How Do I Define “Success?”
Part 2 of my series on success in social media and the web will address the question(s) of:
- Setting goals or a vision for your online presence
- Defining what results equal success for those goals or that vision and then measuring to see if you achieved them or failed to do so.
- Do social reach, social proof, unique visitors, page views, bounce rate etc MEAN anything?
Going Viral is Good for the Ego, but for Business?
Interestingly enough, this article follows hard on the heels of a blockbuster article published on my dental office blog a week ago titled Why I Don’t Buy Organic. It was an article I’d been wanting to write for some time, and as is usual with my ADD brain, when the writing urge struck, I pounded it out over the weekend and clicked “Publish.” I was completely unprepared for what happened – in dental terms, it went viral!
Bear in mind, my dental blog typically gets 4-600 page views per day. For many businesses, that’s small stuff, but it’s probably better than 90% of my dental colleagues. The previous “record” was 1700+ views, but this article blew the lid off as you can see in the images below:
Yup, that’s right. Since it was published, I’ve nearly doubled the total traffic that my website gets all month, and it’s only the 17th today. And the social stats? I mean….dental websites just don’t get this kind of attention! Holy crap! And since it took me longer to get this published than planned, the stats are noticeably higher by now. After 1 week, over 6,200 FB Likes and over 25,000 views of that 1 article.
Am I Successful, or Should You Listen to Me?
In my article Social Media & Web Success (Part 1): Reach Beyond Your Comfort Zone, I talked about how I got started in content creation, websites, SEO, and then social media. While it was generally well received, there were some legitimate hard questions asked. After all, remember my disclaimers that I don’t claim to be an expert in social media or the web? And yet, there I was talking about being “successful,” and based on the article, it looked like my claims to success were based on some social shares and what I’d learned in the PYB Academy. But am I actually successful? Did I have a target that I’d met? Do I have any measurable results that make me worth listening to on the subject at all?
While my personal financial situation is quite private, I think it worth sharing a bit more of the RESULTS that I’ve achieved in my dental practice that back me up. For some background, you can read Smiles by Payet Family Dentistry Turns 15, but for some numbers:
- From 2008 until 2014, I was almost exclusively responsible for all SEO, design, and content on the website and for all social media activity
- I still write 100% of the content for the website and am actively engaged on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter
- During that time period, our web presence was directly responsible for more than $2,000,000 in revenue and more than 1,000 new patients
- Indirectly, it is safe to assume our web presence was responsible for at least another 50% of each of those numbers
- Our dental office not only survived during the great Depression, we GREW 10-20% every year from 2009 through 2012
- Our office, largely thanks to superb management by my wife, is probably in the top 15% of all dental offices in the USA
It is true that I do not claim to be an expert on either the Web or social media like many of the people I follow on Google+. However, I can safely say that I have proved my knowledge where it counts – building a business and making money. Yes, I’ve made a lot of very expensive learning mistakes along the way and talked openly about them whenever asked, and there will always be more to learn. But I have nothing to sell you – I only make money by fixing teeth. I can definitely say, however, that I’ve made a lot of money by fixing a lot of teeth that came to me from the Web.
Does It Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That
Now we get to those questions raised at the beginning of this article, and I’ll give you my personal take on them in relation to my overall points.
1a) For businesses online, the ultimate goal of web views has to be (in my opinion) converting those views into actual clients, or at least contacts to determine if they should become clients. Not all businesses actually want every potential client after all. An ironic twist to the popularity of my article on foods is that some of those viewers will decide NOT to choose me as their dentist, just as someone who doesn’t believe in fluoride would get turned off by my recent articles about fluoride safety. And that’s a good thing, because that way we don’t have to find out how unsuited we are after spending time and money together. But the goal is to attract potential patients who are looking for an office with the philosophy of care that we espouse. So in simplest terms, the huge boost in traffic is only relevant if it brings in new patients who spend money in my office and hopefully stay long term. If not, then it wouldn’t be unfair to characterize the article as a failure; of course, if it stops people from coming to me who won’t like me and would leave, then that could be an indirect success – just not a measurable one.
1b) But do I have a bigger goal than simply attracting patients? Is that the only goal that someone online should have? I think the answer to the 2nd question is clearly a “NO,” and the answer to the first question is absolutely a “YES.” And that is why it’s so important to define the goal of your online presence, even if it’s only to say that you have no goals. In this case, my overarching goal is to be part of the effort to educate the public about science, the scientific method, pseudoscience, etc. Quite frankly, this is a goal that is probably not measurable, and the only way to accomplish it is to reach as many people as possible. The only possible measure of success is shares, comments, likes, etc. [AUTHOR’S COMMENT] I have been challenged on this statement and am in the process of gathering more information that may change my position. Based on that, I seem to have found some measure of success recently.
