Why Digital Marketing Strategies are Tricky and Important for Your Reputation Management Plan

Adrian Lefler talks about why successful digital marketing is an art and critical to the success of a dental group’s or DSO’s community reach.

DSOPro: Tell us about your background and how you got into dental marketing.

My friend Seth Dahle and I worked together at a company about 20 years ago. We both left that company and went our different ways. He went to work with a dental marketing company, and I started my own digital marketing company. 

I was working with small businesses for about 3 years. They included real estate agents, insurance agents, and small mom-and-pop companies. In the credit crisis of 2008-2009 most of our clients went out of business, and so did I. The marketing company Seth had been with went out of business as well. Both of us were out of work. So, I called Seth and asked, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m planting flowers in my yard.” I was like, “I got an idea.”

New call-to-action

I had figured out how to help a small business get listed in the Google Maps section of a search. This was only 2 or 3 years after Google added the local maps to search results. I knew how to create a business through the business listing system and optimize the listing so it would show up on the front page of the search engines. 

I told Seth, “This is super valuable for small businesses. It will generate new patients, clients, or customers for anybody.” So, we decided to create a company together because he had the dental contacts, and I had the product.

We started providing that service and it has been tremendously successful. It’s changed since the early days in terms of helping a small business rank higher but being listed as high and as wide as possible is still probably one of the most valuable strategies for a small business to grow, especially a dental office. 

The way that local search works is when a consumer searches from farther away from where a company is physically located, the less likely a business will show up on the map for that consumer. But what most dentists are not aware of is that you can optimize the listing, which will help the practice show up at a wider radius. Essentially, more people in your community from farther distances will find you at the top of the map. This is incredibly valuable for a dentist considering that patients usually make a decision about which dentist they go to based on location.

So, we started offering this to dentists in the United States and Canada. It went really well. Our clients loved the service, and we were growing. 

In early 2010, we decided to get into social media because Facebook was going bonkers, and it looked like it would be a great way for dentists to connect with their patients and their local community. I got online and started doing some searching. When I searched for “dental or dentist social media service,” a company popped up called Lava 7. They could have been anywhere on the planet, but they were in Provo, 50 miles south of Salt Lake City. 

I called them and spoke with Jack Hadley who said they had just barely created the dental social media product. I suggested we talk, because I thought our clients would be interested in improving their social media by setting up Facebook pages and creating social media content. We created My Social Practice from these two companies. We developed the first social media service in dentistry and probably in health care. We were super early. 

Over the next 13 years we’ve stayed in the dental industry because we really enjoy working with dentists. We understand the industry, the struggles, and the value of digital marketing for dentists. We’ve been asked by many companies to start similar products and services in the plastic surgery, dermatology, chiropractic, or other healthcare-related industries, but we’ve resisted that temptation. 

Over the years, our team grew to about 30 employees. We’re a small company, super lean and efficient. Jack Hadley and Rob Jensen eventually left to go do some different things with their lives.

Currently, Blake Hadley, Seth Dally, and I own the company. We have some super-amazing upper management personnel who run it for us, and our team is amazing. Our employees are spread all over the country and abroad. One of our employees, a copywriter, lives in Spain. 

We got rid of our office during COVID, which we found was a big bonus. We didn’t realize how many of us preferred to work from home. We’ve opened our hiring up geographically to anywhere in the world with an internet connection, which has allowed us to bring in super-awesome talent. Working from home is a great perk. Many of our employees are in their 20s and 30s and starting families and moving around the country as they settle. 

New call-to-action

Watch the Philips Spotlight Series

In this new docu-series from Philips, meet oral healthcare professionals driven to meaningfully impact patient health. Hear how dental practitioners, healthtech organizations and patients partner together to elevate oral healthcare and change lives.


Watch the New Philips Series

DSOPro: Give us some more details on the services you offer.

In the last few years, we’ve expanded our digital marketing services. We’ve added a dental website design service that is honestly one of the best website products on the market. We offer website hosting services, blog writing, and custom copywriting at a fraction of the cost of hiring your own employees. 

