Can I get useful traffic and patient enquiries from Facebook?

It depends….

Facebook logoThere is an apparent trend at the moment for dental practices to try out Facebook marketing, perhaps on recommendation from their marketing company, business coach or from what they’ve read in the media. Many practices are also trying it under their own steam in true ‘DIY’ style. But is Facebook marketing really the route to lots of valuable new patient enquiries or are there some pitfalls along the way?

So let’s take a look at how Facebook marketing can be used to complement other channels along with a comparison of what you might expect in the quality of new patient enquiries compared to traffic from organic (free) search and Google pay-per-click (AdWords).

How are Facebook ads deployed?

There are a couple of different ways to highlight your business and present it to potential new patients on Facebook. Long gone are the days when your business page posts would reach most of the people who “liked” your brand page; so these days you have to pay-to-play to boost those posts and broaden your post reach.

The other way is to advertise i.e. push your ads to targeted groups across Facebook. Whilst the targeting options are very granular i.e. you really can narrow down the categories of people you try to reach, the fundamental nature of the platform does mean that you are presenting advertising to users who aren’t specifically searching for those services at that particular point in time. Even where you are re-targeting i.e. presenting ads to those people who have previously visited your website, their intent to purchase services from you at that time is arguably a lot less than when they are specifically searching in Google for example.

When we look at the data for website visits and new patient acquisition from the Facebook channel, what we tend to find is that there is normally a very high bounce rate and generally a low level of conversions, i.e. you need a lot of visits to get relatively few new enquiries. This compares less favourably to visits from Google organic search (the traditional, free results) and to a lesser extent pay-per-click AdWords. This is primarily down to the fact that the user intent is much lower when the visitors clicks through to you from Facebook than when they are specifically searching for products and services via a search engine. Bounce rates from Facebook visits i.e. the user goes elsewhere immediately after landing on your website, can be as high as 90% or more. Of the 10% that do explore the rest of your site, remember that only a small proportion of them will actually contact you. So the erosion at each stage is high.

So is Facebook marketing all bad?

Whilst the conversion rates from Facebook are generally low on the list when compare to other marketing channels, it’s not all bad news. Whilst the cost to advertise on Facebook is increasing, it is still quite a lot lower than AdWords in general; even when considering the display network. So whilst bounce rates and conversions related to Facebook traffic tend to be worse, when factoring in the all-important costs to advertise, you get a slightly different picture. Organic SEO still outperforms paid channels, with AdWords a fairly distant second and Facebook catching up in third place.

But as long as you still achieve return on your advertising spend, then it can still make good sense. But for sure it isn’t the answer to all of your marketing needs.

A comment on the quality of conversions

One comment we’ve heard quite regularly regarding the quality of the patient enquiries resultant from Facebook traffic is that there is a tendency for them to be on the low side. I don’t really like this generalisation but it’s certainly worth pointing out so that you can draw your own conclusions. For example, one campaign run by a client resulted in several “Facebook” visitors to their Invisalign open day – none of whom actually signed-up and were described by the practice manager as curious “tyre kickers”. A couple of other dental clients have recently halted their Facebook campaigns after they analysed the quality of enquiries versus those stemming from organic and other paid campaigns. On the flip-side, we also have one client who does very well from Facebook by targeting a very specific demographic group with free whitening competitions and then marketing teeth straightening services to them thereafter.

Summary

As with all dental marketing channels, there are pros and cons and any insights might be useful before you try your own campaigns. Facebook can deliver results but don’t expect it to be the universal solution you may have read or been told. However, done correctly and with appropriate expectations, it can serve as a complementary channel alongside organic search and AdWords.

The level of confusion regarding what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing dental practices is understandable, so if you need a helping hand, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01332 672548.