2) Measuring Results is of course entirely dependent on the goals you’ve set. In dentistry, one of the most common ways we measure success is Return on Investment (ROI) using the number of patients who came to us from any given source (web, print, radio, etc) and the total dollar amount generated. We do this usually on a monthly, annual, and multi-year basis. Some ways that you can measure:
- Google Analytics (or other similar program)
- Set up Conversion Tracking to see if people are going where you want on your website and taking other desired actions
- Social analytics using various apps: NOD3x, Steady Demand Pro, Pinterest, Twitter, Shareaholic
- Proprietary software in your company, such as dental programs like Open Dental, Eaglesoft, Curve, Dentrix, etc.
- We also use a company called Divergent Dental that automatically generates daily, weekly, and monthly reports.
- We are also considering a program developed by Progressive Dental Marketing that can tie our software and every marketing outlet we use together.
3) This last question particularly interests me. Social reach…..shares…..views……social proof……they’re all aspects of the new world of social media marketing (SMM). I’m sorry that I don’t have links to share here, as all my researching time recently has gone into my dental blogging, and I’m going off memory and my personal opinion.
My personal opinion is in line with what is probably the majority view of SMM experts: for business in general, social stats don’t mean much except as a way to boost one’s visibility and possibly ego; however, when it comes to non-business goals of public outreach and education, I think social stats are one of the few easily measurable ways available to determine if a message is having an impact or not.
I Want Lots of Traffic for Lots of Reasons
Ultimately, I am firmly of the opinion that getting a lot of traffic and social reach has 1 primary benefit: business is a numbers game. The more numbers in, the greater the odds of bigger numbers out.
Put another way: regardless of whether one wants patients, online sales, consultations, educational impact, or almost anything else, the more people that see you and your content, the higher the likelihood that someone will do something that you want. This is obviously contingent on your providing something of real value – without that, none of it means a hill of beans.
- If Dr. Howard Farran shares my articles to 50,000 dentists around the world, the chance of me getting a patient is almost zero. But out of 50,000 dentists, is it possible that one or more might link to my website and provide a small boost to my SEO? Yeah, a definite chance with a tangible benefit.
- If 20 FB pages about farming share my article about food, there’s a chance someone in Charlotte will see it and decide to choose me; or maybe it will again generate a link as a valuable resource.
- If 10,000 people in Charlotte see an article on FB and 50 like it, that’s Brand Awareness. That builds over time, and as they see my content more frequently, the chances that they will call my office when in need increases. It might take 3-6 months, but that’s ok. I’m patient.
The whole point is that you have to be seen by a lot of people to have a chance at getting some of them in.
No. 1 Rule: Practicality & What Works
Let’s boil it all down, shall we?
- BE PRACTICAL!
- If it works, screw what anyone else says and continue
- If it doesn’t work, screw what anyone else says and stop
- Not everything works for everyone all of the time, but everything works for someone some of the time
- Business is a numbers game, play the odds but be willing to take risks
- Google Search is the 800lb Gorilla
- Don’t make the gorilla angry and break the rules.
- Give the gorilla what it wants – meaningful content.
- Social Media isn’t 800lbs, but it’s no lightweight.
- Every social media platform has benefits and weaknesses. Learn and use them to spread your message.
- No matter what you try – always measure. Then review Rule #1.
And then there is the REAL Rule No. 1: it’s all about connecting with people.
Ideally, it’s about connecting with the “right” people. But don’t forget that there might be more “right people” than you think. Get outside of your own niche or area. Find common interests. Just because the first person with whom you connect isn’t a potential client, don’t forget the Six Degrees of Separation. Remember that others don’t talk your lingo – talk the way they do. Answer questions that others have. Ask your own. Be Persistent and Patient.
And if you do all those things long enough and keep looking to get better….you will be successful, as I think I’ve been successful.
I’m Done – Time for a New Squirrel
After writing Part 1, I knew a Part 2 would be necessary, and possibly a Part 3. At this point, I think I’m done – no Part 3 unless some other really pressing questions hit, but probably not even then. I’m not a social media guru and I don’t make any money from this. These 2 articles took a hell of a lot of time and energy that can be better put into my dental office writing or something else that I feel like writing about. And that’s the nice thing about this personal blog – when the squirrel strikes and I feel like writing about something, I can. But if the squirrel goes somewhere else, I’m free to say “SCREW IT – FOLLOW THE SQUIRREL!”
Because ultimately, even if this article gets zero views, comments, social reach, I enjoyed writing out my experiences. And if it helps someone, that’s even better.