Is Facebook advertising worth it for dentists?
Should you spend money promoting your dental practice on Facebook? NO! For the vast majority of dentists out there Facebook marketing or social media marketing in general is not going to generate anywhere close to the return-on-investment you could achieve with many other marketing activities.
One question that comes up ALL THE TIME, especially from our own dental clients, is whether they should do Facebook marketing. People are bombarding them from all angles telling them how important it is that they post on Facebook or Instagram.
I’m going to give you a very different point of view, one that is probably going to be quite controversial. I don’t think Facebook or social media marketing in general, is a great way to spend your marketing dollars as a dental practice.
Now I know what some of you out there are probably saying “well I do social media marketing and I get patients from it!”
The reason social media marketing isn’t a good strategy is not because it doesn’t work. It absolutely works. We have done well over $100,000 of marketing ad spend on Facebook, it will absolutely get you patients, in fact it will do this at a much better cost-per-patient than you would likely get from flyers or newspaper ads or most traditional marketing that dentists spend money on.
So then why shouldn’t you do it? What’s the problem with it?
Almost everything you can do to market your dental practice works… to some degree
This is something we touched upon in our last video about what it costs to generate a new patient. I highly recommend you check that out.
The essence of the problem is this. Almost everything you can do to market your dental practice works… to some degree. If you throw enough money at something you will get patients from it. It’s never about if something works or not, it’s more about “what is going to work the best? What is going to generate the highest return-on-investment?”
If I put $1,000 into SEO, or social media, or Google AdWords, or flyers, or the hundreds of other things I could be doing, which activity is going to get me the most amount of new patients, what is going to get me the highest quality patients, and what is going to do so most reliably?
And here’s the thing… the answer is NEVER going to be social media, for many reasons. Let’s dig into some of them.
The first reason, and one of the most important ones, is that people who are looking for a new dentist are not going to Facebook to search for them.
So sure, you can show ads on Facebook to people in your area, and someone may see that ad, and they may need a dentist, and they may think “hm… maybe I can try this place”. Yes, that can happen. But compare this for a second to advertising to someone who goes on Google and types in “best dentist in Chicago”. Who do you think is more serious about becoming a patient? Someone who was scrolling through Facebook looking at photos of their friends and randomly saw an ad on Facebook about your practice OR someone who is spending the time to look for dentists in your area?
That person searching on Google is actually looking for a dentist. They need a dentist, they know they need one, and they are taking the time to find one. You can argue this patient is also going to be much higher quality because they are actually spending the time to research what their options are and find the best dentist to go to.
Social media runs into the same problem with all “push” marketing strategies like flyers for example. You can send out thousands of flyers to the neighbourhood, and someone may go to their mailbox, see your flyer, happen to need a dentist, and say “hm… maybe I can try this place”. So yes it does work, but it’s not going to ever be as efficient as marketing to someone who is actually looking for a dentist.
In the case of flyers, or social media marketing, you’re spending a lot of money to try to find the needle in the haystack. Almost all the flyers you send end up in the garbage, but you’re still paying for them. The vast majority of people you’re spending money to reach on Facebook don’t want, or need, or are looking for a dentist, but you still pay a lot of money to try to find that small few who are. It works but it’s not the most efficient strategy, that’s the problem.
The primary goal of social media platforms is entertainment for their users
There’s another weird issue you run into with Facebook and social media in general.
The primary goal of social media platforms is entertainment for their users, not helping dentists find patients. They want to attract users and keep them engaged so their algorithm prioritizes fresh content. Now what exactly does this mean for you?
Let’s say you spend a lot of time and money testing many different images and ads and find a few that work very well on Facebook. Let me give you an example. Say you run an ad targeting students. You have a picture of a young girl dressed in her graduation gown and is going up on stage to accept her degree. You run a headline like “Commemorate your achievement with a beautiful smile. Learn more about Invisalign.” Or let’s say you want to sell teeth whitening so you create a campaign targeting brides. It’s their wedding, it’s their big day, once in a lifetime, they are spending thousands of dollars on a photographer, imagine how embarrassing those photos will be if her teeth are yellow. You need to get teeth whitening.
You get the idea. There are a lot of interesting ads you can run that create desire by targeting people’s insecurities. So you run this ad… and… it works REALLY well. You get a high conversion rate, you sign up a few patients for a very low cost compared to what it takes to run the ad. Life is good.
Then 3-4 days go by and the ad stops performing well. Costs go up, conversion rate goes down, and it isn’t reaching a lot of people. In fact about a week after you run this Facebook ad nobody is even seeing it. What the heck is going on?
Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t want to show it anymore. Why? Again remember, Facebook’s primary goal is not to help you get patients, it’s to create entertainment for their users. In their eyes your ad is old. You already ran it for a few days, they want you to come up with something new. It doesn’t matter that your ad produces great results “for you” if it doesn’t help them achieve their goal of “more new content to keep people entertained”
So much of the time and effort you put into improving your campaigns is ultimately kind of pointless because you don’t get to benefit from it for very long once you come up with an amazing ad. Compare this to Google AdWords. Google doesn’t care if you run the same ad for the next 10 years, if the ad works well, it produces great results, not only will they keep showing it, they will actually show it more and more and charge you less and less the better the ad is.
Now you may wonder, “Why would they do that?” Because Google’s goal isn’t entertainment, it’s helping people find products, services, and information they want. If people go on Google, they search for things, they click on ads, and the results they get don’t help them, they are not useful, then nobody is going to keep using Google.
So if you are competing with 20 other dentists in your area, and you spend more time and effort to come up with better ads, create better information on your website, to create more value for patients, not only will you show up more often than those other 20 dentists, you would actually be paying a fraction of the costs they are spending to run ads on Google. The better your ads and website are the less you will pay.
Facebook works best in a supportive role like re-marketing campaigns
This is not how Facebooks works however. Facebook doesn’t care how good your website is or how much it helps people find a solution to their problem. All their algorithm cares about is entertaining their users with new and interesting content.
Where Facebook works best and is actually quite good is usually in a supportive role like re-marketing campaigns for example. If someone is interested in Invisalign, it may take them weeks or months before they actually decide to move forward with it and come in for a consultation. Facebook is a great way to re-engage with people who already know about you. You can share testimonial videos, or nice pictures of your staff celebrating a patient’s birthday for example, or content that is warm and friendly and target that to people who, in the past, have shown interest in your dental services and you want to make sure they don’t forget about you.
However, for this to work properly and actually produce a good return-on-investment, you usually need to already be driving a lot of traffic to your website, much more than 90% of dentists out there are doing. These types of campaigns are only effective when you’re doing marketing at a large scale.
In the end, unless your dental practice has a very large marketing budget, we’re talking $5,000 – $10,000 per month or more, and unless you already are #1 on SEO and you’re beating everyone on Google AdWords, and you have the most Google reviews of any dentist in your area, and you still have money left over, social media is just not going to be the best bang-for-your buck in terms of getting new patients.