The typical referral-based, word-of-mouth practice is a dying breed.
Patient referrals don’t always come from word of mouth. In fact, it’s becoming less and less common that they do so. To maximise your referral marketing, it must feed through several promotion channels.
Among those most powerful channels is social media. After all, social media is the ultimate “word of mouth” platform. It’s one of the easiest ways for people to communicate with their friends and family members.
How Referral Marketing and Social Media Align
You may already have some understanding of how social media can complement referral marketing. Think about it. It’s likely that the majority of your patients are active on Facebook, Twitter, and/or other social platforms.
The problem is most dentists have stale social media profiles that deliver little to no benefit for their practice health.
First, here are a few points to help illustrate the power of these platforms:
1. Your patients are already there
Most likely, the majority of your current patients have social media accounts. Without you even knowing it, you may already have some who follow your page.
2. You reinforce social proof
People tend to replicate the actions of their peers, particularly on social media. If people observe their peers discussing a particular brand, they may be tempted to investigate that brand as well.
3. You encourage sharing
Think about all the images, videos, and news stories that “go viral.” While you’re not aiming to gather up 5 million views on a YouTube video, give patients an option to share your content. This can be as simple as having social sharing buttons on your website’s homepage and blog.
Best Practices For Generating Patient Referrals
The benefits of social media for your practice narrow down to one key point: It nurtures your current patient base to ensure brand loyalty.
Now, to do so effectively you must follow social media best practices. The following tips will help keep your social presence reputable and more impactful.
1. Choose the right networks
While you can find some benefit in virtually every social platform, some networks are better than others. Chances are Facebook and Twitter will be your two best options (if you have photos to post frequently, also consider photo-oriented platforms like Instagram).
This will partly depend on the demographics of your patients. For example, older patients are less inclined to use Instagram. Regardless, we recommend Facebook and Twitter as the two best places to start.
2. Brand your business profiles
Consistent branding is something that current and prospective patients find reassuring. It reveals an attention to detail that conveys your practice as current and professional. That’s why it’s critical that your social branding, website branding, and traditional marketing materials are consistent and engaging.
Moreover, make sure your profile photo, “timeline” photo, and status updates adhere to each social platform’s guidelines. Review this article to see the most up-to-date image sizes for each outlet.
3. Keep your profiles active
There’s nothing worse (other than not having a social media presence) than having a dormant Facebook page. If a current or prospective patient lands on your Facebook page only to find that it has been abandoned, this is a poor reflection on your practice.
Even if it’s only a few times per week, set a consistent schedule to post regularly on your pages. For example:
- On Monday you post a quote or fun fact about dental health
- On Wednesday you post an update about your practice (new member, event, etc.)
- On Friday you remind patients that it’s time for their next appointment
4. Make your content visual
One-line posts of text don’t keep social media users engaged. It’s essential to make your posts visual so they stick out among the dozens – sometimes hundreds – of other posts people are exposed to every day.
If you’d like to share a fun fact with your patients, feature the content with an engaging photo. If you’d like to introduce a new team member, include a photo of the member in the post.
5. Monitor and respond
Over the years, social media outlets like Facebook have become more and more like a customer service tool. While your practice website is your number-one point of contact, some patients prefer sending messages through social media.
It’s important that when a patient sends you a message, you respond immediately. Also, once someone “likes” your page, they are able to leave comments on your posts. Be sure to monitor these comments and respond when necessary.