Can Twitter & Facebook Help Dentists Get Patients?
If you’re like many dentists, you’ve heard all the hoopla about Twitter, Facebook and other social media being essential to dental marketing.
Most dentists have yet to attempt using Twitter or Facebook to acquire new patients; a few have tried, only to be disappointed with the results.
Let’s examine in more detail the pros and cons of the platforms that “social media experts” claim you must have.
Can You Use Twitter & Facebook To Sell Stuff?
Millions of people are using Twitter & Facebook to hawk products and services. Whether successful or not, these marketers are attracted to the platforms due to their mainstream publicity and the promise of “fast money” online.
If you already have a Twitter profile, it’s a good bet you’ve seen just about every sort of advertisement — from “get rich fast” schemes and pornography, to self-help tutorials and software for gaining 1,000’s of new followers, a.k.a. “friends.” The casual observer might describe Twitter as a madhouse of disjointed opinions and marketing messages where little makes sense.
What Is The Purpose of Facebook & Twitter?
The keyword to understanding the intent of these communication channels is “social”, or the concept of socializing with friends, family and close associates. Thus “social media” is the interaction between like-minded people online.
Facebook is used primarily as a networking tool to locate similar interests for jobs and to find old high school buddies. Another attraction for both Twitter and Facebook users is the potential that maybe someday a well-known Hollywood celebrity or musician will actually answer or acknowledge you.
Social Etiquette for Dentists
Most proponents of Twitter & Facebook (who sell dentists marketing advice) appear to have little regard for socially acceptable behavior. These advocates suggest that you simply watch for mention of “dentist” (hopefully by people in your city), then inject yourself into their conversation — without an invitation.
You are being instructed to “burglarize” other people’s conversations. Imagine trying that in a real-life social setting. Inappropriate and rude, you risk making a nuisance of yourself and even driving patients away from your practice.
The big problem, the elephant in the living room which most fail to see — is that people just do not consider going to the dentist a “social event.” Fact is, people look for every possible reason to justify avoiding a trip to the dentist.
Twitter & Facebook Demographics
As of this writing, the median age of a Twitter user is 31 years old; nearly 20% of them are teenagers. The average age of Facebook users is 26. Over 76% of Twitter users connect with a mobile device. 75% of Facebook members are outside the USA. Current trend for both sites is a steady increase in the ratio of younger members.
For the most part, even though some search engines index “tweets”, unless the person is a member, or takes time to login, the prospective patient seeking a dentist on the Internet will discover that any relevant dialog concerning a dental practice — on either Twitter or Facebook — is inaccessible to them.
According to actual statistics, the dentist would be directing his message to a predominately younger demographic, one that is largely located outside the United States — and to those who use mobile devices for “tweeting.”
Any professional dental marketer can tell you that for best results, marketing should be directed to those demographics most likely to be interested in your offer — and to those people the dentist would prefer having as patients.
People Avoid Pesky Obstacles On The Web
Beyond the disadvantages of advertising to kids who can’t afford dentistry, the point of marketing your dental practice on the Internet is to attract gainfully employed patients to your website and invite them to make an appointment.
Anything that inhibits the easy, direct route to your website is an obstacle. Social media profiles, directory listings, Youtube videos, paid advertising, mentions of your name or practice on blogs and other websites, all require additional clicks and navigation — through a gauntlet of myriad distractions.
Outbound links from Facebook incorporate a “watch out for danger” page before you can navigate away. You could equate this with being warned by a street sign that says, “caution: road ahead may have nails and other objects dangerous to your vehicle.” …another obstacle in the potential patient’s path.
For the majority of Twitter users, the beautiful website you paid a fortune to create and get ranked on Google will never be seen in all its glory, nor will its compelling message be very effective to those viewing it on the tiny screen of a mobile device. Thus, another impediment between patient and your chair.
Best case scenario is: search, click and call. This is “pull” advertising using the search engines to deliver pre-qualified prospects right to your doorstep, er, website — and a marketing method which leaves the decision to schedule up to the individual — instead of imposing sales offers on them (a.k.a. “push”).
Why Is Twitter So Popular?
Be aware of who is actually promoting Twitter. There are 4 main groups:
1) the huge corporations which stand to profit immensely from manufacturing and advertising on mobile devices, the primary method used to access Twitter.
2) mainstream media e.g. TV networks, powerful news conglomerates, printing empires and paid PR writers, all with connections to group #1.
3) the promoters of “twitter-ware” and “how-to” information or “training” who dangle promises of instant wealth and easy-living without any real work.
4) impressionable teenagers and “the mockingbirds” who repeat mindlessly all the Twitter marketing hype they read online — and what they see on TV.
So when a marketer tells you that Coca Cola or some other large company uses or recommends Twitter, be mindful of the real reason behind such claims. Often these corporate giants have an investment, partnership, or influence with major manufacturers and the behemoths in media. Thus, it may be in their best financial interests to help promote Twitter.
Misconception About SEO
Many “social media gurus” are promoting Twitter and other micro-blogging sites as an element of SEO to position dentist websites in the search engines.
Nothing could be further from reality. Either they are misinformed or just plain fibbing. The “gurus” are often only selling books, or webinars that instruct you how to create Twitter and Facebook profiles. They could care less whether the dentist acquires any patients for his efforts (and expense).
Any SEO worth his salt knows that Twitter and most, if not all, other social media sites, incorporate no-follow tags in their outbound links and do not afford the benefit of text links, so essentially there’s
zero little SEO value.
Can Twitter & Facebook Help Dentists?
Both these two social media models can and do generate patients for dentists; unfortunately though, each have an extremely low, disproportionate ROI. The time spent vs reward received is far below other Internet marketing options.
From another perspective, Twitter and other social media sites can provide dentists with recognizable benefits. More mentions of your name, website, or legal name of your practice (citations) online can have an aggregate effect and help to improve Google Local Business positions.
A Twitter profile — if named properly — can also provide another notch in the search results for your practice website.
Aside from these advantages, the dentist should consider they may have to invest untold hours, which might result in little opportunity for practicing dentistry, attending to business matters, continuing their dental education, spending quality time with children and family, or other leisure pursuits.
I’m not opposed to experimenting with any method that might offer benefit to my clients (dentists), though IMO and experience, Twitter and other social media (excluding blogs) are not that well-suited for “selling” dentistry. There are better, more productive means for dentists to acquire new patients.
Speaking of my own personal experience — with months invested, several Twitter profiles and thousands of tweets and posts to my credit — not a single client has been acquired. Basically, Twitter’s been a waste of precious time.
However, I’m not a dentist. You may have somewhat better results. Each must decide what is best for them and weigh the possible value against the energy they are willing to spend — testing what others call the “new modern media.”
For The Visible Dentist, I’m John Barremore — best of luck to you.