First impressions count, especially when you’re trying to grow your practice through patient acquisition. You’ve done everything you can to make you’re attractive to new patients, you’ve invested in a refurbishment and the latest kit so your practice is looking smart and can deliver the best possible treatments, you’ve even spent some time and money advertising in your local paper. Now all you need to do is sit back and wait for the phones to ring, right? Wrong, you’ve neglected the one area that for many new patients really does result in creating the first impression – your digital footprint.
Your social media profile
Let’s start at the beginning, what exactly is a digital footprint? To put it simply it’s any reference online to you or your company. It’s what your patients and employees (past or present) say about you on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s what reviews and comments have been left on sites such as NHS Choices and what news articles have been published.
Gone are the days when today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, now every comment about you and your practice can live online forever whether its positive or negative. You may ask ‘so what?’ But, if you’re trying to acquire new patients it’s this footprint that could help or hinder you.
Recent figures reveal that 90% of consumers turn to the internet to check out a product, service or a company’s credentials before they make a purchase. But do people really use Google before deciding to register with a dentist? You better believe they do. Don’t be fooled into thinking that consumers only research the net before they buy a holiday, car or the latest gadget most do it for all their main purchases and that includes their health too. After all, isn’t our health the most valuable thing to us all?
To prove our point we recently undertook some research with 100 people and ask them whether they would research their dentist or GP before registering at their practice. Seventy-six percent said without question that they would and a further 24 per cent said they had they’re decision of which health care provider to use influenced by online review sites and social media.
With this in mind do you know how your practice’s digital footprint looks? Is it working hard to drive patient acquisition or is it scaring them into the arms of your competition?
The first piece of advice I would give any dental practice is to be brave and find out now. Even if it’s negative it’s better to know and take steps to act upon it than bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away because it won’t. But where do you start?
If you’ve got a website and you’ve invested in SEO then a simple internet search of your practice or clinicians should bring up a healthy stream of links on the first page of Google but it’s beyond here that you need to look. What is on page five? What does the news drop in a Google search reveal? What images have been posted?
What happens when you search for mentions about your practice or employees on Twitter? Are patients talking about you? Are your employees representing your business in the best possible light? Before we work with any client and throughout a campaign we always run an audit to review their digital footprint and it’s a surprise to many to find out what’s being said about them on Twitter especially if they’ve been operating on the assumption that you can’t be discussed if you don’t have an account. That’s really not the case, no service provider can escape Twitter’s critical tongue.
The next place you need to look is on the NHS Choices site. This is really important as it allows your patients to review your practice, leave comments and compare you against your competition.
Here patients can search by postcode for their nearest dental practices. Similar to review sites such as Trip Advisor, it provides consumers with a star rating system and carries comments left by current and former patients.
It only takes one negative comment to put doubt into a prospective patient’s mind. What’s more, why wouldn’t you want to know what people are saying about you and your business? I know I do.
Sarah Learoyd is an account director with leading dental communications consultancy, GLR Public Relations, she specialises in digital reputation management and engagement with the health sector.