More than ever before, consumers are turning to the internet to identify dentists they can trust. And with just a few clicks, searchers will likely find dozens of local options to consider. But with limited information about each doctor and practice, making a selection is challenging.
So the question is how your practice can stand out as the one that patients should choose. Having a well-designed and modern web presence with clear messaging will certainly help, but beyond that, one of the best answers is to provide social proof.
For dental practices, social proof primarily means showing prospective patients that a significant number of people in the community as well as their friends and family already utilize and recommend your services.
Why Social Proof?
Whenever people face a decision with limited information, research shows that our choices are heavily influenced by what we see other people doing. This holds true online as well.
According to a survey by the leading market research company Nielsen, 66% of people say they “trust consumer opinions posted online,” and more than 80% of people say they “trust the recommendations of friends and family.”
Basically, we all have a built-in desire to look for safety in numbers, familiarity, and human connection, even if our sources also have limited information. That is why it is critical for dental practices to take proactive steps to demonstrate community trust.
So how can you intentionally generate social proof? Here are a few key strategies we have found to be effective and achievable.
As said before, people trust online reviews by existing patients. By building up a host of positive reviews across different review sites, your practice can help searchers understand the value you provide through superior care and patient experience. At the same time, you will minimize the impact of any negative comments about your practice, which is critical.
And this isn’t just theory. One study by the leading search engine optimization company MOZ showed that businesses with a significant percentage of negative reviews or articles in search results can lose 70% of their potential customers. So make sure you are collecting reviews on all of the most popular sites, including Google Reviews, Facebook, Yelp, and Healthgrades.
Unfortunately, most happy patients won’t even think about leaving a review unless you ask them to do so, while unhappy patients will often go out of their way to leave negative feedback.
That is why we recommend designing a consistent and easy process to ensure that every happy patient is encouraged and even incentivized to leave a review. Consider offering small gifts for those who take the time to help out. A number of technology solutions are available to help dental practices automatically follow up with patients to ask for reviews.
Of course, negative reviews are inevitable if you’re in business long enough. So what should you do about them? According to one review site, “45% of customers are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.”
Basically, people want to see that you care enough to reply. Just remember to keep things cool and professional. And, do not include any specific patient information or case details that would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Beyond patient reviews, one of the best ways to build social proof is through social media platforms like Facebook. The goal of this approach is to get people in the community to see that their friends and family members already trust you with their business. You can also humanize your practice by posting regularly about your team.
While it may feel impractical at times to keep an active social feed, it really does make a difference. According to Adweek, one poll found that 30% of people check a local business’s Facebook page before visiting in person.
Because of HIPAA, posting about patients can be tricky. But one way to simplify things is to get your patients to do the sharing on their own devices. For example, consider offering incentives for patients to follow your page and “check in” on Facebook when they are at your office. This activity will be shown to their connections.
Another strategy is to set up a fun area in your office with props and creative items where patients can take photos and celebrate milestones. Just be proactive, and try offering socially prolific patients the opportunity to snap a picture with key members of your staff on their way out the door. It is worth the effort.
All of these strategies are great, but they won’t do much good if prospective patients can’t find your practice online or if your presence is outdated and unprofessional. For many searchers, your website will provide the first impression of your service.
That is why it is critical to ensure your entire online ecosystem from your website and social profiles to your practice listings are modern, up to date, and optimized for local search. Then ensure that your hard-won social proof is prominently displayed across all of your online touchpoints.
The consumerization of healthcare is changing how patients select their providers, and your online presence will only continue to grow in importance as millennials and younger generations become more affluent in society.
Dental practices that embrace these changes and stay current with the latest trends and technology will be well positioned to grow in the coming years. That is why it is critical that you begin to build your social proof now by following these strategies outlined.
Mr. Neidhart is a digital marketing enthusiast and cofounder of PracticeAlly, a company that helps dental practices attract, engage, and retain more patients online. He enjoys international travel, reading non-fiction, and just about anything outdoors. To connect with Micah, visit his Linkedin profile or stop by Practice-Ally.com.