In October 2010, I attended the American Dental Association’s annual conference in Orlando. Just a few months before, I started a Facebook page for our practice and was struggling to come up with new & interesting posts. So, while at the conference, I attended a presentation on Social Media to learn how to use Facebook to benefit the practice. I picked up a few good ideas and especially appreciated the Q&A time to find I wasn’t the only one struggling with this new marketing approach. However, I had one question that hadn’t been addressed, so I stood in line for the microphone and when it was my turn, I asked, “What if you’re in a group practice and the dentists won’t use Facebook? Do you have any recommendations for what the office manager should do?”
This turned our poor speaker just about inside out – he immediately recommended that I turn over the administration of our Facebook page to a dentist in the practice and that only a dentist should be responsible for what is written about the practice online. When I gave the speaker additional information about our group – the handful of specialists are all part-time independent contractors, of the GP’s – the owner was 60+ and never used a computer, the younger male GP refused to join Facebook and the new hire GP was too busy with her new baby. So, I tried again – if I (as the 12+ year experienced MBA office manager) don’t take responsibility for Facebook, then no one will – and we just sat for over an hour listening to his presentation on how Facebook was the future of marketing! At this, the speaker simply restated his position – the office manager should not be posting on Facebook, only a dentist.
Thankfully, I ignored the speaker’s advice and to this day I am responsible for managing Facebook in my practice. I believe that the office manager is a very logical choice for being responsible to manage the Facebook presence for a dental practice. This new era of social media marketing takes a mountain of time – and that’s one thing most dentists just don’t have enough of! Why not give this task to your office manager – and then as the dentist, monitor her performance?
The guidelines I use for managing our Facebook presence include:
- Post something once a week
- At least every third post – include a picture or video that we took in the office
- Watch how many fans you have
- Encourage your staff to Like and Comment
The biggest challenge for most practices is answering the question, “What should we post on Facebook?” and my best approach to solve this problem is to create a calendar. On a one page, I write the date of each Monday – and then I write the name of a topic for each week that I will write/post about. At the bottom of this page, I keep a summary of all the procedures we offer in the practice, plus a list of general ideas such as staff anniversaries, holidays, insurance remaining letter, flexible spending plan, etc. On this page, I usually have room for about 3 months’ worth of topics. Then, I pull out this calendar each Monday morning, I open up Facebook and write about the topic planned for that week.
Since I’m planning in advance, I usually avoid writer’s block (what will I post today?) plus I can get a photo to match my topic before I need to post it. I also can ask my dentists and staff for ideas when I create my calendar. This turns my Facebook management into a system instead of a last minute panic.
Our Facebook fans are growing thanks to these efforts. I’m up to 258 fans right now and I read somewhere that once you hit 350 fans you should start to run Facebook ads because that is the magic number that makes them effective. I don’t know if that’s true, but Facebook did send me a coupon in the mail last month (snail mail, ironically) for $50 so I ran an ad for a few weeks – and then canceled it when we ran through their $50. Thanks to DemandForce, I have an app on my practice’s Facebook page that allows people to request an appointment – and that’s tracked though my DemandForce dashboard. Unfortunately during the weeks my Facebook ad ran, I didn’t add any new patients through my Facebook page. So I definitely feel that I am still learning how to turn the time I spend on Facebook into a productive marketing approach.
I do believe that I am helping the practice by managing our Facebook presence. Although we cannot yet track it’s success based on new patients, I believe that this is an important facet of ‘telling our story’ online so new patients can learn about what we have to offer and what our practice’s personality is so they feel welcome. I know that the dentists in my group don’t have the time to do this work and since they read all the journals plus business magazines with nearly every one talking about social media marketing – they appreciate the fact that I am taking care of this new marketing effort.
I encourage all office managers to get involved with their practice’s Facebook presence. Perhaps you are blessed with a dentist who loves to spend time online & posts fabulous before/after pictures and interesting stories on Facebook daily – great! Then help him out by commenting and liking his posts – this helps the practice by increasing the views. Offer to track the fans for him so he can see the growth month after month. Document where new patients find out about you – and if you get someone who becomes a new patient after reading your Facebook page, then celebrate! If you’re in a practice like mine, where the dentists just don’t have time – then here’s a great opportunity for you to step up and make a difference in your practice. This is a great skill you can learn – and once you turn your Facebook marketing into a steady stream of new patients – your dentist will appreciate your work even more.
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Managing Facebook is just one way you can run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.
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