I don't know if you've heard from all of the experts in the industry, but social media is running for President, has cured the common cold and is currently the most popular Beatle. The attention around social media is unprecedented.

As you're reading this, Facebook is approaching one billion users and YouTube is getting four billion views per day. In addition, there is growing interest in sharing sites like Pinterest and review sites like Yelp and Angie's List, with tens of millions of users each.

It's clear that technology will continue to evolve in an effort to engage users, make people's lives easier and create transactions. Done right, these technologies can help transform and optimize your practice's online marketing, increase case acceptance, and grow your business.

Optimizing your dental practice's online presence

So what does it mean to a dentist who doesn't know where to start or how to keep up with the ever-changing landscape? Here is a simple 12-Step Program to help.

  • Step 1: Admit Say it out loud: “I hate Facebook and I don't want to think about it anymore.” Admit you have a problem and hand it off to your staff or a trusted partner.
  • Step 2: Focus You're a dentist, not a social media guru. Stick to what you know and focus on becoming the best dentist in your city, state and country.
  • Step 3: Get Help Realize that you and your team need a little help. No one can do social media and marketing alone.
  • Step 4: Educate Educate yourself and your practice on the basics of social media, but don't get bogged down. Learn what you need to know and what you don't.
  • Step 5: Invest Social media alone will not save your practice. If you have out of date equipment and a mean staff, social media will not change anything; it will actually make things worse. Invest in your practice in the right ways and it will come back to you.
  • Step 6: Identify (SECRET WEAPON!) Identify internal resources to help manage the process and slay the dragon. Maybe your office manager, assistant, or even a new hire would be a great resource. Either way, you need someone on your team involved with your Internet marketing and social media.
  • Step 7: Stay Strong Set realistic goals and stay the course. Don't expect to have thousands of “followers” or “friends” overnight. The right social media program will allow you and your team to better engage with your patients and really get to know them.
  • Step 8: Uncover Uncover your inner-brand. It's time to define who you are and what your practice is. Before you go Tweeting and Facebooking, make sure your patients are seeing the practice you want them to see.
  • Step 9: Integrate Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to Internet dental practice marketing. No one thing is going to save you; talk to people who understand the business and see what works best. Hopefully, you have a great looking website with before and after pictures and video. If not, go back and read number five.
  • Step 10: Engage Creating engaging content cannot be understated. You have to deliver quality, relevant and fresh content to your patients or they will not listen. It might be a recent article on oral health, or a new service you offer, or a special you are running in your practice this month. Either way, make sure it is relevant to your patients.
  • Step 11: Control Maintain control and stick to your process. Internet marketing and social media are not going away any time soon, so the sooner your practice gets started, the less far behind you'll be.
  • Step 12: Get help It's finally time for you to be OK with not being an Internet marketing/social media expert. You don't answer the phone, you don't schedule appointments and you don't do Internet marketing. You're just not wired that way. Get help from a partner with proven experience, case studies and a customized solution for growing dental practices.

By following these 12 steps, you can get back to doing more of those things you love and you're good at and less of the things you dread doing that slow you down and hold you back.

Matthew Petchel is founder of Get Social Dental, a social media and Internet marketing training firm that offers monthly, managed services for dental practices. [ www.getsocialdental.com ]


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