Once upon a time it felt like there was only Facebook to contend with when it came to social media. But over the past couple of decades several other platforms have emerged and gained popularity, such as Instagram and Twitter, while others have fallen by the wayside, like Bebo and MySpace.
The popularity of the platforms that have gained traction shows no sign of abating – there are five new Facebook accounts created every second.
So, with such a potential reach, social media is a vital tool for your business.
If used effectively, they can help to build your profile, showcase your work, interact with patients and attract new ones.
But the key to untapping the potential of social media, is that it is used effectively. And the proliferation of platforms brings in another layer of complexity in terms of which ones are most worth your time in order to best achieve your goal.
To look at this in more detail, I asked Richard Eccleston, Social and Digital Media Manager at Wesleyan: Which social media platforms work best for dentists?
Richard: ‘With more than 45 million people in the UK making use of social media in one form or another, and 39 million of them using these platforms on mobile devices, it seems that nobody is immune from its reach or influence.
And while we wouldn’t expect dentists and dental practices to necessarily have as much influence and impact as the Lady Gaga and Kanye Wests’ of the world, there is certainly ample opportunity to showcase both your business and individual dental work, to a huge captive audience.
But with so many platforms out there, which ones do we feel work best for dental professionals?
The biggest social media user base in the UK at this time lies with Facebook (40 million active users). So, naturally, there is huge opportunity in this area for content and information to be shared.
At a local level, Facebook pages can be created by individual practices to advertise their services.
These pages are able to offer a multitude of advantages and features if really used to maximise their potential. For example, the ability for visitors to both check-in and leave reviews, easy sharing of images, updates and videos, and a direct message function.
Dentists can also gain incredible insights from Facebook Groups that have been set up by like-minded individuals, and anything that can help build such support networks has to be a good thing, right?
Furthermore, the real value of Facebook is its advertising network and database.
Facebook page owners can set up quick and simple adverts to target people living in the local area – either by town, age or even interest. Although this may sound complicated, it’s actually a fairly easy skill to get to grips with.
But what about the younger audiences? Are they really going to use Facebook to follow a dental practice?
Well… that’s where Facebook’s other ace card comes into play – Instagram.
Instagram was acquired by Facebook several years ago, and its growing user base (24 million active UK users and rising) features a younger demographic that are eager to both see and share interesting photographs.
Indeed, dental students and professionals are already actively making use of the platform.
Everything from fillings through to x-rays and more are being shared (presumably with patient consent) to a hungry, inquisitive and active audience of both dental professionals, patients and those outside of the industry.
A third channel that has been used incredibly well by some, one example is The Singing Dentist, is YouTube.
Although it can be harder to produce interesting and regular video content, there is always the chance of going viral and reaching millions of people via the world’s second most popular search engine.
Individuals looking to have their say and become involved in broader dental news discussions may choose Twitter as their preferred channel.
There are several benefits to the platform, the biggest being that it gives everyone a voice.
Dental practices may also wish to make use of the platform to engage with dissatisfied patients, as this platform can often be where they want to make their feelings known.
As with any social media channel, the key to dealing with these queries is to be pro-active, fast-to-respond and professional.
Finally, a number of dentists may wish to use LinkedIn for building professional networks.
While it may not seem as active as Facebook and Twitter, there are now over 27 million UK users of the platform, so you may wish to connect with peers here.
So, when answering the question “Which social media platform is best for me and my practice?” it really is down to personal choice based on what you want.
If you have access to interesting photos, try Instagram. For building awareness of your practice, maybe choose Facebook, and for joining discussion with others, don’t discount Twitter.
Whichever platform you ultimately choose, just be sure to stay active, post regularly and respond to any engagement in as positive a manner as possible.’
My thanks to Richard for explaining the merits of the various platforms and how each is best used depending on what you want to achieve.
Whether you use social media on a personal level, it’s undeniable that it has massive potential to help grow your business.
How many platforms you choose to use, and how much time you can spend building your profiles, will of course partly come down to how much resource you can allocate to it. Most practice teams generally don’t have someone solely dedicated to managing social media.
But the sheer popularity of social media means it cannot be ignored as a key part of how you market your practice.