Taking Twitter to the Next Level

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.

Account Setup

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.

Posting Basics

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!




Honesty: How Providing Quality Content Will Grow Your Practice – Part II

In our last blog post, we looked at how being honest and transparent pays off for dental practices by being open with patients and instilling trust for the dentist.

We touched on the idea that patients first and foremost are worried about how much dental care will COST –  making honesty and transparency about that specific topic extremely important.

We also explained that even though your patient may think cost is a tremendous factor in their final decision, you can’t run your dental practice based on adjusting your cost to match the competition. Instead, you have to adjust the patient’s thinking – by showing them that cost isn’t as important a factor as VALUE. You close the deal by showing them exactly what kind of value they get by choosing your practice rather than the cheaper dental center down the road.

The best way to address this? Your content.

The content you create and share online is one of the fastest, most effective ways to disseminate information about your practice. You have plenty of opportunities to show how honest and transparent you are!

Answer as many Questions as Possible

Start with your website and your blog. You can answer a LOT of questions with clear, comprehensive posts! Listen and brainstorm. Think of the most asked questions you hear from your patients and prospective patients, and create a list of headlines that address those questions.

  • ŸWhat is … ? Many patients may have been told they need a specific kind of procedure, such as a root canal. You can answer questions about different types of treatments with articles such as “What is a Root Canal?”
  • ŸWhy does … ? Other patients my question why a certain procedure may be advised, such as sealants. Answering the question “Why does my child need sealants?” gives you the opportunity to explain the procedure’s benefits as well as what parents can expect for their kids.
  • How much … ? Once again, the cost question. Of course you can’t give an exact price without seeing a patient, but it should be no problem for you to answer “How much is a wisdom tooth extraction?” with a range of fees. Many dentists AVOID this discussion entirely. When was the last time you purchased something without asking about the fee? Patients don’t have a ‘dental budget’ so anything above $0 is an unplanned expense. People don’t buy what they don’t understand. More importantly, people don’t accept treatment without asking about the fees. It is a reality of dentistry. Accept it. Your website should provide basic information and your team should be experts at both answering fee questions and explaining value. It’s crucial to success.

Present Your Practice as the Answer

You can also consider other keywords to target by imagining what a prospective patient looking for dental care might “Google”. Incorporate these into Call to Action (CTA) headlines then reel in patients with your reasons why you are the best and can provide them with what they want and need:

Ÿ  Finding a Board-Certified Periodontist in Atlanta, Georgia for your Dental Implants

Ÿ  Choosing An Experienced Boston Pediatric Dentist for your Child

Ÿ  Find a New York, NY, Cosmetic Dental Practice Offering Conscious Sedation

Presenting you and your practice as the answer is easy when you tell people what they need, then show them that YOU are the who, how and where they are looking for!

Address your competition

If you’re in an area with a variety of other dental providers (and most of you are), a potential patient is likely to do research comparing your practice to others. Get a step ahead by mentioning your “competition” on your blog and/or your social media posts. Many dentists express concern about the rise of “corporate” dental chains, but do little to clearly outline the difference their practices’ offer using their digital channels. You don’t have to be ultra negative – just find something you offer that they don’t and point that out. If you don’t want to mention them by name, that’s fine – a Facebook post that emphasizes the difference between “you” vs. “them” can get the point across without slinging mud.

Does your current dentist pamper you? We will! Our fresh coffee and tea bar is always available – you don’t even need an appointment, just drop by East Cobb Dental Group on your way to work and we’ll top you off!

Ÿ Looking for a dental practice that listens to YOUR concerns and creates customized treatment plans instead of taking a cookie cutter approach? Our open door policy means you can always schedule a free consultation with no obligation – and don’t forget to drop in to one of our Google Plus Hangouts every Thursday evening from 6-8 PM EST as Dr. Jason answers all of your dental care questions.

Answering your patient’s questions honestly (and in great detail) is the number one thing you can do to grow trust for your practice. It really is the best policy!

Honesty: the Key to Changing Patients’ Thinking about “Dentists” – Part I

What do you think of when you hear the words “dentist’s office”?

As a dentist, you probably don’t see the words as intimidating at all – but to the average person there’s often an automatic negative reaction – whether it be because of a bad experience as a child, a phobia, or just fear of the unknown. This leads to many people putting off dental care, and being extremely hesitant about making an appointment or following through with treatment.

