This article originally appeared in the December/2017 issue of the Academy of General Dentistry’s AGD Impact magazine.
As a business owner, it is imperative for you to market your practice – unless you really crave alone time. Not only do you need to attract and retain patients, but you have to stay competitive and set yourself apart from the dentist down the street. The most effective way to reach your audience is by being exactly where they are: online. Online marketing does not end with your website, though. To stay relevant and reach the maximum number of people, you need to engage them through social networking. While there are options, Facebook is the reigning king of social networking sites for marketing.
This article will include everything you need to know about using Facebook:
- Why Facebook is the #1 option
- How to set up your page (the right way)
- The right elements to include
- How to post to your page
- What you should (or should not) post and the best days and time
- How to get patients to engage with your posts
- The benefit of responding to patients on Facebook
Part One: Why Facebook?
Facebook may have begun as a way for college students to interact, but it has far surpassed its original purpose. Despite social networking sites that draw millennials (such as Instagram and SnapChat), all age groups ultimately rely on Facebook to stay connected with friends, family, and businesses. Why is Facebook invaluable to marketing your practice? They continually refine their site to stay on top of trends (such as live streaming) and the needs of their account holders (such as the ability to promote businesses). Facebook serves their business account holders by collecting user data that allows you to target your marketing wisely and attracting the right type of patients (such as those who are interested in quality and not just a good deal) as well as providing insight about those who already follow you. It is in their best interest to help you reach more people and increase their engagement.
We’re not suggesting that you shouldn’t be using Instagram and SnapChat; how else are you going to send hilarious morphed faces to your followers? But the cornerstone of the sites you use to promote your practice should be Facebook. Even as you read this, Facebook engineers are creating algorithms to help you promote your practice in the most effective way possible.
Part Two: Setting Up Your Page
Creating a Facebook page is free – even for businesses. The bare minimum requirements are that you have a page name (which should be the name of your practice or a logical variation of the name), two images (one of which can be your logo), and a call to action (“Call Now!” is just one of the options. We strongly discourage using “Meet Our Drill!”).
When you set up your page, you will select a business category (Local Business or Place will work best), enter the required information about your practice, upload your images, and add a call-to-action button. The entire process takes minutes, so no need to set aside hours of your time.
Here is a brief step-by-step guide to create your Facebook Business Page.
- First, log-in to your own personal Facebook profile. Your account must be tied to a personal page so if you don’t have one, create a generic one for yourself.
- From there, find the down-pointing arrow next to the question-mark icon on the top right of the page.
- Click on the aforementioned down-arrow, and choose “Create Page”.
- From here, you’ll be taken to a screen with six squares, each allowing you to choose what type of page you’d like to create.
- Since you are a dentist, you’ll choose the first square “Local Business or Place”.
- When you click on it, you’ll be prompted to enter your practice’s name, page category (just type Dentist here), the street address of your practice, and your practice’s main phone number.
- Now, click the blue “Get Started” button.
Congratulations! You’ve created your Facebook Business Page. Now, we just need to include some very essential things…
Part Three: What to Include
As you create your page, Facebook will prompt you to add details. The more you add, the more effective your page will be: you will need to invite “friends” to like your page, create a customized greeting for those who message your practice, direct people to your practice’s website, add an additional administrator to help you manage your page, incorporate your hours so anyone visiting your page will know when you’re open, include an easy-to-remember user name, and add a description on what makes you unique and why a patient should choose you over your competition.
One of the most important things you will include is a call-to-action button. Facebook offers multiple options, but the option that is the most effective is the “Call Now” button. This enables people to contact you directly from their device and encourages conversion more than “Get in Touch,” “Learn More,” or “Book Services.” As of December of 2016, Facebook had over 1.26 BILLION daily active users; while not all of those users are among your target audience, you will ultimately reach hundreds with the appropriate call-to-action.
Part Four: How to Post
Posting on your business page is similar to posting on your personal Facebook page. New to Facebook? No problem. Facebook is great at walking you through the process. Here are the basics that you can expect:
Select the icon for your medium. Do you want to share a thought, a picture, a video, or live stream?
