Harnessing Social Media – 3 Important Rules

I enjoy receiving questions and input from viewers and even though the two questions received below are regarding dentistry, they can apply to businesses as well. Here are the two very interesting questions:1)What are the top three rules for harnessing Social Media to the advantage of a dental practice?
2)What are three most effective things a dentist should do with his or her Facebook or Twitter account?Social media is still relatively new in the realm of using it for business and offers an incredible opportunity to get to know your target market. Social media is a bridge that gives you access to people, information, and even companies/businesses you didn’t have access to in the past.Word of mouth advertising is the best form of advertising and social media IS word of mouth advertising…on steroids!Used correctly, it isn’t something that can be done quickly, it does require strategy, a plan of action, and like anything else you are building…it takes – time.To a degree, because it is relatively new, the rules are still to be figured out. However, there are some rules that are already in place if you want to use SM correctly for building your business/practice. In answering your questions:What are the top three rules for harnessing Social Media to the advantage of a dental practice?1) Social media sites are NOT about making sales, they are about making contact, building (profitable) relationships, and establishing value, credibility, and trust.The above is first and foremost with social media. Gone are the days when the print medias (yellow page advertising, magazine ads, flyers) were leading or “selling” the consumers. Users (consumers) are in control now and it’s a total mind change. Today’s consumer is Internet savvy and is not going to be “sold”, they want to be educated first in order to make informed decisions.Today’s business owner gives the consumer the information they are seeking, helps solve their problems, and along the way, the business establishes themselves as the thought leader in their field. Having taken the time to establish credibility, given value, and developed a relationship between consumer and business, the consumer will naturally turn to you when it’s time to purchase.Enter Social Media sites…the most effective and most efficient way for business owners to get their information to savvy consumers and to develop those relationships.2) Authenticity and Transparency: Whatever is done must be done with quality. Be transparent and authentic, you are developing profitable relationships. Everything you do should have a strategic intent.These sites aren’t about making sales, they are about building relationships, credibility, value, and trust and that’s done using your two strategic keys: Being Authentic and Transparent. Then those contacts tell everyone they know, who tells everyone they know…about you, your business, product or service. This is viral word of mouth advertising, people telling LOTS of other people.3) Online Reputation Management. Social media makes it easy for you to share information as you network with your community. You have something to offer…remember? That’s why you went into business. Social media is conversation and makes it easy for you to engage in discussions about what you may be able to help them with. This is where you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise.Social media also allows you to monitor and be more responsive to your target market. Paying attention to questions being asked and statements being made by your target market about you, your business/practice, your brand, your products and services…good and bad.With your community, being “visible” online can also bring out negative comments as well (there’s always one in the crowd). The reality is angry customers are already talking whether you are online or not. But at least when you are online, the person and comments are “in your space” and can be addressed.You can’t always “control” the conversation, but a lot of site applications allow you the option to post or not to post their comments. But even if posted, it can be addressed.Also, clients/patients genuinely appreciate seeing how businesses and practices respond to legitimate criticism and many times will come to the aid of the business/practice with their our positive responses. This is called Online Reputation Management.What are three most effective things a dentist should do with his or her Facebook or Twitter account?1) Repeat #1 and #2 above- These are first and foremost with Social Media. If you don’t understand this, you will miss the incredible opportunity with Social Media.2) Build a quality local network/community and build your brand. Target your local area, your clients/patients. Found out what their problems are, what you can help them with. You want to establish you not only have their solution, you are their solution. Establish yourself as the thought leader in your area of expertise.As you build your brand, you don’t have to be a McDonalds or a Starbucks. It can be as simple as your avatar (picture), your logo, a tag line, or even a specific color. Point is – when used (viewed) regularly, each impression strengthens peoples awareness of who you are, your practice, and what your services and products are about. You are being seen.3) Be consistent with your time, your content, and your marketing. Not every person on your social sites are going to be members of your target market, but by providing good solid content, helpful links and information, and regularly contributing something of value and useful to your community, the viral nature of social media will get the message to those who are looking for you.**Side Note: Make sure you have created your social media guidelines and policies (and possible training program) if someone else within your business/practice or outside your business/practice is creating/posting your information.In summary: Use social networking to add value, build your credibility, and develop trust. Value + credibility + trust turns an observer into a follower, a follower into a fan, a fan into a lead, and a lead into a patient/client!What are your thoughts? What do you think qualifies as a “top rule” for harnessing Social Media to the advantage of a business or dental practice?