How dentists can engage with their patients online
Written By David Silverberg
The dentist-patient relationship is essential to running an effective office, so much so you don’t want to ignore the online arena of social media to keep that bond strong. This isn’t a job for just you, but for everyone in your practice to effectively run an integral branch of your dental marketing pillar.
Social media smarts Dentists position themselves differently than other industries, such as clothing retailers, software companies, restaurants and cafes. These sectors have to convince people that what they’re selling is worth their money—even if it’s something they don’t need. Dentists, though, don’t really need to persuade society to get their teeth and gums checked, or to deal with a shooting pain in the molars. Everyone realizes they need to visit the dentist. The challenges most dentists face revolve around getting people to remember to schedule their appointments, and helping them overcome the fear and anxiety associated with dental visits. Also, some dentists want new patients, and word-of-mouth can only take you so far. All this comes down to developing great relationships with patients because there could be another dentist down the block attracting more patients with engaging offline and online interactions.
We’ll look at offline tips another time, but for now, suffice to say your office should have a presence on a website and social media platforms in order to be found via Google searches and to engage patients with compelling content. First, find out where your audiences “lives” online. Do your patients skew younger and are primarily using Instagram and TikTok? Or would Facebook and Twitter be a better choice when your demographic is middle-aged and over? Remember, you don’t have to be on every platform, so choose the one you’re most comfortable with, and where your patients mainly interact.
Build a following by posting a variety of content. For example, Twitter isn’t very photo friendly so when you’re done giving a patient a picturesque smile, Instagram is the ultimate way to demonstrate the confidence-boosting visual side of your practice. It can be daunting to consider the deluge of content ideas that you could bring to the online table, but if you’re just getting started, or want to hone your social media content marketing strategy, play around with these content possibilities:
Oral health tips and primers on teeth or gums
How the pandemic is affecting dentistry
Latest discoveries in dental tech or news
Patient stories or testimonials
Profiles of the dental professionals in your office
Posts that encourage patients to join the conversation you begin, like a poll or an online contest. For example, you can run a contest asking people to submit a pledge on how they’ll maintain oral health, and you pick a random answer from the submissions for someone to win an electric toothbrush, say.
Photo galleries of dentists in action, or pre-pandemic office parties
Interesting infographics about teeth, gums, braces, cavities, etc.
YouTube videos you produce that explain procedures or dental concepts
A Facebook Live Q&A where you take audience questions and answer them live on video
You can also repeat content from one platform to the next, but try to ensure you have some variety between Facebook and Instagram content, for example.
Get everyone on board If you run a small dentist office, as most people do, you have a lot of balls to juggle and the last thing you need on your already crowded plate is another obligation. Delegate effectively so you’re not the only one managing social media promotions and content. Get a buy-in from everyone in your practice, from the office admin to hygienists, and if everyone has the login and password details, you can increase the chances of keeping your posts frequent and consistent. That doesn’t mean, though, you should force social media duties on your colleagues, especially if they have barely used any social platforms. If everyone’s comfortable contributing to the social media strategy, you’ll be running a much smoother operation.
Be personal, not technical It can be tempting to showcase the latest hot new tech that just arrived in your office, or to talk ad nauseum about a new floss on the market. But products and shiny toys can only attract attention so much, and we all engage best with content that feature real folks. A study from as far back as 2014 found that Instagram content showing faces enjoyed more likes than comments than non-face content. For you, that could mean posting content with a more personal touch, such as showing dramatic before and after photos that feature your patients’ stories. Or you can talk about your hygienist’s career path if she has an interesting story to tell about her background and education.
Be quick to reply Today’s era of 24/7 social media requires you to respond swiftly to any feedback or questions. That’s why having your team on board to become employee advocates for your practice online can be helpful, so the duties don’t all lay on you to reply to questions about setting up appointments or answering questions about parking near the office. You might also get positive feedback about a photo or post, which should encourage you to also engage with that commenter in some way. If you receive a complaint as a social media comment or direct message, don’t ignore it. People feel valued when they know a brand, even their dentist they only see once a year, is listening to their concerns. You could collate all the feedback you get from social media monthly and run all-hands meetings on ways to improve office operations or anything else commenters brought up.
You can find a slew of useful information online on how to level up your social media marketing, so we’ll leave you with a portion of a post we found which will be helpful for engaging with your patients online.
Courtesy of Colgate, below is a checklist of factors to consider before you launch into your social media campaigns:
Discuss and agree upon appropriate posting policies as a practice before sharing your first online content.
Check your local ethical and legal regulations and guidelines to make sure that content you intend to post as part of your online presence complies with relevant rules. For example, some regions may ban a particular kind of post (such as advertising for a business) or image content.
Remove any identifying features and gain written permission from patients before sharing their images or anecdotes. Comply with all relevant data privacy and patient confidentiality regulations when posting.
Keep your posts short. Internet users are notoriously known for their short attention spans, so the shorter your posts the better. For in-depth content that requires more than a few minutes to digest, use your social media post as a teaser or include a call-to-action to encourage readers to further explore the story or study.
Be brave! Opening up on social media could lead to more reviews — good and bad — that will help you evolve how you market your practice.
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