Despite the constant upgrades by Facebook and the emergence of Google+ as a power player in the online social space, Twitter is still maintaining its slot as one of the most effective and user friendly social platforms in existence. How do you take Twitter to the next level and turn it into a powerhouse for your practice?
We’ve collected the most effective and productive ways to leverage this amazing resource – starting with the easiest concepts and working up to pro-level Twitter tips designed to position your practice as the local community leader for dental care and information.
Start at the beginning – by creating a strong, professional profile for your practice’s Twitter account. The new Twitter profile guidelines allow for a wide “header” image accented by a smaller “profile” photo or avatar – similar to the latest Facebook Page headers.
You’ll need to include your practice name, physical address, and website url; and don’t forget a unique phone number that will allow you to track all calls that come into the practice by way of your Twitter account. This is inexpensive to set up, and is a perfect way to measure the ROI of your time and financial investments in Twitter.
Spend a little time during your first week as a Twitter user following local businesses, authorities in the dental world, vendors, and so on. Search hashtags like #dentistry and follow appropriate accounts. Retweet high quality content, and mention like-minded users. This will kickstart your Twitter account and it will grow slowly but surely if you assign even just a few hours a week to maintaining it.
Carefully consider your posts. You have 140 characters, and it’s tempting to use every single one – but if your Tweet is 98 characters, don’t force it to be longer. Research group TrackSocial reviewed 100 of the top brands on Twitter and found that Tweets around 100 characters work best; so less can be more, even on Twitter! Remember, you’ll need room for links and hashtags.
Tweets that include an image are more likely to be looked at, favorite and retweeted than Tweets without an image. It’s best to utilize images that tie directly to your practice, patients and staff. Include photos shot at local community events, at your practice’s open house, of patient smiles (with the appropriate releases having been signed) and of team members (did hygienist Josie get a rad new hairdo? Show off that purple streak!) You can even include the occasional meme with a funny dental oriented tagline – but be careful to keep the overall tone professional, even when you are being funny!
Include links as well. Every tweet is an opportunity for showing how good you are at anticipating your viewers’ preferences, wants and needs – if you consistently direct them to terrific content, they will come to trust your judgment and look forward to seeing you in their Twitter feed.
Hashtags are yet another item to include in your Twitter content. Two hashtags is optimal, but on occasion one or three may be most appropriate. Look for trends that you can legitimately comment on, or use more focused hashtags like #DentalTips.
The worst thing you can do on Twitter is be boring, so continually ask yourself – “If I wasn’t a dentist, would I find this interesting at all?” Just like any other social media campaign, your practice Twitter feed should consist of industry related content; offers and / or promotions; community PR; and humor – with calls to action used liberally. Don’t go for the hard sell – a continual stream of pure advertising is the best way to get those in the Twitterverse to push you right back out of their feed with no second chances!
Advanced Twitter Tactics
Interact with others on Twitter. This is extremely important; Twitter is a social platform, and if you aren’t being social, you’ll quickly fade into the background. You can introduce yourself to other users by “mentioning” them using their “Twitter handle” – such as “@TheirTwitterName, thanks for providing the extra help at @JacksonDentalGroup’s open house last Friday!”
You should also monitor your inbox for Direct Messages and answer them as needed. Some will be spam; some will be important. Don’t use DMs to reach out to others unless you have a very good reason (such as replying to a DM sent to you, or if there is a private matter to be discussed which isn’t appropriate for an open Tweet). Twitter users are quick to unfollow and block businesses that send out mass DMs to ask followers to Like their Facebook Page or visit their website, so don’t be tempted to use the Direct Message function as an advertising tool.
Monitoring your Twitter feed and all DMs (Direct Messages) is a must. People are discovering that they can get fast, attentive results when they bring a complaint or concern to Twitter, so have someone assigned to the task of checking in at least twice a day to see what is being said about your practice.
A simple search for @(YourPracticeName) can show who is talking about you so you can respond – either with a quick “thank you” for a nice comment or swift and appropriate action in case of a consumer complaint. If someone is mentioning you repeatedly and is upset, reach out directly via DM and provide an email / phone number and a specific person to be their contact and resolve their problem.
Keep the Social Contract
There is a social contract on Twitter, just like every other social platform on the web. Recognize that behavior you personally find annoying online is behavior you should probably steer clear of when creating posts for your practice’s feed or interacting with others.
You should also participate in the fun side of Twitter (albeit with an eye to professionalism). Throwback Thursday (#TT) is an opportunity to share a picture of yourself in kindergarten; Follow Friday (#FF) is a chance to mention fellow Twitter users by name and encourage network building, and #Caturday Saturday means a picture of a cat in the dental chair.
Finally, make a shortlist of Twitter power users to watch and learn from – not just other dentists who have built their practices’ account into a thriving one, but even experts in other fields who have learned to use Twitter effectively and engagingly. The Twitterverse is vast, but with a little effort you can become comfortable in a corner of it and start reaping the rewards of being social online!