We launched one of the first reputation management services. We have a great team of graphic designers that help establish brand identity. We also offer a local dental SEO service that helps dentists rank higher on the Google map. 

DSOPro: Are you offering any new services?

One of the services I’m really excited about is launching Local Service Ads for dentists. They are ads that have not been introduced into healthcare yet. These are Pay-Per-Lead ads, which is different from Pay-Per-Click. Local Service Ads will be at the very top of search results. You don’t pay unless you get a lead. It’s a great way to find new patients. We’ve partnered with Google to offer these and will be launching them over the next few months. 

DSOPro: Tell us more about social media and the services you offer.

Social media marketing is the original digital marketing service we created. We built the service before social media transitioned from desktop to mobile. It used to be that Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter were the tools to leverage but now you want to use Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Social media tools that allow dental practices to create content on the fly is where it’s at. 

Social media is a permission-based marketing system. That means that how well a marketing campaign works is in the hands of the audience, not the practice. Dentists could spend a ton of money on paid advertising. But if you want to use social media in the most effective way possible, you have to create content that’s good enough, interesting enough, and engaging enough that people will want to share it. 

When you create something that your patients and local community find interesting, transparent, and fun, it takes on a life of its own. The algorithms in social media platforms then push that content out into the community. What we do is show dental practices how this works and give them the trending ideas so they are as successful as they can be.

Social media is so effective that it’s become an integral marketing strategy. As the internet and the platforms have changed, with the integration of how SEO works, website rankings, local SEO, and Google Ads have all started to congeal. A really good digital marketing strategy requires that you do everything in a cohesive manner.

You must use your social media content creation in conjunction with your SEO, reputation management, and your website. 

For example, let’s say that you’re a dentist who does some pro bono work for a patient who can’t afford to pay for the service. That story can be a great way to get word of mouth going and build the team spirit. But that is also a blog post, a social media story, a patient newsletter, a post on your Google Business Profile, and it’s possibly a Google review. All of this, when done properly with the correct linking and optimization, will dramatically help your organic rankings in searches. It’s leveraging one piece of content in multiple ways. 

You have to approach digital dental marketing from a global aesthetic. It’s not just one strategy. The issue at hand is that it takes the right people with the right skillset. You need a blog writer, an SEO specialist, a social media manager, graphic designer, web developer, etc. Sometimes you can find a person who has a couple of these skills. But beyond that it takes a ton of planning and time, which most dental practices don’t have.

DSOPro: What do you mean by reputation management?

Reputation management is a process by which you manage your practice’s reputation online. The number one place where patients get a view of a dental practice’s reputation is the Google review profile. Dental reputation management is the new word-of-mouth-digital marketing.

The first place to start is to make sure you’re getting enough five-star Google reviews. You also must be responding in a HIPAA-compliant way to those reviews and using any reviews that are not five-star as a way to improve your overall practice processes.

Potential patients, flat out, make decisions about healthcare providers based on reviews. It’s a personal recommendation. It’s almost as strong as a word-of-mouth referral.  

We offer a reputation management service that helps dental practices get reviews inside the office with staff training and support materials. We train staff on how to talk about and get reviews from patients. We also have a text-message software that helps get patient reviews. 


Watch Their Journey

Cloud-Based Imaging for a Streamlined, Smarter Practice

When practitioners can rely on high-quality, full-size images and 3D dental imaging capability, diagnostic confidence increases. And when patients better understand dentists’ recommendations through clear connections to diagnostic imaging, treatment acceptance increases too.

Read More


DSOPro: Which social media platforms make the most sense for reaching patients and are the best for keeping them engaged? 

I will answer that in two ways: by the platform you use and the type of content you create. The platforms you should use, in order, are Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. Now, this pertains to a general dentist and maybe an orthodontist or pediatric dentist, but not a specialty practice. The marketing strategies for a specialty practice are different. 

If you’re a normal human being in any community in this country, and you’re involved in social media, you’re on Facebook, Instagram, and/or TikTok. Consumers, the actual database of people who might become your patients, are not always looking at LinkedIn every day. They’re usually not going to Twitter to get local information. Twitter is a national news social media outlet. So, when you talk about a localized marketing approach, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are the accounts you want to use. 