Write your copy. It should encourage engagement, so ask a question (“Would you rather be toothless for a week or have feet for hands for one month?”) or encourage comments (“Tell us how much the Tooth Fairy leaves for your children.”).
Tag friends or add a location. This is perfect for events outside of the office.
Select your audience. Are you making this public or do you only want your “friends” to see it? (Hint: For marketing your practice, make it public)
Review for typos or other errors then click “Post.”
Part Five: What and When to Post
The reasons to post are to remind your patients that you’re there for them (even when they’re not in your chair) and to allow them to see your true personality. As far as the content that you post, only 20% should be geared towards “selling” to your audience. The goal is not to make your patients to feel pressured every time they look at your page, but to let them see your true personality and feel connected. To that end, the remaining 80% of what you post should be content that is fun and encourages engagement. The following tips will make your posts pop:
- Jokes! “What does the dentist of the year get? A little plaque.”
Fun facts. “People who drink 3 or more glasses of soda each day have 62% more tooth decay, fillings, and tooth loss than others.”
- Practice-related posts. Is it your office manager’s birthday? Share a picture. Are you sponsoring a little league team? Share a short video of a game. These posts are highly effective when it comes to giving your patients a glimpse into your true personality. Seeing you as a person and not just a dentist goes a long way in building relationships and creating loyalty.
- Send people to your blog. Each time you post a new blog on your website, your Facebook page should invite others to read it.
- Information and education. Provide a tutorial on the proper way to floss or the importance of dental implants.
- Facebook LIVE posts. With a patient’s consent, you can live stream their reaction to the final results of a treatment. Having a surprise party for your office manager? Live stream his/her reaction.
- Photos. Before and after photos are effective, as are selfies of you with your patients, pictures of office events, etc.
Ideally, you will post 3-4 times per week. Once per month will not be sufficient enough to stay in the forefront of your patients’ minds. More than 3-4 times per week can be perceived as annoying. If most of your posts are fun and engaging, then you won’t need to worry about overwhelming your patients with what you share.
The timing of when you post is important, as well. When you first begin to post, observe (or have another administrator observe) when people are responding to your posts. If you get the most “likes” in the morning when people are sipping coffee and browsing their Facebook feed, then scheduling posts for the early morning will work best for you. If you’re getting more reactions on weekends, then post more on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Bottom line: pay attention to your audience and post when you know it works for them.
Part Six: Getting Patients to “Like” and Engage
One of the greatest perks of using Facebook as part of your marketing strategy is that it gives you the ability to remind patients multiple times each week that you’re around. If you use your posts effectively, they’ll not only get patients to “like” them, but to engage with them, as well. What is engagement? It’s when patients actually respond to your posts (and you respond, in return). Need some ideas to promote engagement? Consider these options:
- Invite patients to share your posts.
- Ask a question that requires a response: “If cost were not an option, what dental treatment would you immediately seek?”
- Take a selfie with your patients after treatment and invite them to tag the practice.
The best part of patient engagement is that it allows you to develop relationships with current patients; your posts will become a welcome addition to the time they spend on Facebook. Seeing you smiling, laughing, and engaging with others humanizes the person wearing the white coat. The second best part of patient engagement is that the friends and family of your patients see how they engage, making your patients one of your best marketing agents. Each time your current patients respond to or shares a post, their friends see it. Each time their friends see the name of your practice, it’s an advertisement! This only happens if you genuinely appeal to your patients, though, so be thoughtful in your posts.
Part Seven: Responding
No matter what, you need to respond to your patients. Regardless of the comment, from a simple “Thank you” to a “Doctor Smith has changed my life; the results of my Invisalign have surpassed my expectations,” you must respond. Your patients have taken time from their busy lives to acknowledge your work; the least you can do is let them know that their comment is valued. This is a great reason to add administrators to your practice’s Facebook page; anyone listed as an administrator can track comments and respond.
If using Facebook as part of your marketing campaign seems overwhelming, take a breath. Facebook is user friendly; they want to help you use social networking to grow your practice. They offer clear written directions as well as video tutorials to help you create your account. The time it takes to set up and manage a Facebook account for your practice now will pay off in patients later.