Twitter, Facebook, Google and Bing have all announced changes to their services within the past two weeks. Some of these changes may interest dentists using these venues for marketing.

Facebook announced this week that they will be replacing the “Become a Fan” button with a “Like” button on their fan pages. Dentists who have a Facebook fan page may need to change the wording in their promotional materials when asking someone to follow their fan page.

Google’s Local Business Center has become Google Places.  It appears that if you already created a listing with Local Business Center, this will automatically be converted to a Place Page. One newer feature is the ability to post an announcement to your Place Page. For instance, you can highlight an event, a new product or procedure or a special. Google is also identifying Favorite Places based upon how often Google users seek directions or more information about a business. These businesses are compiled into a Favorite Places list and given a “We’re a Favorite Place on Google” window decal. The decal contains a code that can be scanned by some cell phones. Once scanned, the phone will display the business’ Place Page. The Favorite Places feature seems to only include a few major cities at this time with the plan to add more. Not sure if any dental offices will be included in favorite places.

Google also announced this month that website speed is considered for site rankings. Google’s Webmaster Blog included a list of free tools to assess a website’s speed.

Twitter announced a new program of Promoted Tweets last week.  The program is in its initial phase and major details have not been announced, but it appears that companies will be able to bid on having their tweets displayed at the top of a Twitter search results page. The tweets will be marked as a sponsored listing, but can still be interacted with in the same ways (retweeting, replying, favoriting) as a normal tweet. Twitter states that even promoted tweets must be shown to be interesting to Twitter users through retweeting, replying or favoriting in order to continue to be promoted. It is unclear if the pricing structure will be prohibitive for small businesses and local dentists.

Last fall, Google and Bing began to display tweets in their search results. Bing is now testing a “social search” function which will display the most recent tweets in keyword search results.  The search engines are attempting to increase their ability to display real-time search results. Tweeting should become more beneficial as tweets are indexed and displayed on these search engines. This development makes it more important to include location and industry specific words in tweets.