Does my practice need to be on Twitter?

Twitter for dentists – does it make sense?

using Twitter in businessEarlier this week I discussed the pros and cons of Twitter with an experienced dental practice manager. The guy is quite savvy about the benefits of online marketing and had been tasked by his principle to deliver the “best bang for buck” from their web marketing initiatives. Very solid and commendable objectives.

To support their new website, the practice started to use Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, along with a plan to start blogging and structured search marketing to boost their Google ranking. Within the first couple of months, the practice accrued over 700 Twitter followers – however, soon after they closed the account.

This came as a slight surprise, particularly as they had made good headway, at least as far as followers are concerned, in a relatively short space of time. The explanation was understandable in that the manager had quickly realised that the huge majority of their followers were of a “business to business” nature and not their preferred target i.e. existing patients or potential new ones. Given that the guy was looking for quick and quantifiable ROI, he made the decision to quit Twitter and focus resources elsewhere. Understandable but potentially premature – but why?

The less-well understood benefits of an active Twitter presence

Whilst engagement with your target audience should always be the primary aim of Twitter, this is actually quite difficult for dentists to achieve. In reality, far more dentists fail to engage than actually achieve it – marketers would usually not tell you that, but in this business sector it’s true. Saying that, there are an increasing number of practices who put the effort in and do get the benefit.

However, there are other, very good reasons why dentists will benefit from using Twitter aside from immediate engagement potential:

  • gathering information for other online marketing initiatives – by following key dental professionals and suppliers, you can quickly tap into a wealth of information which you can re-purpose and use elsewhere.
  • web users expect smart businesses to maintain an active social media presence – like it or not, in some ways you simply need to be seen to be active. This is all part of helping to build your brand on-line.
  • progressive peer group members are active there – Twitter can be used very effectively for building your personal and business reputation.
  • overall business visibility – by following and promoting other local businesses you increase the chances of connecting with a more diverse audience. Co-promotion is very powerful and is worth pursuing. As a slight aside, we also see this working to great effect in dental practice newsletters – by including a small piece about one of your patients who runs their own business, you can also reach out to their clients via a reciprocal piece in their business newsletter. Now that’s smart.
  • SEO – no, Twitter does not directly influence your search ranking irrespective of what other marketers might tell you. However, it can indirectly influence your search ranking. This occurs when you distribute references to your own content which others then link back to. Tweets do get indexed and included in search results, so there is some benefit there too. This may change if Google does decide to take more notice of “social signals” as a direct ranking factor – if they do (and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise) then having an active social presence will stand you in good stead.

Summary

The tangible benefits of social media, Twitter included, are very difficult to quantify. However, the less-quantifiable benefits are still quite clear and do justify why an active presence is well-worthwhile. Moreover, with tools such as “Hootsuite” available, which really do help you to maintain a presence very efficiently, then in my opinion, it would be foolhardy to miss out.

If you are interested to know more about how dentists can benefit from using Twitter or any other aspects of social media, please call the Dental Media team on 01332 672548 for a no-obligation discussion.