixty percent said they rate their experiences with providers on social platforms.

This means social media could be the perfect place to position your dental practice as the purveyor of all things good when it comes to information. You have a sterling opportunity to reach out to those seeking information, and provide solutions!

Myth 3: Social is an All or Nothing Affair   

Many dentists hesitate when looking at social media because they’ve been told they need to “blanket” the web with their presence. When faced with the admittedly daunting task of creating and getting accounts up to speed on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube, and Instagram, who can blame a practice for being a little commitment-phobic?

Ignore the marketers who say that you have to have a finger in every pie. All that will garner you is a bunch of half-baked profiles. Instead, pick one platform – usually Facebook or Instagram (especially if you’re an Orthodontist or Pediatric Dentist) – and master that platform before trying others. Start by thinking: “What platform do most of my patients use?’ ‘This may be different than the one you personally prefer for recipes and crafts (Pinterest), but it’s probably the one you should start with. If your dental practice can learn how to effectively leverage a single social network, adding a second (or third) will come naturally and have a higher chance of success as well.

Myth 4: You Have to Budget Extra for Social

Social media is too expensive, say many practice leaders, adding that directing more money into marketing just isn’t possible. However, there’s a big difference between social and traditional advertising when it comes to staying power – while a TV or radio spot is gone as quickly as the check is written, most everything you build on social supports the next move.

If you don’t have extra dollars to add to your ad budget, consider redirecting a small portion of funds and create a plan to aggressively track ROI and measure results. Half of social media comes down to planning and analysis, just like any other type of marketing campaign.

You won’t be alone if you start budgeting for social. Social media has exploded on the digital marketing spend front in the past five years, and is expected to expand by 126% over the next five.  This alone should go a long way towards convincing you to find the money and time required to drive some form of social marketing.

Don’t let myths keep you away from social media. Used properly, social can be a powerful tool to provide potential patients with accurate information, reassurance, and confidence – and your practice will reap the rewards!

Is Your Dental Practice’s Content Getting Noticed?

content marketing for your dental practice

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 edition of Dental Economics

Getting your practice’s content published is only half the battle; getting it actually READ is the other half! While creating and publishing high quality content for your practice is a priority, knowing how to get it the attention it deserves is just as important.

If you generate high quality content that no-one sees, you’ve proven that you know your industry – but you’ve proven it to an empty house. Is spending time and money on content creation really worth it?

According to HubSpots’ State of Inbound 2014 Report, the answer is yes. Companies with the highest ROI focus on blogging, organic search, and content amplification, which means they are making content work for them. How do they do it?

The answer: They leverage every possible outlet for engagement, relying on the nature of social media to bring in viewers and creating not just full length articles, but snackable, shareable content that is easy to promote and interact with.

The blueprint for successful content marketing has three steps.

Step One: Plan

This step requires answering two questions before you every write (or commission) each piece.

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What are their questions?

If your audience consists of parents of pediatric patients, they will probably be more interested in how to prepare their children for dental visits than the specifications of your latest piece of equipment. If you have millennials as a target demographic, they want to know why they should spend money on preventive dental care even when they don’t currently have any specific “dental issues.”

Step Two: Create

The content you create needs to be adapted for each platform. Starting with a full length blog post or article for publication is a terrific first step – but think bigger. Each longer piece can be repurposed for different social sites:

  • Take each main point and turn it into a short, snappy “tip” for Facebook (and link back to the source!)
  • Pull out relevant issues and hashtag them in 140 characters or less for Twitter. A slightly longer text can be created by Google+, and you can add an image.
  • Infographics can be created and shared on Pinterest.
  • Use a quote from the article laid over an image of a staff member or patient (with permission!) on Instagram.
  • Don’t forget mobile. Creating short, easy to grasp, and visually strong content is vital to grab and keep the attention of those viewing your content from a hand-held device.

Step Three: Engage

When you share your content, don’t just throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. Invite people to share their own thoughts, give feedback, or visit another one of your profiles for more information. Twitter can lead back to a Facebook poll; Pinterest automatically clicks through to the source; Facebook can be a teaser for your practice blog. Use a call to action (CTA) in every possible situation.

Ask what kind of content your audience would like to see. “Tell us” is an easy two word phrase that has amazing power to inspire feedback on social media. Don’t forget to listen to what they say – you might not have thought of doing a quick overview of toothpaste brands or tooth whitening options. This gives you a chance to create a short comparison article explaining why you recommend the one your practice offers.

