10/29/2015

Be cautious of offering incentives for Facebook 'likes'


CDA recently received a call from a member regarding whether they could ask their patients to "like" their Facebook page in exchange for free teeth whitening trays.

Based on guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a "like" on Facebook could be considered an endorsement. CDA recommends dentists avoid incentivizing positive endorsements so as not to be in violation of FTC regulations.

FTC's explanation is as follows:

"Using these features to endorse a company's products or services as part of a sponsored brand campaign probably requires a disclosure. We realize that some platforms — like Facebook's 'like' buttons — don't allow you to make a disclosure. Advertisers shouldn't encourage endorsements using features that don't allow for clear and conspicuous disclosures. However, we don't know at this time how much stock social network users put into 'likes' when deciding to patronize a business, so the failure to disclose that the people giving 'likes' received an incentive might not be a problem. An advertiser buying fake 'likes' is very different from an advertiser offering incentives for 'likes' from actual consumers. If 'likes' are from non-existent people or people who have no experience using the product or service, they are clearly deceptive, and both the purchaser and the seller of the fake 'likes' could face enforcement action."

Essentially, dentists shouldn't give a patient something of value for their endorsement (even a Facebook page "like"), without it being disclosed.

According to CDA Practice Support's Dental Practice Marketing and Advertising 101 resource, a false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive statement, claim or image includes a statement or claim that does any of the following:

  • Contains a misrepresentation of fact.
  • Is likely to mislead or deceive because of a failure to disclose material facts.
  • Includes any statement, endorsement or testimonial that is likely to mislead or deceive because of a failure to disclose material facts.

The Dental Practice Marketing and Advertising 101 resource provides basic and essential information on dental practice marketing and advertising. The basic information consists of general descriptions of how to start the marketing process and different marketing methods. Dentists can find expanded information on the marketing process and methods through the abundance of available marketing resources — journal articles, books, blogs and consultants. The essential information in this resource, which few organizations can provide, is the laws and ethics of dental practice marketing and advertising in California. This resource discusses how dentists should consider the Dental Practice Act, California and federal privacy laws, federal marketing laws and the CDA Code of Ethics in their marketing activities.

For further guidance on this issue, members can contact CDA Practice Support at cda.org/practicesupport.



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Brad Newman, a leader in marketing and business development for dental offices, spoke to CDA Update staff during CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry in San Francisco about how dentists can best market themselves online using a variety of social media sites. Newman discussed how to maintain a social media conversation that is "fresh, likeable and targeted for the right audience" and shared five social media tips for dental practices.

There are many advertising options for dental practices to use as a way to keep current patients and bring new patients in. One way dentists can do this is through a patient loyalty program where patients earn “points” in exchange for gift cards or other rewards for keeping appointments, brushing and flossing regularly, etc. Dentists participating in such a program must make sure they are staying within the guidelines of the law and CDA ethical standards, however.  The CDA Judicial Council reminds dentists that problems arise in a patient loyalty program when points are earned and prizes are given for patient referrals.

This article provides basic and essential information on dental practice marketing and advertising. General descriptions on how to start the marketing process and different marketing methods. In addition, this article provides the laws and ethics of dental practice marketing and advertising in California.

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