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Why you should be using social media, what social media should you be using, how should you use it and what will the results be?
Why you should be using social media
One of the premises of dental health care is that we are here to help look after the dental health of the local people. You will agree that the best way to do this is to build a relationship with your patients, seeing them regularly at intervals defined by their clinical need.
Conventional marketing techniques such as special offers, deals and promotions fall into the category of transactional marketing. Transactional marketing seeks to encourage a customer to engage in a transaction, this is a technique often use for products in the high Street.
Any industry which relies on increasing trust and lowering risk (such as dentistry) would be better advised to focus on relationship marketing. This is where the marketing efforts are directed at the relationship between the customer and supplier rather than the transaction between the customer and supplier.
Relationship marketing has a natural fit with dentistry where we are seeking to build relationships with customers in order to look after their dental health and this is where social media fits in.
Social media is about relationships, it’s about interactions between individuals and it’s the perfect way to hand out useful, free and relevant dental health advice.
What social media should you be using
At the time of writing the primary social media streams you should be using for your dental practice are, in order of importance*:
1. Facebook – nearly 40,000,000 people in the UK (1) are on Facebook, 35% of which are over the age of 35.
2. Twitter – businesses which engage with other businesses and local people on Twitter seem to find that their efforts are rewarded with people coming into the practice.
3. Google Plus – so long as your page is verified and links to your Google maps account your updates will appear in Google search results alongside your Google Plus listing. Posting links to your own website is also a great way of optimising your website
4. Linked – excellent for business connections, particularly useful if you attend local business networking events.
How should you use social media
I recommend you break down your updates into three categories (2):
Actor Bonds – approx. 40% of your posts
These are links between the ‘actors’ in any given situation. These actors are typically team members in your practice and the patient. The first stage of the marketing process is to develop bonds between these people. This is typically done by sharing common ground socially.
This is why sharing images of local restaurants you been to, books your reading, films you are seeing is important. When people recognise books that they have read, films they have seen or restaurants that they have been to they are more likely to engage with you, and so the relationship process continues.
Activity Links – approx. 40% of your posts
Once a person has created a bond with you, or feels that they like you they may engage in activity. This is where social media updates which include things the people to do are useful. Sharing Infographics which help people with their dental health or sending them to dental health websites where they can find out more takes the relationship process to the next level.
Don’t be afraid of posting links to places other than your own website. This isn’t about self-promotion, it’s about demonstrating that you are low risk and that patients can trust you. A great way to do this is to post links to helpful resources, even if it is not your own website.
Resource Ties – approx. 20% of your posts
This is where we look to tieresources between the actors. This could be time or money. This is the part of your social media stream which talks specifically about how your potential customer can come in to see you to solve their dental problem.
What will the results be
If you follow my basic rule of posting actor Bonds, activity links and resource ties in the percentages mentioned above you will most certainly notice an effect in the practice.
You will find that your current patients are more engaged and more likely to share your status updates which creates a snowball or viral effect.
The primary aim of any marketing the dental practice should be to reach more people and help them with their dental health, if your updates are useful people will share them and you will help more local people.
As a result of helping more local people with their dental health more people will come into your practice and as a result of that your business will benefit.
(1) www.socialbakers.com site accessed 13/01/14
(2) Ford, D., Gadde, L-E., Håkansson, H. & Snehota, I. (2003). Managing Business Relationships, 2nd edition, Chichester: John Wiley.
*This order of importance has been taken from personal experience working with 63 dental practices around the world.
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