The mysteriousness of the typical dental office doesn’t help. A patient calls to make an appointment and asks what might be involved – and gets what they feel is a run-around. “Well, we can’t say without actually seeing you, sir- the dentist will need to evaluate you.”

This leads to more feelings of doubt and distrust, even though the practice appointment scheduler isn’t trying to dissemble; there’s no way a diagnosis can be made over the phone, but the patient still feels unsure and wary.

So, how does your practice overcome this overwhelming knee jerk reaction to the idea of visiting the dentist, and convince patients that a trip to your office is something to be welcomed rather than feared?

The answer is simple – honesty.

In his spectacular Ted Talk “The Honest Economy,” Marcus Sheridan talks about how CarMax revolutionized the world of used car sales when they managed to convince consumers to let go of their negative pre-conception of a “used car salesman” (oily, sleazy, and out to trick you).

CarMax accepted that their entire industry up to that point had been run incorrectly, and set about changing the approach to make consumers trust them – by providing trustworthy, verifiable information about the vehicles, their pricing, accident and maintenance histories, a five day return policy, and so on. Used car buyers now see CarMax as honest and trustworthy.

Even McDonalds was able to turn their image of being “unhealthy fast food” around by starting to include the caloric content of each value meal right on the menu board under the pricing. Of course, the caloric content of the food is still the same – that is to say, not exactly healthy – but the perceived honesty of the company makes consumers more likely to say they “trust” McDonalds and they are more likely to visit the restaurant because it has “earned” their trust.

Dentists can adopt this “honest economy” approach for dentistry. Rather than being afraid to answer questions over the phone, on your website, or through your social media pages, answer them – in great detail! – instead. You can do this through several approaches:

Ÿ  Your team. Whoever answers the phone or fronts the reception area should be able to discuss possibilities of treatment and pricing openly and honestly with patients. Have printed materials available for waiting patients to peruse and don’t be afraid to talk about “ifs”.

Ÿ  Your website. You can answer so many questions right on your site, including the cost of procedures, the recovery time, the methods you use to keep patients comfortable and the type of pain management you provide.

Ÿ  Social Media. You can constantly share information and tips on your Facebook Page. The more information you give your potential patients, the more likely they are to trust you.

Let’s talk about the cost of care for a minute. Since dental insurance is hard to come by, and hasn’t kept pace with the actual cost of care (meaning out of pocket costs even for the insured) this is often one a chief concern for patients.

Many dentists don’t want to share any cost of care information, even in conjecture, before an appointment – because what if the patient thinks the amount is too high and calls another dentist? Alternately, what if you quote a lower estimate to sound competitive, and when you actually see the patient  they require much more work than expected and they feel that you weren’t honest?

The short answer to this is that, as Fred Joyal eloquently points out in his own treatise on transparency, if your dental practice is competing solely on price, you’re definitely doing it wrong. Your practice doesn’t just offer procedure “A” for cost “B”. You have to include “C” – that elusive something that your practice offers – but your competitor doesn’t. “C” is what your brand is all about.

Sometimes, “C” is as simple as just being willing to TALK to your patients. If they feel like they are getting a ballpark idea of the cost of their various options, even with the understanding that a dentist will have to see their mouth to make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, they appreciate the honesty and transparency.

In our next post, we’ll look at ways to utilize this approach of honesty in all aspects of your practice, including your content creation and social media plan

Is Your Dental Practice Showing the Love?

What kind of relationship is there between your practice and your patients (past, present and future)? As with any relationship, communication is key – but how you communicate could mean the difference between a “one night stand” and a lasting love story for the ages!

Data from Responsys shows that an orchestrated consumer experience is the key to building a lasting practice / patient relationship. When every interaction is about making the patient happy, they know you care and the feeling slowly becomes mutual.

Is your communication methodology up to par when it comes to cultivating long term relationships? Here’s what the data can tell us about what patients want:

Patients Love to be Wooed

Just like the box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers, giving your patients that extra something special “just because” can have a significant positive impact on how they feel about your practice!

  • ŸNearly 75% of all consumers surveyed say they can see themselves in long term relationships with brands that offer rewards for customer  loyalty.
  • ŸNearly 60% say they sometimes choose one provider over another simply because of a special offer or targeted marketing they have received.
  • ŸHowever, less than one third of consumers say that the brands they love send them offers or promotions that interest them. What a waste of an opportunity!

