How to Optimize Your Facebook Use to Reach Local Patients

Justin Morgan


These days, most dental practices have a Facebook page, which is the cornerstone of any social media marketing campaign. It puts you in touch with millions of people around the world. It’s easy to use, and your employees feel at home on it, so you don’t need to go out and hire pricy consultants or invest in new technologies to get started. You’re great at Facebook! How could you not be?

Here’s the catch. Facebook does give you access to millions of people around the world, but your practice isn’t recruiting patients globally. Most people aren’t going to fly internationally, or even drive out of state, to see a dentist. In reality, your patient base is limited to people who live about 2 hours from your office, and most of your patients will come from a 30- or 40-minute radius. If you want to use social media marketing well, you have to learn how to target local people, not everyone in the world.

Think Locally, Act Regionally

When you use Facebook as a marketing tool, you should think about what will help people in your community discover your practice. Then, you can target your advertising efforts to a slightly larger region, since, for instance, people several towns over may have friends and family in your town. Locally targeted social media marketing isn’t as difficult as you’d think. There are great options out there to help you develop and run local social media campaigns.

Facebook has got you covered. Facebook has ad options specifically designed to target local areas, and they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to use. The site actually has an ad manager that will let you create a highly focused as campaign based on your goals and Facebook’s research. Its algorithm also privileges locally targeted ads, so a fairly small advertising buy will get you excellent local coverage and in-feed placement. These ads are great at generating engagement and leads. Facebook even allows you to do A/B testing, running 2 versions of the ad, to discover which of your strategies generates more leads for your practice. If you’re not using this feature of Facebook in your marketing campaigns, you should be.

Rylan Hansen, DDS, of Apex, NC, found that Facebook advertising helped him communicate with patients about changes to his practice. “Facebook has been instrumental in helping us make connections with our patients during our recent practice acquisition,” Hansen said. His practice changed its name from Renaissance Dentistry to Hansen Dentistry. A Facebook ad campaign let him spread the word to current and future patients who might otherwise be confused by the rebranding process.

Choose your contests carefully. Giveaways are a great way to get likes, shares, and comments on social media. They can also pull in all sorts of people who have no intention of ever visiting your office. Choose your prizes carefully. An Amazon gift card will generate lots of attention, but much of it will be from outside your area. Use gift cards for local businesses as your prizes. This lets you highlight businesses you like and appreciate, focus on local residents, and build relationships with business owners in your community and their social networks. If you’re unsure how to run a fair raffle, try a site like Rafflecopter.

Check out your local buy/sell/trade groups. Every town, no matter how small, now has a Facebook page devoted to buying, selling, and trading goods and services. Check out the rules for the page. If small businesses are allowed to post ads or promotions, these groups can be a great way to reach people who might not look for a dentist in the paper or the phone book. Taking that first step to reach out can win you loyal patients for years to come.

Use reviews to craft a compelling portrait of how you serve people in your community. To attract local attention, feature reviews on your office Facebook page. Too many offices use their page mainly to share press releases from the ADA. This does nothing to distinguish your practice from someone 3,000 miles away. Meanwhile, reviews show people that their friends, neighbors, and colleagues like and trust you.

Instead of using Facebook to collect and store reviews, consider using a service like those offered by SolutionReach, which allow you to manage which reviews are distributed on various social media networks. You can feature reviews that match the message you want to send to your community about your practice and your personality.

Create Facebook content that plugs you into your community. People care deeply about their communities, and they want to visit dentists who share their love for their home. Let your love for the community show on your Facebook page. Did a local high school team make it to regionals? Cheer them on and wish them luck! (If 2 local teams are in competition, consider an “office divided” post.)

Participate in the United Way Day of Caring and post pictures online. Use your page to promote local blood drives, charity events, and even activities like summer reading, recreation league baseball, or free concerts in the park. When you show that you’re deeply rooted in the community, you show that you’re a dentist who cares about your patients and the places and people they love.

Use office visits to drive Facebook engagement. When patients are in your office, ask them to like your page on Facebook, check in at the location, and tag friends who need to make dentist appointments. Don’t rely on signs. Ask them if they’d like to take a selfie with their hygienist or in the x-ray room and post it, and provide free Wi-Fi to help them do it then and there. Chances are, you have patients who are passionate about great dental care and who’d love the opportunity to share your practice with friends and family. Make it easy for them.

Craft a story on your page. People think in stories. Use your Facebook page to create a visual story about how you are serving their friends, families, and neighbors in your office. Feature staff members each week, and ask them about their hobbies and life, not just about their work. Ask your patients who’ve completed certain treatments if they’d like to be featured on your Facebook page. Orthodontists have used “before and after” posts on office bulletin boards for years. They inspire patients and make the office seem friendlier. With patient permission, you can transfer some of this effect to social media.

Ask for advice on your Facebook page. Dental marketing and customer experience expert Anissa Holmes, DMD, recommends using your Facebook page to start conversations with current and future patients. Ask your fans and followers how you can improve your office, what keeps them from making appointments, and what they wish you knew about their lives. Invite readers to tag local friends and family in the comments so you can hear from more people. Asking for feedback online will help you connect with people who are too shy to offer advice in person. You’ll get a better feel for what people in your community, not just “generic dental patients,” want from your office.

When you use Facebook with a focus on local people and local issues, you can create powerful, locally targeted marketing campaigns that help you attract an enthusiastic and engaged patient base. Best of all, Facebook is a fun platform that lets you showcase your personality and the personalities of your staff. Start thinking locally, and maximize your dental practice’s social media marketing potential.

Mr. Morgan is known as “The Dental Marketing Guy.” He is a search engine optimization expert who teaches the first and only SEO course for dental professionals. There, he teaches dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and front office managers about the Invisalinks Method, a proven way to raise your Google rankings, without any technical jargon. He is a public speaker and teaches other marketing professionals the power of the Invisalinks Method in helping dental websites rank highly on search engines.

Disclosure: Mr. Morgan has provided digital marketing services to Dr. Hansen. He has no financial involvement with any other party mentioned in this article.

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