Here’s an example from my upcoming book of a small business that has successfully navigated the social space to grow their client base:
A Dental Practice: Michael Sinkin, DDS from New York, tells us how he used social media to reach out and build relationships with a younger, more digital audience.
About 20 years ago, I bought my practice from a dentist who was retiring. It was a very healthy practice and I was busy all the time for many years treating the original patients and also growing a new, younger patient base (albeit slowly for the latter).
About three years ago, I realized that I needed to start to reach a younger audience to keep the stream of new patients growing as my older patients were… um, disappearing. One of my close friends (also a patient) recommended that the best way to achieve this was to use social media.
I was also dismayed that when I Googled my own name, all I saw were listings from sites such as Healthgrades, which I had no control over. I saw nothing that told my story the way I wanted it told to potential patients. I am very aware that when someone is referred to a dentist, that person will do online research before they ever make a call to the office for an appointment. I wanted people to be able to see why I am the right choice, and not have to hunt for information about me.
So, I hired a local social media consultant and put together a plan. We wanted to reach people from their late 20’s to early 50’s, who are employed, who live in New York City. We also added a second demographic; all of the above, plus those who work or live near my office, which is located just south of Grand Central Terminal.
We created a Facebook page and a Twitter profile. We decided to use Twitter as the main focus because it is easy to connect with people who fit my desired demographic. I created signs in my office asking people to “Like” my Facebook page and to follow me on Twitter. Meanwhile, my consultant began engaging with people on Twitter, especially those who were complaining of tooth problems, or actually said “Need a Dentist!”
The community began to build. It was amazing! Within the first few months I began to get calls from new patients who said that they had seen one of their Twitter friends talking about me. From then on, I got one or two new patients per month solely from Twitter. Now that may not seem like a lot for many businesses, but it’s significant to me because my experience is this: most of my patients stay with me for many, many years, and they also refer me to their friends and family. So each new patient is a source of revenue over the long term.
So, what do I tweet about? Well, a key to what I do is my blog. My blog is a combination of stories about my patients, my practice, and a bit of my signature pontificating.
Interspersed within all that are tips and answers that are really helpful for anyone having a dental emergency or just needing information. For example, my blog post, “5 Ways to Get Relief for a Toothache” has been re-tweeted 37 times and counting!
What have I learned from my experience using social media?
I have learned that using social media effectively can be very time-consuming. I need my consultant to help me stay on track. I don’t have a lot of time and she is always right on top of me to approve a blog or to answer an online question. And staying focused on one or two platforms instead of spreading myself thin, works for me.
I don’t offer “specials” and don’t want to compete with the large dental “salons” and cosmetic dentistry “factories” in my dental practice. Good, positive information about what patients can expect when they see me is very powerful. And because of Twitter, my blog, and Facebook, when someone Googles me now, I’m confident that what they see is what I want them to see.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that I have a great sense of humor and am never at a loss for words!
At this writing, Dr. Sinkin has over 4,000 followers on Twitter, his main social media platform for connecting with patients, and his regular blog posts consistently get shared by readers. Dr. Sinkin proves that even small local businesses can benefit from social media if they give it the right attention. What small businesses have you come across who have had similar success? Care to share their stories?