The numbers speak for themselves: more than half a million followers on Facebook, more than 2 million views on YouTube, and a corporate blog that is visited frequently. Since the relaunch of the Dentsply Sirona Facebook pages in March 2017, more than 4,000 new followers have been added every month. Dr. Jürgen Serafin, corporate vice president marketing, and Andreas Blauig, senior manager corporate social media, recently shared their insights about the strategy behind the company’s success.
Mr. Blauig, how do you explain Dentsply Sirona’s success on social media?
Blauig: The success of our social media efforts can be traced back to a number of different reasons. One factor that was enormously important for developing the strategy was that, as a company, you always have to think from the perspective of the target group. This means that the needs of the target group have to be identified and focused on. Then you need to check where the points of reference to the company’s own objectives are. And then the social media strategy can subsequently be derived from this.
Being open to possible changes also plays a decisive role. We have been in direct talks with our customers—dental practitioners and dental technicians—and also within the company about this. That gave us the necessary support in the company, and, by the way, this is absolutely essential to be able to operate successfully on social media. This strategy enabled us to consider all needs, and this is now paying off.
What are the objectives of your social media activities?
Serafin: We wanted to get closer to our customers so that we could address their needs directly. We should provide appropriate content and offers to them at all times. For example, we had determined that there was a great demand for detailed information about our high-tech products, products that often require a lot of explanation. We knew that moving images would be very suitable for these products. This knowledge prompted us to integrate social media into our product and corporate communication. From the start, it was determined that we would use our channel with the widest reach, Facebook, for this and further expand our video content on YouTube.
In 2016, there was a merger of the companies DENTSPLY and Sirona to make today’s Dentsply Sirona. Has the social media strategy changed as a result?
Serafin: Primarily the structural and personnel conditions have been altered as a result of the merger. New business units and national companies came with new teams who were already active on social media. The challenge then was to combine all of these activities to enable uniform social media communication. This was not an easy task, but we have now brought together a team of more than 30 colleagues worldwide that works together extremely well. The social media team achieves a permanent global communication that is consistent, and at the same time individually tailored for the specific country—in 11 languages. We are very proud of this performance.
How did you achieve this?
Blauig: In the first step, we concentrated on working out the common goals of all people involved. It was then clear that input from the companies in the individual countries that are most familiar with the local market and the requirements of the customers had to be retained. The importance of the individual business units, who had to provide their specialized knowledge about the products, was also clear.
As a result, we concentrated on the specialization of the customers. All of our business units, for example Implantology, Endodontics, and Prosthetics, have their own Facebook pages. This means that our customers can navigate better and get specific information about individual topics that they are interested in. Secondly, we also use the Global Pages structure of Facebook for the different national companies. If, for example, a user searches for Dentsply Sirona, they are automatically taken to the right Facebook page in their language.
Furthermore, the higher-level company strategy should always be visible. This is of course particularly important after a merger. Along with uniform branding, consistent communication in all countries is extremely important. We try to ensure this by providing the social media teams of the individual countries with relevant information or highlights from the business units as well as corporate content. The local colleagues ensure that the content has been adjusted to the respective market conditions and that it corresponds to the local legislation in the area of medical devices.
What impact did the structural changes have on the content?
Serafin: Following the merger, the focus of our social media activities was expanded. We have become more involved in specific content through the Facebook pages of the different business units. Along with detailed product-related and technical content that has been produced to be user-friendly, we also attempt to entertain users with occasionally surprising and interesting posts. The reach of our Facebook channels has increased enormously in the past few months. On average, we reach more than 7 million users per month with our Facebook pages, and we are of course very happy about this.
Blauig: The success of good social media communication depends on the content. When content has been targeted precisely to the user group and the region both in terms of language and content, this is rewarded by users. User interaction with our posts is increasing. And of course, the reach of the posts is also increasing.
We are experiencing this at the moment. We rely on a varied and comprehensive selection of content with our social media strategy. Across all of our channels—on our website, in the blog, on YouTube, and on Instagram and Facebook—we offer many interesting content formats. They include moving images and photo galleries, extraordinary company events and diverse product content, really great animated videos for the dental practice, live implant procedures, tips for colleagues, but also content and information for the patients. The target-group specific and high-quality content seems to appeal to users. Our user numbers are steadily increasing.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the social platform will once again focus on users, ie, that posts from family and friends will be given more prominence and, at the same time, content from companies and the media will be reduced. How do you plan on dealing with this realignment, and what will it mean for your social media strategy?
Blauig: This is true, of course, and it has caused a major stir in the past few weeks among social media managers. The latest change to the Facebook news feed algorithm has even been described as an “apocalypse” for Facebook advertisers by some people. I wouldn’t go that far, but this change will of course have implications for the reach that our posts have, and therefore for our communications strategy.
In order to continue to achieve real organic reach under the new conditions, we now have to pay even more attention to the quality of the content. The content must function and give rise to interactions immediately after posting. This is now the only way to obtain organic reach! You therefore have to pay even more attention when creating and selecting content to ensure that it works in the target group.
Our many years of experience with the user behavior of the dental community is a great advantage. The strategy of posting content just for the sake of posting is now finally a thing of the past. And that was never a part of our strategy anyway. Therefore, from this perspective, not so much is actually changing for Dentsply Sirona.
Under the altered general conditions, Facebook advertising will also play a greater role in pushing the reach of the content even better. It is also obvious that one of Facebook’s objectives with the algorithm change is to force companies to spend more on media. It remains to be seen whether this strategy will reap long-term rewards for Facebook. We will observe the situation intensely in any case and will also react with appropriate adjustments to our strategy if necessary.