Set up a regular thread every week for questions, and select one or more to expand into a full length blog post. Have a wildly popular post that generates even more questions? Do a quick video as a follow-up to keep riding the wave of interest. Switching formats keeps your audience involved and captivated.

Creating an audience for your content takes time, so don’t be discouraged. Build your social networks, feed followers your content in appetizer sized bites, and then point them towards the buffet. Don’t forget to track every piece of content on every platform, and note what works and what doesn’t. Content marketing done right has amazing ROI, and your practice deserves the best!

What Social Media Can (and Can’t) Do For You

Jumping into the world of social media marketing can be exhilarating – there’s so much to learn, and so much to do. The thrill of seeing your social accounts grow and interactions pick up can quickly wear off, however, if you don’t see the results you really need. How do you determine what social can do for your practice, and how can you make those results a reality?

Social Media isn’t Magic

The first step is understanding what social media can and can’t do. It’s definitely not a magic wand you can wave to watch all of your marketing issues disappear in a puff of fairy dust. No matter how much time and money you throw at Facebook or Twitter, they aren’t going to replace your entire marketing plan. However, they can definitely be an asset. Let’s take a look at what social media will do for you, given the right amount of attention and care.

The Will List

  1. Social media will provide a monitorable, manageable location for people to talk about your practice. Make no mistake, people will talk, with or without you – so making sure you have the opportunity to join in and direct the conversation is crucial.
  2. Social media will create more visibility for your practice online. If your properly build, maintain, and monitor your social profiles, they can become additional positive results on internet searches – the initial impression people get of your practice when they “Google” you should always be your website followed by your social profiles.    .
  3. Social media will allow current patients to rave about your practice. Facebook’s review system provides an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand format for patients to comment on your practice and for you to review feedback.
  4. Social media will let you find out about potential issues and deal with them in a timely fashion.  Unhappy people use Twitter and Facebook as sounding boards when they are displeased, so monitoring social platforms for hints of dissatisfaction gives you the opportunity to reach out and make things right.

Don’t be scared of that last item. It’s actually a GOOD thing. No-one and nothing pleases every single person all the time. People will judge your practice based not only on how many good things patients say about you, but on how you handle the rare occasion when someone says something less than flattering!

Now, let’s look at the things that social media simply can’t do for your practice, no matter how many hours or dollars you spend. Understanding these limitations up front can prevent you from getting frustrated when miracles do not occur!

The Won’t List

  1. Social media won’t immediately start generating a dozen new patients per week. Social media is a “slow and steady” kind of race winner, and the likelihood of gaining new patients directly from a visit to your Facebook Page is unlikely. However, many practices are hearing more and more patients confide that they did look the practice up on Facebook before calling for that appointment, so it can be a tipping point in your favor!
  2. Social media won’t be glaringly obvious when it comes to ROI, especially at first. It can take several months to a year to grow into an understanding of how social media is benefitting your practice, since its effects can be subtle and more supporting than directly visible.
  3. Social media won’t replace SEO or suddenly get your practice ranked online for generic keywords – while this was a hoped for result in the early days of social, it never came to pass, and your social profiles are more likely to stand on their own than to provide a boost to your website. Depend on them to provide further confirmation of your practice’s stability and add to its good name, instead.

Managing your expectations and knowing what to expect from social media helps keep the shiny from wearing off after a few weeks. Commit to the long haul when it comes to social, understand what it will and won’t do for your practice, and focus on maximizing its benefits for your practice. It’s worth it!


The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – Reputation Management for Dentists

It is the age of digital media, and whether you like it or not, your practice is online. Even if you shun social media, that doesn’t stop users from talking about you or from reviewing your practice on sites that scrape your name and location from business listings.

Since you can’t control the entire internet by avoiding it, let’s look at what you can do. By stepping in appropriately online, you at least have a chance to participate in and hopefully direct the commentary about your practice – by offering transparency and accountability to your patients and potential patients.

If you haven’t participated online up to now, a good place to start is Facebook. You can create a Business Page for your practice, and start asking patients to review you. (As you wade deeper into the digital world, you’ll find more platforms to explore, such as Twitter; and more review sites to monitor, including Yelp, but we can use Facebook as a template for handling your online reputation.)

