Best Social Media Practices for the Dental Industry
Dental professionals use social media marketing as a way to build their brands, expand their practices and better serve their patients. Applied properly, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and other popular social networks can help dentists significantly enhance their communications and marketing mixes.
If you are considering using or improving how you use social media for your practice, here are some first steps:
- Determine your goals for using social media.�What short and long-term business goals are you trying to achieve?
- Identify what your patients use.�An informal survey of the social networks your patients frequent could help lead you to the right channels to adopt to reach them and expand your reach when they share the content you post.
- Put policies and guidelines in place.�You need both internal social media policies and guidelines for your staff as well as publicly accessible ones for what you publish for anyone who interacts with you online and others on your website and in your social networks.
Some common online policies and statements you should compose and publish include:
- Legal disclaimers - Information that clarifies who you are and defines your roles and responsibilities as you interact online.
- Legal disclosures - Information you should reveal to remain transparent and avoid confusing others.
Review the American Dental Association's e-book, "The ADA Practical Guide to Social Media Planning," for using social media to promote dentistry practices. You may also want to check with your insurance provider to see if they have guidelines for potential legal issues when using electronic communications.
Effective Use of Social Media Tools
To stay visible to your followers in social networks, plan to post on a regular basis. Although how often you should post varies depending on the network and your audience, once daily is often more effective than a few times a week. While once a day might be sufficient for posting to Facebook or LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ requires more frequent messaging to gain traction.
Carefully consider the content you publish to your social media channels, and include a mix of both text and more visual content such as illustrations, photographs and video. Publish content that provides value to your followers and also compels them to share it with their own friends and followers.
Use your social networks to drive people toward additional ways to contact you. If you process appointments online, for example, you can add links for making an appointment in your social networks. Take care not to engage in online conversations that can be misconstrued as initiating a patient/provider relationship. Send more personal inquiries about dental issues offline to continue the conversation through more direct and private communications methods.
Some dentists use video to promote their practices such as video explanations of procedures and testimonials from patients with before and after images. Watch videos from others in your field to see what they do and to determine what might work for you. Be careful not to make false or exaggerated claims in your videos - or any of your content for that matter - and be sure to get proper releases from the patients featured in the videos or photographs.
Overall, you should approach social media marketing as a set of tools that can enhance your current marketing mix, establish and enhance your online presence and better reach and serve existing and new customers. Select the networks where your patients and prospects direct their attention and where you can better reach them. Avoid the temptation to sign up for every social network, particularly if you don't have the time or resources to properly maintain them.
Disclaimer: This article was written by a social media marketing consultant. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.