Your practice can take advantage of these facts by offering new patient specials, existing patient discounts, incentives for patient referrals and so on. Be careful, though – one size does NOT fit all and many patient / practice “break-ups” occur because of poor communication (sound familiar?)

Send the Right Messages at the Right Time

An extremely large percentage of consumers leave even a well liked brand due to overly aggressive or poorly targeted marketing.

  • ŸOver a third of US adults say they stopped using a product or service due to the brand sending them a constant barrage of content that was in no way pertinent or useful to them, that was disruptive or that was poor quality.
  • ŸOver half of those adults say the brand in question sent these message over and over on multiple channels.
  • Ÿ33% of consumers say they have stopped using a brand because the marketing was too “generic” and appeared to be mass produced instead of tailored to their needs.

You can make your marketing more effective and less disruptive by carefully sorting your patients into groups and targeting each group according to their needs, past experiences, recent interactions and future worth to your practice.

Don’t let your love affair with your patients wither on the vine. Court your patients carefully, with respect and devotion (no stalking!) and you’ll see a significant improvement in long term relationships for your practice!

Check out this terrific infographic for more on brand / consumer relationships:

Is Your Dental Practice’s Ad-Spend Producing Results?

Often, it isn’t the amount of money you throw into your marketing campaigns that makes the difference — it’s the amount of smarts.

The latest Superbowl is a fantastic example of this — the brand that created the hugest amount of buzz didn’t even buy a minute of the insanely expensive and coveted airtime during the game.

Instead, they wove their message about cost savings into a deliberate cost savings maneuver of their own — by airing this thirty second spot in the first slot AFTER the big game. By taking the after game commercial spot instead of the halftime spot, Esurance saved 1.5 million dollars — roughly 30%, which is the average cost savings per driver advertised by the company itself.

By staying on message and letting their company’s actions tell the story — albeit through the vehicle of wildly popular “The Office” star John Krasinski — Esurance managed to produce an amazing amount exposure for their brand.

While the thirty seconds of airtime lasted only — well, thirty seconds — the reach of the Esurance ad was stupendous. People took to Twitter in droves to Tweet their message — #EsuranceSave30 — hoping to win that self same $1.5 million.

Since Esurance is a web based insurance product and the target market is the younger, media savvy crowd more likely to buy such a product online rather than going the traditional route of an agent with a brick and mortar office, Twitter was the ideal vehicle for a social media win.

If Esurance had done “Promoted” trending on Twitter, they would have had to spend an estimated $2-3 MILLION to get the amount of exposure the got ORGANICALLY from getting people to tweet their hash tag. Follows skyrocketed as well; Esurance started out the week with less than 10K followers, compared to their parent company, Allstate, with over 40K. By the end of the week, Esurance was clocking in at over a quarter MILLION followers.

The lesson for your dental practice?

  • Real time marketing WORKS.
  • Honest messaging WORKS.
  • “Pay to play” advertising isn’t the only game in town anymore.

Combining paid advertising with organic social messaging PAYS OFF BIG.

So, how do you identify YOUR target market and where do you reach them? Your goal should be to attract people — who aren’t all necessarily ready to be “patients” yet, but could be in the future — and get them to like you, to follow you, and by doing so to agree to receive messages from you.

Social media is perfect for that. As for advertising, should you stop using it? Of course not — but remember that what plays on TV or the radio may only last for 30 seconds. By integrating your traditional advertising with a social media “hook”, you can increase the ROI of your ad-spend and reach many, many more people.

What can your practice offer via traditional advertising that can translate into interaction on social media? It’s time to think outside the box, and start making your ad-spend pay off.

Oh, and here’s the follow-up video of Krasinski actually giving away the $1.5 million on the Jimmy Kimmel show!

Lord & Taylor Failed…Make Sure Your Practice Doesn’t Make The Same Mistake

I keep waiting for the day where my customer service success stories outnumber the failures! Here’s a recent failure and how you can prevent something similar from occurring in your practice.

On a recent trip back east, I realized the evening before my meeting that I hadn’t packed an appropriate “business watch.” My sporty IRONMAN triathlon watch certainly wouldn’t send the right message for the client I was visiting. Women always notice the details and I wasn’t about to loose credibility with the office team for having the wrong watch on. I stopped in to Lord & Taylor hoping to make a quick purchase.