There are several different kinds of reviews you can get on Facebook, which allows both a “star based” system (1-5, with 5 being excellent) and commentary. People can use the review system directly, or they can post to your wall with observations and without using stars.

Good Reviews

The best kind of review, obviously, is a five star rating accompanied by a glowing personal story of exceptional customer service and clinical care provided by your practice. These reviews are worth their weight in gold; they are better for your practice than any amount of paid media.

Nearly as good is a post to your Page with positive comments about a specific staff member – dentist, hygienist, office manager. A photo of your patient with a great smile is also a great vote of confidence for your practice.

Neutral Reviews

A neutral review is a high star rating with no commentary. It’s good in that it keeps your overall rating high, but not so good in that it appears that the person reviewing didn’t feel passionate enough about their experience to write a few words about it.

Bad Reviews

As the saying goes, you can’t please everyone. No matter how flawlessly you perform, eventually someone will have an unfavorable reaction, and the web is the first place that person will probably go. They don’t really feel like confrontation (if they did, they would have spoken up at the time of service, in your office) but feel perfectly safe (and justified) in venting their frustration in front of an online audience.

A bad review can be low star ratings, angry commentary, or both. Again, a star rating alone doesn’t carry as much weight as a comment – it’s not good, but it’s not as bad as it could be; after all, the patient didn’t feel strongly enough about it to rant. In case of a low star rating, sending a private message to the poster of the rating asking how you let them down and what you can do to remedy the situation can go a long way towards resolution and a change in the rating.

Comments however, are where real action is needed. When a patient posts a disappointed or angry comment online, there are several things that need to happen:

1.     You need to know about it.

If you don’t know about the bad review, you can’t even try to fix it. Being aware of what is said about you on the web is the first step you can take towards reputation management. Check your social media accounts frequently, and set up Google Alerts or use a social media management system like HootSuite to alert you when your name, or practice name, comes up online.

2.     You need to take a minute.

A knee jerk reaction to an ugly post is the worst thing you can do. It simply adds lighter fluid to an already burning fire, and can send the situation completely out of control. Get over your shock, your hurt and your anger, and then react in a controlled manner.

3.     You need to have a plan.

Someone needs to be in charge of responding, and that person needs to act quickly and decisively. If several people take turns monitoring the web, have the game plan for reputation management in case of crisis laid out and accessible.

4.     You need to act.

Once you’ve been alerted to the existence of a bad review, given yourself a minute to adjust, and refreshed your memory as to the game plan, you need to take action. The following is a list of steps to take, which can be adapted to fit almost any situation.

Carefully read the complaint and dissect it, listing each point and noting whether or not it is valid (if you, or any of your team members, dropped the ball, be honest!)

Start a visual file. You should screenshot the review as well as your response and all subsequent interaction, in case something gets deleted.

Don’t delete. The temptation to simply delete a complaint or hide reviews may be strong, but you don’t have control over third party platforms and the poster will simply become angrier and take their review to Yelp or another platform where even more people will see it.  (Exception: Foul language is grounds for deleting an angry post; but in such cases make certain you reach out immediately through private channels.)

Keep it real. A response should have two components: an apology and a solution.  Posting a non-apology is one of the worst things you can do!

Look at bad reviews as opportunities. They exist, therefore you have to deal with them – moaning doesn’t help. You have to deal with it, so why not deal with it in such an amazing way that the poster changes their mind about you and agrees you are pretty fantastic after all?

Start by owning up. If you did something wrong, admit to it. Say you are sorry, and mean it. Ask what you can do to make things right, and follow through. 99% of the time, the angry person simply wants to feel that they have been heard and taken seriously.

Maybe you didn’t do anything wrong. If the complaint is something you are 100% certain isn’t your fault, see if you can “fix” it anyway. Maybe the insurance company sent them a bill by accident, and they thought it was your fault. Bend over backwards to help, even if it isn’t your job to rectify the issue.

Be transparent, but respect their privacy. If their issue involves personal details that could be covered under HIPAA, let them know you would like to handle the matter privately for their own protection.

Follow through. If you are fixing their issue, give them a number or an email address they can reach you at, and stay in touch with them throughout the process. Let them know they are important and that you are committed to making things right.

A happy patient who leaves a happy review is great. An unhappy customer who is converted into a happy one is amazing.

