Social networking for dentists: The how and why

Remember SixDegrees? Or Friendster? Users created profiles on these early social networking sites to connect with old friends and find new ones. The sites quickly gave way to the likes of Myspace and Facebook, and somewhere in between (2003, to be exact), LinkedIn emerged with its specialization in business connections. Social media is everywhere and is used for everything. In 2016, 78% of the U.S. population had social media profiles, and 185 million people in the U.S. used social media.

It’s become a major part of our lives in every aspect: leisure, education, politics, and business all have a footing in social sites. Love it or hate it, social media has become an integral part of society on nearly every level. In little more than a decade, a majority of Americans became social media users. That use is expected to grow.

Social networks as marketing platforms: Some expert advice

In a 2014 survey, 94% of respondents told LinkedIn they use social media to market their small or medium businesses (SMBs). Social media marketing may seem daunting to some, but it’s become an important way to gain new patients, keep existing ones, and get referrals.

In an article for Sidekick magazine, Dr. Jason Lipscomb expounds on the potential of social media in dental advertising: “The great thing about social media is that word of mouth advertising is built right in. It is extremely simple to share content with another user on Facebook or Twitter with the click of a button. That is why many pundits say it is word of mouth on steroids.”

So how do you go from a blank social media page to something people are interested in? Building an audience is the first step. You can ask your current patients to follow you on social media. Some businesses use contests or special offers to encourage existing customers to “like” their Facebook pages or follow them on Twitter. But one of the most sustainable ways to gain followers is to post engaging content. A steady supply of interesting and relevant content will keep your practice at the front of your followers’ minds. That’s a good place to be when their friends ask for recommendations.

Jackson Hadley of My Social Practice explains that there’s even opportunity in something as fleeting as a meme: “The next time you see a meme and want to just pass it off as another bit of internet silliness, take a moment and think about how you could use it to share your practice culture or relate a funny aspect of working in dentistry. Just putting a smile on a potential patient’s face could be the beginning of a lifelong healthcare relationship!”

Building an audience is one thing; keeping them engaged is another. Melonie Dodaro of Top Dog elaborates on this interaction: “It’s crucial that your posts aren’t simply talking at your audience but talking to them by encouraging thoughtful response and commenting. Be sure to ask questions so people can reply to you with their concerns. When they do, you can send them messages or converse with them online about their dental concerns.” Dodaro goes on to recommend using a daily checklist to keep things manageable, setting goals like posting a certain number of tweets per day or adding a certain number of prospects to your friends list.

It’s possible to hire consultants or social marketers to manage your social media platforms. If that’s not on your radar, consider managing it yourself or assigning social media tasks to your staff. There’s no one right way to go about it.

Social networks as hiring platforms: Targeting the right people

The power of social media can be harnessed for all kinds of purposes, and that power is most effective when it’s used to target the right audience. For example, a dental practice can reach a wide customer base on Facebook because almost everyone’s on Facebook. But when they want to insource an endodontist or hire a dental hygienist, that huge audience can get in the way.

The social networking boom shows no signs of slowing down, so it makes sense that dental practice owners would use social networks for more than just advertising. For tasks like hiring, specialized platforms come in handy.

In the past decade, the Internet has embraced sites like Pinterest and Instagram, demonstrating a need for social networks geared toward specific purposes and specific audiences. According to Statista, in 2016, 79% of U.S. internet users used Facebook, 32% Used Pinterest, 32% used Instagram, 29% used LinkedIn, and 24% used Twitter. While Facebook is the most popular (and has many uses), there’s clearly a need for specialized sites.

A recent addition to the web, Cloud Dentistry, fills the specific needs of dental practices that want to hire temporary, part-time, or full-time help. Through the platform, practice owners can find qualified dental professionals, view their availability and reviews, and exchange messages with them.

Such advancements make finding the right people easier, and they facilitate communication in exciting ways.

Doing it right

Social networking is an important part of the big picture. Whether you’re recruiting potential patients or new hires to make your practice the best it can be, social networks can play a huge role in your success. We’ve come a long way since SixDegrees, and that progress is something everyone can take advantage of. When a dental practice uses the right tools in the right ways, it can see big rewards.

Trey Tepichin graduated from Duke University with a B.S. in biology and economics and a minor in chemistry. He went on to obtain his J.D. from Harvard Law School. While in law school, he taught two years of introductory micro- and macro-economics at Harvard and was awarded with three Certificates of Distinction in Teaching.

A successful commercial and securities litigator in Boston for nearly ten years, Trey secured numerous multimillion-dollar victories for his clients, which included everything from pharmaceutical companies to individual investors to manufacturers. As a lawyer and economist, Trey understands the intricacies of creating new markets, handling employment matters and maximizing business efficiencies.

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