The young woman working the jewelry counter was helping another woman select from several different watches. There was an unoccupied clerk at the jewelry counter nearby. I stood for nearly 25 minutes before even being acknowledged. I realize the clerk was engaged with a current client, but to not even be acknowledged was frustrating. There wasn’t another store nearby or I would have left. Unfortunately, I was in a situation where I needed what they offered and I had to wait. Upon concluding the transaction with the other woman, the clerk merely quipped “Is there a watch you want to see?” No apology. No “I’m sorry for the wait.” Nothing. I purchased the watch I selected and left with a very bad taste in my mouth. I won’t be back, but much more importantly, I told everyone in the practice the next day what a bad experience I had. And they represent viable consumers in that Lord and Taylor’s target market…

There are patients visiting your practice on a regular basis with “emergency” needs. If they are made to wait, for whatever the reason, without an apology or acknowledgement from your team, they’ll leave with the same bad taste. If they are ignored upon entering the reception area because your administrative team is busy assisting other patients, they will leave with the same bad taste. Sure they won’t walk out of the chair, you have the solution to their immediate pain. Rest assured that the negative word-of-mouth they will be sharing in the community will do much more damage to your practice’s reputation than you think. They might not have been your definition of an “ideal patient”, but one of their friends certainly could have been.

It’s all about the “little things”…

I’ve been a Hilton Diamond Member for many years and spent thousands of dollars at their hotels. And yet, this little “Guest of the Day” certificate and mug of treats made me feel like I really mattered to this Hilton property in North Carolina. Your patients probably won’t remember your clinical credentials.  What they will remember are the “little things” that you and your team do, before, during and after their visit to the practice. I’m amazed at how many practices I visit that don’t consistently do the following three things:

1. Have the doctor place a brief introductory call to each new patient two days before their first visit.

2. Send a handwritten thank-you card to every new patient after their first appointment.

3. Nominate and contact a “patient-of-the-week” just to thank them for being a patient.

Remember, your patients want to know that they matter to your practice. Clinicians are sometimes more inclined to write a “big marketing check” before they look within at the little things they could do to stimulate new patient flow and increase patient retention. Start practicing these three simple things and watch the difference it can make in your practice.

Real Beauty For Pizza?

Domino’s Pizza launched it’s “Real Beauty” campaign for pizza this week…Read the full article here. The campaign includes a website called Show Us Your Pizza where you can upload pictures of your freshly delivered Domino’s for a chance to win $500. They’re doing two things: 1) Trying to show that their pizza doesn’t need to be “retouched” to look good and 2) Effectively engaging customers with an effective web/social media strategy.

What about a “Show Us Your Smile” campaign? Wouldn’t it be great to have patients upload their own smiles along with those of friends/family etc. While the jury is still out on the success Domino’s will have, Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty has proven that the female consumer is far more responsive to REAL people. Use those pictures in your marketing materials and I’ll bet it will make a powerful impact with both new and existing patients.

Do your patients and your advertising say the same thing?

She-Economy is one of my favorite resources when it comes to effectively marketing to the female consumer. We’re reminded in this post that using social media as a tool to reach women is only as good as knowing how to use it correctly. You already know that “what a consumer says about your brand is far more important to other consumers than what a brand says about itself.”  So, if you’ve got a website that says your practice has “Convenient Evening and Weekend Hours”, but the posts/reviews on your Facebook page are from patients saying things like “I know you guys are closed, but I really need to have someone call me back about an appointment this Saturday” or “I had a dental emergency on a Friday afternoon and I couldn’t get an appointment until the following Tuesday” there will certainly be a disconnect. Sure, the reality of the situation is that the posts may not tell “the whole story”, but patient perception is reality. And social media has now given people the ability to share frequent feedback in an instant. What’s the lesson? Before you advertise something, make sure your social media channels will support the message. People will always believe other posts (true or not) before they believe your advertising messages…

You Need Google Analytics…Yesterday

Google Analytics are a FREE tool that allow you to monitor your website’s performance and improve ROI. Everyone should have them installed on their site. You need to know what your website “does” before you start making changes or investing in web marketing/social media tactics. Get them today!