You may be wondering – do online reviews of your practice really make a difference? How much stock do people put in online reviews, anyway?

The answer is – quite a lot of stock. The digital world is where the new word of mouth is, and people trust their online peers to give honest opinions. This is particularly true in the health industry.

Reviews can actually have a dollar amount attached to them, representing how much the review is worth. Dell recently published an internal study in which they assigned an actual monetary value to both their customers and online interactions:

  • Worth of average Dell customer: $210
  • Estimated extra revenue thanks to online promoter: $32
  • Estimated revenue lost due to online detractor: $57

A bad review could damage your practice almost twice as badly as a good review benefits you. That’s why asking patients for good reviews, and doing your best to turn bad ones into glowing recommendations, is so important. Make it a New year resolution to pay more attention to your online reputation, and add value to your practice in 2015!


Is Your Dental Practice Creating Content Worth Sharing?

There are a lot of steps to take to get your dental practice into the digital age. The competitiveness of the dental industry has never been more apparent than now, when people have usurped the advertising industry by inviting dentists into the spaces where they spend the majority of their online time.

The famous internet saying “Content is King” still applies – to all kinds of content from the quality of your practice’s website copy to the engagement factor of your blog and social media posts. When you take your dental practice into the oft intimidating world of digital marketing, precise missions and goals can be difficult to define. Which social platforms should you use? How often should you blog? What exactly is the point?

The main stumbling block for practices when getting started with social media is figuring out what the end result should be. There is a difference between performing an action, and seeing the action produce a positive result!

Publication is the action. Having the published content create a visit to your website or the conversion of a visitor into a patient is the desired result. With social media, there may be in intermediary step – a viewer liking, commenting on or sharing the content. Of these three possibilities, a share would be the most attractive result; putting your content in front of yet another group of people exponentially expands your audience and potential patient pool.

How do you get people to react favorably to your content and interact appropriately with it? There are six secrets to creating great content that promotes sharing.

  • Relevance. Many dentists make the mistake of posting on social media as if they were speaking to a group of colleagues. Fellow experts your field may be intensely interested in the technology behind the latest bit of equipment you have acquired, but the average patient is more concerned with how the machine will impact their next visit – will it make it faster? Less invasive? More comfortable?
  • Audience Specific. All dental patients are not the same. A parent looking for a pediatric dentist for her nervous child has a different set of concerns and questions than a senior seeking dental implants. Tailor your approach to speak to the benefits of your practice’s specialtie(s) to your target demographic.
  • Multimedia. Every study shows that while the posts that have the most impacts may switch from images to text only to link posts and back again as platforms like Facebook change their algorithms, a mix is always best overall. Surprisingly, the simplest options are often the best – an emoticon, for example, can sharply boost engagement and even a bland call to action can yield surprising results compared with posts that neglect to add one at all.
  • Cross-posting. Don’t get married to one platform, but don’t try to do every single one right away. Start with the basics – Facebook / Google+ / Twitter – and learn how to adapt content that works well on one platform to appeal to the viewers on another. Track trending hashtags on Twitter, learn to create image collages on Facebook, turn to G+ for polling options, and stay connected to what is working and what isn’t from platform to platform.
  • Gamification. This isn’t as sneaky as it sounds. Gamificatioin is simply turning some of your social media posts into fun, interactive experiences. Post a funny image of yourself and ask for a caption. Create a collage and request feedback on which color you should paint your new reception area. Play “who is the most popular” in a group practice and have patients vote on their favorite dentist or hygienist.
  • Repurpose content. That caption request can turn into a gold mine for future posts. From the initial post, as people deliver their witty comments on your funny expression, pick four of the best and create a collage for voting on. Meme 1 against Meme 2; Meme 3 against Meme 4; winners against each other for a sudden death match. The final meme can be customized with your practice logo and promoted. The wealth of user generated material resulting from one silly image can be spun out over the course of weeks.

Without high quality, interactive content, the only way to keep your practice visible on Facebook to more than a fraction of your followers is to “Pay to Play”. This can rapidly become expensive, and isn’t as effective as organic shares on Facebook. Creating “shareable” content, on the other hand, inspires viewers to share your practice’s Page out of sincere interest – making social media into the digital version of “word of mouth”.


Social Media and Marketing To Women

Is your practice using social media to its best advantage? Are you missing out on the most important demographic you could be targeting via social media? Not all users are created equal – and when it comes to social media, you might be missing the point with the most critical audience of all.

