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My view: Social media is more than social media

March 16, 2015
Burkett
Travis D. Burkett, D.D.S.
In today’s world, it seems like everyone is on social media, including my 85-year-old grandparents. There are over 1.6 billion people worldwide on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, including over 200 million Americans. Social media has become the No. 1 activity on the Internet. It is real and it is here to stay.

Many businesses (including dentistry) are trying to reach out to these people with online marketing. The rules of social media marketing are different from more established, conventional marketing such as the Yellow Pages, billboards, and direct mailing. The secret to social media is more social than media. Your practice’s page or profile has to be likeable and engaging. Your practice must also maintain a thoughtful balance. Post too much dentistry and people stop caring. Post too many videos of talking dogs and your professionalism and credibility suffer.

Dental practices love the low cost of social media but most don’t put in the time needed to fully maximize it. Successful social media marketing requires effort, discipline and conviction. Our practice has a full-time marketing director, Robin Dunaway, who spends at least one hour a day making and responding to posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The more time and effort you put into social media, the more benefits your practice will receive. Robin uses a site, Hootesuite.com, that allows her to post on both our Facebook and Twitter accounts at the same time. The posts made from Hootsuite can be posted directly to Facebook and Twitter or scheduled for optimal times during the day or week.

People yearn for connection, humor and hope. Everyone loves photos and videos. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Photos are the main reason Facebook is so popular. They can tell stories and show emotions that words cannot. Your practice also needs to be authentic. We have found that more people engage with pictures that we have taken, compared to posting professional stock photos.

Social media is about engagement and interaction. Consistent, fresh content is a key to dental social media marketing success. Your patients don’t want to read generic posts about the importance of flossing. Instead, ask a fun question about flavored floss or flossing routines that your patients have and make sure to be a part of the conversation. If you do anything for your community outside the practice, share it online. It shows that your practice cares about the community and gets people talking about you. Patients who tell their friends and family about your practice tend to have a greater level of trust and will ultimately refer more.

Find your own unique ways to excite your patients. We offer contests and giveaways. We’ve raffled off Bedlam tickets [Oklahoma Sooners vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys] and given free whitening to the patient decked out in the most Oklahoma City Thunder gear. Don’t be afraid to show off your practice’s unique personality. You have to be yourself and interact in a way that gives you a sense of comfort.

The main key to social media is getting your content to as many users as possible. On Facebook, posts can be “boosted” which means they will be seen more as paid advertisements. The posts, when “boosted,” can be targeted by zip codes, gender, age, etc. Using the analytical tools within Facebook pages or programs such as Hootsuite can maximize the reach of your posts.

Social media can really magnify your practice — in good and bad ways. It makes your practice vulnerable to the public. It is important to respond to every comment, especially negative ones. People want to know that their input is valued and respected. Quick responses make people feel important. So before you open up yourself and your practice to the virtual community, ask yourself: “Will I like what everyone has to say about me?”

When dealing with social media: Would you like your own practice if you found it on Facebook? Would you want to follow it on Twitter, or take time to view its photos on Instagram? How truly sociable is your practice in the virtual world?

This editorial, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of the ODA Journal, the publication for the Oklahoma Dental Association. Dr. Burkett wrote this as a guest columnist.