The second thing is the type of content. You need video content. All of the algorithms in the social media accounts are leaning toward, value, promote, and emphasize video content because that’s what consumers are spending their time on. If a dentist publishes both a photo and a video on Instagram, the video will initially have more value because the algorithm is set to push out video content more than photography.

DSOPro: Dentists must create their own videos?

Yes. That becomes complicated because you have to figure out how to get them to shoot a video. Cell phones do make that easier, but the thousands of dentists I’ve talked to typically say, “I don’t want to have to do anything with social media. I want to be found and reach my local community with social media, but I don’t have the time to do it. Do it for me.” 

The problem with that is you can’t do social media and not be involved. If you hire a digital marketing agency to create content for you, your patients and local community will recognize that it’s not authentic and no one is going to pay attention. Your patients want to see you and your team.

What we do is identify and train somebody in the practice. It doesn’t take much time, maybe 5 minutes a day or 20 minutes a week. We send them an idea that is hot and trending and that the algorithms are pushing out.

Our approach is creating content that is valuable. Content can’t be a sales pitch. It’s not like saying, “I offer dental implants. Come to my office.” Good social media content is more like, “Look how I’m involved in my community. Look at my patients and how much they love coming to our office. Check out my amazing staff. My staff loves to work here. This is why I decided to become a dentist. This is how I want to help.” That’s the message social media should be. 

We find an idea that’s doing well, tweak it for dentistry, and create a strategy around it. We send it to the practice with some training and instructions, and say, “Hurry and do this idea and we’ll post it for you. And we’ll respond to all your comments.” The content must be done by the practice.

New call-to-action

Interested in the DSO Market?

DSO DataCONNECT tracks more than 2,600 dental organizations with 3 practice locations or more - representing more than 90,000 corporate employees and dentists. Data includes a combination of contact information, PE Support, Procedural Codes, and Org Chart relationships.

Learn More

DSOPro: What do you see as the most important or emerging strategies for 2023 for DSOs? 

Local Service Ads! This is going to be a game changer. These ads are above all other ads in the search engine. It’s just been announced that these are available. We’ve partnered with Google to help dentists get approved for the ads and will be launching them over the next few months.

Secondly you want to optimize your Google Business profile, so you rank higher on the local Google Maps. Somewhere around 80% of people looking for a new dentist use Google Maps and check out the review profile to help them make a decision about whether they should call to schedule an appointment or not. Optimization includes ranking higher and improving your review profile.

More Google reviews doesn’t necessarily make you rank higher, but it definitely increases conversion. Think about it this way. Let’s say a DSO put together an incredible marketing campaign with print mail, emails, billboards, television ads, and flyers. Around 80% of the people who see those ads will check out the practice’s reviews. You need to make sure that the reviews and your reputation related to that listing look awesome. If they don’t, you are going to waste tens of thousands of dollars in your initial marketing strategy, because no one is going to call you after seeing a lackluster review profile. 

If the DSO has 500 five-star reviews and every other dentist in the area has only 100, they’re going to call the DSO. Reviews help create hyper-local awareness.

I did a report at the end of 2021 where I surveyed around 30,000 dental practices. I pulled all their information from their Google Business profiles, and counted how many reviews they had, how many were negative reviews, how often they get them, etc. It’s a great report to help a DSO understand what they should shoot for with a review profile. A couple of the top ten were DSO locations.

For DSOs, one of the biggest challenges is scalability without losing authenticity and a local community vibe. We’ve developed our digital marketing service to make sure that the local, homegrown, authentic feel of a dental practice isn’t locked in a DSO multi-location marketing campaign. 

More from the Newsletter

About Adrian Lefler


Adrian is the CEO of My Social Practice and has been involved in dental digital marketing for over 13 years. He has helped thousands of practices grow and thrive through digital marketing. Adrian enjoys being a trendy film snob, mountain climbing and biking, college football, religious philosophy, and rock hounding. He and his spouse have four snarky children, one dumb dog, and one fantastic dog. They live in Suncrest, Utah.


New call-to-action

Similar posts