Women are the Biggest, Best Users of Social Media

Women outnumber men on every single social media platform except for LinkedIn – which is admittedly less of a social media site and more of a career networking platform. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest – they all have more female users than male users.

According to Pew Research Center, women also use social media in different ways than men do. Women:

  • Log onto social media sites more often
  • Consume online news more prolifically
  • Interact with brands more readily
  • Are more likely to take online commentary into consideration when making purchasing choices.

While men are more likely to use social media for business and for dating, women use it as a resource for much more. They use social media for support, for information, for socialization, and for self-help. They depend on their social media networks to help them make decisions, from what sunscreen to buy for their toddler to which dentist to use.

According to ExactTarget, women are far more likely than men to “follow” a brand on social media to stay abreast of current offers and new products. Brands are more likely to get an interactive response from women than men. Women also are more likely to “crowd-source” opinions and reviews before making a purchasing decision – and social media is the perfect place to do that.

This means that when you market on social media, you are talking to more women than men, and women are more likely to be influenced by what you say to and show them. Fleishman-Hillard Inc. estimates that women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade. Doesn’t it make sense to market to women?

Social Media FAIL

Sadly, the way that brands engage with women often falls flat.  For example, the car industry fails across the board at marketing to women; a recent study by Hello I’m Venus revealed that:

  • Nine out of ten women surveyed felt that car manufacturer ads were targeted for men
  • 75% of women said they do more research on car buying than their partner
  • A full third made the final decision on which vehicle to purchase
  • 90% of women, when asked if advertisers understand them, said “No.”

Microsoft recently launched a new “All-In-One” PC and tablet and targeted women in ads that focused on a female stereotype – a bride gushing over how her new tablet was just perfect for planning her wedding and checking Pinterest. Other companies insist in “pinking up and dumbing down” products to somehow “appeal to women” – from handguns to Bic pens, changing the color and shrinking the size is often deemed sufficient and the brand considers its job of marketing to women done and dusted.

So how do you use social media to effectively market to women?

Social Media WIN

When brands step back from the usual stereotyping and tropes commonly used when marketing to women, they find much greater success.

Pantene showed that the brand understood the double standard by debuting an ad that showed men and women behaving almost identically in similar situations – and captioned each photo with descriptive text: “He’s persuasive” vs. “She’s pushy” and “He’s smooth” while “She’s a show-off”. The ad concluded with the reminder “Don’t let labels hold you back.”

Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign has been drawing in women since 2004, with better ads and online campaigns every year. Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” sparked a collaboration with Getty Images to create a visual library showcasing women in every walk of life – working moms, female bosses, military team members and more, living realistic lives. Hello Flo demystifies girls’ and women’s bodies with campaigns that treat periods realistically, instead of a chance to wear tight, white jeans without fear.

How does Your Practice Talk to Women?

How do you translate all of this information into helpful tips for your practice? Here are a few dos and don’ts you can incorporate into your daily social media approach, to target the US’ most powerful consumer group effectively.

  • Do assume women are intelligent. (Women are 33% more likely than men to achieve a college degree by age 27!)
  • Don’t assume women like pink. (Fun fact: Until 1940, pink was considered a boy’s color, and blue – being calming – was thought more appropriate for girls.)
  • Do recognize that women come in different colors, shapes and sizes. (The only “trend” your patient photos should reflect is an amazing smile!)
  • Don’t assume all women want a man (or a baby, or a wedding). It’s fine to run an ad for tooth whitening for brides to be – but run one for women getting ready for that business meeting, too.
  • Do listen to what the women who interact with your brand say and share. (They know what they want, and they are eager to tell you!)
  • Don’t focus on physical beauty as the main reason women seek dental care. (Sure, everyone wants a great smile – but women are practical, and being able to chew takes priority.)
  • Do use analytics, insights and and reporting on the social media sites you utilize to familiarize yourself with your female consumer base.

Look at the women actually using your practice, and think about ways to reach more women like them in your day-to-day social media campaigns. Monitor the questions women ask on your social media pages and create great content to answer them. Listen to what women say and they will tell you what is important to them.

If you can make women say about your practice: “They understand what is important to me!” You’ll be miles and miles ahead of 90% of your competition. Social media is a fantastic tool for marketing to women – you just have to use it correctly, with the end goal in mind.