Using Facebook to market your dental practice

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using Facebook to market your dental practice
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Social media marketing for dentists is about more than just setting up a Facebook page and posting occasionally. For it to work and generate business for your practice, you need to be strategic. By Daniel Warren

Social media sites are always tweaking and updating their algorithms to work out what to show people. If your dental practice has a Facebook or Instagram page, or is thinking about starting one, that’s an important point to keep in mind. Social media marketing for dentists appears to be free, fun and friendly. But you need to understand how the ‘marketing’ bit of social media works.

“Firstly, understand that Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram are all marketing to you, not for you,” says Mark Brown, director of Engage Content. “They make their money from businesses paying to either advertise or boost content. If you administer  your practice Facebook page, you are the customer. 

“You’ll get reminders all the time about how you can boost a post for a small amount of money and reach hundreds of people. It’s a good system, and works for both you and them in getting your message out.”

But it’s getting pricier. “I recently received one of those messages saying I could spend a few dollars boosting a post and my post could reach 820 people! Which sounded appealing until I remembered I already had 2500 followers on that particular page. Facebook was saying I could reach one third of my own audience for only $10. Which makes you wonder how much of my audience I’m reaching without boosting posts. The answer? Very few.”

Here’s the problem

There has been a lot of advice online about dental marketing through Facebook and other social platforms. “I say ‘Facebook and others’ because Facebook dominates the social space,” Brown says. “If you are doing social media marketing, you should be doing Facebook and then anything else. A lot of the advice revolves around having fun and connecting with people, which are both fun things to do. In fact, that’s really what you have a personal Facebook page for. But Facebook for business is a different beast.”

Facebook knows this, he says. That’s why they charge you. And will continue to do so in ever greater amounts. So if you set up a Facebook page intending to use it, rather than your own site, to connect with patients, you have a problem. Facebook owns that audience, and will charge you more and more for access to it.

Where’s the audience?

Based solely on the numbers Brown is seeing across four different Facebook pages administered by his company, an organic post nowadays only seems to reach about 0.1 per cent of the total audience. If some people share it, and comment on it, that number might go up to half a per cent or one per cent.

“Even that I can live with … sometimes,” he concedes. “I can still pay a small amount to boost my posts and get lots of clicks, likes, and various engagement metrics. Which is true … but there’s a problem with that as well.

“Ask yourself: What does it mean when someone ‘likes’ one of your posts? Does it mean that they actually, you know, like you and your practice? Not necessarily.”

Brown points out that just because that individual pressed the like button, doesn’t mean all their friends see your post. Shares or comments are given greater weight by Facebook’s algorithm. And if someone does comment on your post, what type of comment is it? “Frequently they’ll just be tagging a friend,” he says. “Have you noticed when people just write the name of one of their friends in the comment section? While that is lovely that they want to share your content with one friend, they’re not sharing it with anyone else.”

If you are doing social media marketing, you should be doing Facebook and then anything else. A lot of the advice revolves around having fun and connecting with people, which are both fun things to do. In fact, that’s really what you have a personal Facebook page for. But Facebook for business is a different beast.

Mark Brown, director, Engage Content

And is telling a friend really an interaction? Try butting into that conversation between friends in the comments section of your post. Most likely they’ll just ignore you.

Finally, there is also the problem of fake ‘likes’. Facebook has tried hard to fix this problem, but it still happens. A percentage of the people you think are liking your boosted post are actually coming from ‘click farms’. They will like legitimate pages to appear more real to Facebook. They won’t hurt your business, but they won’t do anything to help it.

Will social media get more patients into your practice?

This is the big question. “And the answer is probably not,” he adds. “It may, if used correctly as part of a well thought-out plan. But then it’s the well thought-out plan that’s getting people into the practice. Not the social media platform.”

Like any form of media, social media can help people know you exist. But even a perfectly targeted boosted post or ad is only going to get a limited result. People don’t just decide to go to the dentist based on a single ad or article.

“The trick involves regularly communicating with them,” says Brown. “If you try to do all that regular communication through your Facebook page alone, you’re just not going to reach your whole audience. But if you use social media to drive people back to your website, you have a chance of capturing their details and continuing the communication with them on your own terms.”

What social media platforms should you use?

“That all sounds like I’m advising against using social media,” says Brown. “I’m not. I’m just saying use it in a careful, planned manner, with clear objectives.”

Brown advises that the actual social media platform you use should depend on who you are talking to. If you have particular services that appeal to particular audiences, you should try and find out where those audiences are. If they’re millennials, there may be more sense in using Instagram. If you’re based in a CBD, better to use Linkedin.

“If your practice is in Collins Street or Macquarie Street, for example, you are surrounded by businesses,” says Brown. “And if you create some content about how having a good smile helps your career, then Linkedin may be an appropriate place to promote that content.”

Social media marketing for dentists is about more than just setting up a Facebook page and posting occasionally. Unless you pay a lot of money, those posts will never be seen by anyone. And if you do pay, those posts may be seen by people who will never visit your practice.

You should still use social media to market your practice, but do so in a planned way. Start out by thinking about who you want to connect with. Create content that is meaningful to that target audience. And find a way to get them back to your site, where you have some control over when you speak to them and how many people you reach. 

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