You’ve probably attended a few conferences or CE classes recently that told you something about why you need to be on social media. Some of you may have jumped on it, not fully knowing what you’re doing, but hey, they told you to, so you are doing it. Others may have drug their heels, because maybe you’re not a fan of social media yourself, or you don’t know where to start. Maybe you just simply aren’t seeing the benefit of social media for your practice and you’re wondering if it’s really worth your time.
Let’s start here with some basics:
Marketing & Advertising for Dental Practices
There’s a difference between marketing and advertising. Both promote your brand, but they both have different approaches.
Marketing often has a big-picture approach to telling the story of your practice. Some of these strategies may have a subtle feels to them, where the patient has no idea that they are being sent marketing messages. Often these strategies, help you to build a long-term brand identity.
Advertising, on the other hand, includes paying to get noticed. You can pay to get your name out, but when you stop paying for it, your exposure goes away. These strategies WILL cost you money, and can often yield great results. Just remember, when you stop paying for it, the branding message is gone.
Got it? Marketing strategies often focus on longterm results and brand messaging at large, while advertising is more short-term and focused on clear calls to action.
What does this have to do with social media? Well, a lot actually. Let me explain…
Much of what you’re being taught to do at your conferences leans more on the ‘marketing’ side of the coin. Building a Facebook audience of 1000 people doesn’t always equate to 1000 patients right away. What it does do, though, is build up a few core things for you that are pretty important in the big scheme of things:
- Brand Awareness: The majority of patients check out online reviews before calling a new doctor to set up an appointment. The top places to look are Google, Facebook, and Yelp. If you haven’t set up these profiles and are posting on them regularly, prospective patients think you’ve gone out of business.
- Social Proof: Social proof is simply showing a positive first impression that others in the community find value in your practice. This is where having a solid base of Facebook, Instagram, or other followers comes into play. A practice with 50 followers on Facebook will not compete well if their competitors have 500+ followers on Facebook. Social proof says that the office with 50 followers is not as nice of a practice. And remember…people ARE scoping out your practice before they call.
- Human Factor: There are a lot of practices a patient could be calling. Let’s face it, if you aren’t a highly unique specialist, you have some consistent competition. Social media allows you to exhibit some of the unique and personable side of your practice to the world.
- Loyalty: Social media is not just for getting new patients in the door, but retaining existing patients. Think about it: you might see a patient one or two times a year, but your practice can get in front of them daily on social media. The potential to build lifelong loyalty with your patients is exponential with social media today!
It’s pretty clear that if you care about the long game health of your practice’s marketing, social media makes a lot of sense. But, what about if you need to get patients in the door sooner than that? That’s where the concept of advertising comes into play.
Remember, we mentioned that advertising is great for short-term strategies, but when you stop paying, you lose that premier exposure. This can get costly in the long run, and frankly unnecessary if you’ve build up the long-term strategy as well.
Social media now offers a wide variety of paid options to reach your audience. For practices, Facebook and Instagram still offer the best option for social media advertising. While Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn all offer programs, they are costly and not always the most applicable environment for booking appointments. Facebook advertising can be run to offer new patient specials, announce a new doctor, promote content and posts that feature new technologies at the practice, and more. The best part is that these ads can get hyper-focused to target your idea patients.
So is one side of the coin better than the other? From where we stand, not necessarily. It all depends on the immediate needs of the practice, and what foundations you have in place. Often both paid and organic social media strategies working together yield the best results for a practice, but with both, you need to have clear expectations of what these strategies will ultimately be doing for you.
Want to chat more about your practice’s marketing strategy? Learn more about our dental expertise and let’s chat!