How to Use Social Media to Generate Patients

4 December 2015 | | Marketing, Social Media

Traditional thinking sees the role of Social Media to a business as an online marketing tool aimed at extending your brand, and ‘reach’ with fairly non-committal measurably.

However with the rising use of Social Media and the way patients are using the various platforms to make decisions in their lives, we need to think more meaningfully about the connections a dental practice can make with a potential customer as a sales AND marketing function.

Sticking with tradition, the age-old sales funnel featuring a cone-shaped conduit that drains more and more customers as they pass through it, is rather redundant for Social Media. Rather, the sale opportunities with Social Media can mirror the behaviour of a potential patient using the stages of the buying decision process;

Buying Decision Process



At every level of the buying decision process, you can use Social Media to influence the potential patients decision to call your practice and join.

Need Recognition = Awareness

Your patients are just embarking on their not-yet-intended journey. They might be aware of your brand without interacting with it.

The more consumers interact with your brand the easier they’ll be to market to further down the funnel. Interaction needs to be earned by appropriate content. At this stage, it’s about the oft-neglected social media goal of increasing engagement. Use Social media too:

  • Engage Pro-actively

Ask questions, post surveys, ask for feedback, anything to generate a response.

  • Monitor your engagement

Using a social media tracking tool, such as HooteSuite, to monitor mentions of your brand, track what campaigns are working or not and overall use these metrics to inform other campaign strategies.

  • Organise Events

Competitions or live events at the practice or in the local town all work well and Facebook is well suited to organising all of these. Include giveaways or prizes in return for content, engagement or submissions. Do check Facebook’s rules before you design your competition.

  • Encourage user-generated content

Get people to post on your timeline, your wall, your page, by encouraging contributions. This works when you ask for feedback about content, about customer experience from previous customers, or when you solicit responses that involve your offering.

Information Search = Familiarity

At this stage, a potential patient is familiar with the practice brand. That’s good because, while familiarity and engagement don’t produce purchase intent by themselves, when customers do want to make a purchase, your brand will be one of the providers they’ll consider before making a decision.

This is where more serious pieces of your content are important. You’re ‘fan’ will start reading a blog perhaps that they come across on their wall, or a friend has shared, so make sure you’re blogging and posting them on your Social Media.

Evaluation of Alternatives = Consideration

Now your potential patient is actively considering their purchase of dental treatment/a new practice/ a cosmetic treatment. Often for a dental practice the Need Recognition stage and this stage come quickly, due to an emergency. If you are a practice who offers emergency treatment, make sure this is vocalised on Social Media regularly.

  • Build and nurture your reputation

Social Media, and it is an excellent source of positive sentiment reviews since positive reviews typically come from social channels while negative ones are more often from review sites.

Use share buttons combined with social proof on your website so each positive review can easily be spread across social channels.

Don’t forget video. An active YouTube channel can push positive content to the top of the page, improving your visibility, traffic, and consequently, reputation.

  • Highlight Services, Treatments and your practice USP

A potential patient at the ‘fan’ stage will be very keen on your practices features, and the ‘what-makes-them-different/special’. Make sure you’re shooting for high search ranking on pieces of content that describe specific features, (For Twitter – as twitter ranks in SERPS) especially if they’re high ranking keywords in your specialist field of dentistry or if your practice does something that is unique in that area i.e Mercury-Free.

If you’re creating a lot of content and you want to know how well it’s working, you can target it more effectively, you might want to try a tool like SqueezeCMM, which lets you track the responses your content is getting, and will even construct user journeys so you can follow your readers and viewers along your content funnel.

Purchase Decision = Purchase

At this stage your potential patient has decided to be your patient. That’s great!

It’s important to continue to engage with your new patient throughout the purchase period – when they come to the practice, welcome them, make them feel special, and inform with clarity. It’s now up to your team members to turn this new patient into the greatest advertising tool; someone who pro-actively spreads your virtues word-of-mouth. You can use Social Media to help with this. They decided to find you via Social Media, so if they have like your page, tag them in a post welcoming them to your practice.

Post Purchase Behaviour = Loyalty

Using buyer theory, after purchase, consumers divide into three groups.

    1. Some will leave and not purchase again.
    2. Others will return, for a few purchases.
    3. And some will become brand advocates.

No doubt, as a dentist, you can recognise these patients. It’s the number 3’s that we need to be looking after as much as possible. These are the best patients you have and they’re not just figuratively the lifeblood of your business, they drive revenue.

Encouraging more patients into the ‘loyalty loop’ post-treatment/dental service should be a priority for your practice. Repeat patients cost less to market to and spend more, and their positive experience of your dental brand and offering translate into customer reviews with ‘upbeat sentiment’ which carry enormous clout with other patients.

  • Use Social Channels for Customer Care

Your patients will expect rapid responses on social media and won’t settle for less. Disappoint them and your reputation will suffer. Deliver on time, and watch your own patients champion your brand.

  • Put in place loyalty programs

You can run a traditional loyalty program on social media. Facebook is particularly well set up for this, and it’s more effective when it’s integrated well with what’s happening on-site.

  • Reward referrals

Referral marketing rewards existing customers for bringing you more customers. Despite being as old as the hills, it’s still thriving – even Google offers cash for Google Apps for Business customer referrals. Referrals are far and away the most trusted form, of advertising, so brands should do everything they can to encourage them.

Social media accounts for a third of all referrals traffic, and a clear majority of that comes from Facebook, with Pinterest a distant but growing second.


Social media doesn’t just belong at the top of the funnel. Each stage of marketing, sales and retention of patients has a place for social media, and the numbers clearly show that it’s well worthwhile for businesses to integrate it at every touchpoint of the patients journey.

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