Young female dental professional with two dental professionals in the background.

Social Media And Your Dental Practice

Mark Zuckerberg, the father of modern social media and the founder of Facebook, was the son of a prominent dentist in Brooklyn, New York. Ever obsessed with technology, the elder Zuckerberg introduced his children to computers and gave them access to the Internet long before their peers, which helped to shape Mark Zuckerberg’s early technology skills. In fact, Mark even created an inter-operatory communications system for use within his father’s dental office to make it easier for employees to talk with one another, schedule upcoming appointments, and code recent procedures. As his interest in technology developed, Mark Zuckerberg went on to create Facebook, a social media platform that is so popular that it boasts over 1.71 billion active users as of July 2016.

Many dentists are left wondering whether Facebook is helping or hurting their practices, with angry patients capable of leaving scathing reviews and offering their take on procedures they may know very little about. Social media can be intimidating for many dental professionals, which is why it is important to understand and respect these platforms before you participate. Here are six tips for using social media as a dentist, how it can benefit your practice, and a few things you should keep in mind before you post.

1. Understand Your Audience

You might be used to adopting a highly scientific, educational tone when you write articles for dental journals, but the people reading your social media feed are a lot different than the people reviewing those proposals. Research shows that social media is a favorite of young millennials, with a staggering 90% of adults ages 18-29 maintaining social media accounts. To put that number into perspective, only about 35% of seniors over the age of 65 use social media, which means that most of your posts will be read by people who are more easily bored and won’t take kindly to overly academic tones.

To make the most of your social media page, keep your audience in mind. Write your page for the kind of demographic that will likely see the content. Focus on being professional but casual, and don’t worry as much about using academic language. Remember that you can always suggest that people can come into the office for a more in-depth consultation, and that social media is more often used to introduce ideas—not to explain them in great detail.

2. Use Social Media To Advertise

Don’t be too quick to dismiss social media—after all, it offers a fast, effective way to get the word out about new services, specials, and technology. For example, you can use social media to show off that brand-new imaging technology your office recently acquired, offer a brief bio about the new periodontist you employed, or send out a coupon to build hype about a newly offered service.

Many dental practices also take advantage of the “liked pages” feature offered by Facebook, which allows patients to show off their loyalty to your practice. Research has shown that most Facebook users have around 300 friends and 30 “liked” pages, offering their buddies an easy way to get a great recommendation for businesses. To encourage patients to “like” their practice page, some professionals even offer a one-time discount for proof of a liked page. Advertising opportunities like this are easy, free, and active instantly—unlike traditional advertising, which can be expensive and unproductive.

3. Provide Links To Educational Materials

Social media is a lot more than an easy way for people to spy on their friends or to show off recent vacation photos. For many people, social media acts as a personalized news outlet, offering information about the latest news stories, recent city developments, opinions, and specials. Because of this, many social media users check in several times a day, which presents you with a powerful opportunity: education.

Most dentists wish that their patients would take better care of their teeth, which is why some have turned to social media to offer friendly reminders, great tips, and even post-procedural instructions for patients. For example, you can post fun, helpful information about tips for brushing properly, or offer information that might be helpful to anyone who has had a cavity filled recently. Interesting posts can help your patients to keep their dental health in mind, along with filling the blogosphere with invitations to your practice. The more visible your practice is, the more likely new patients will be to make an appointment.

4. Display Before and After Pictures

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, when you use a social media profile as visible as Facebook, that simple photo might be worth even more. Pictures, especially of dental procedures, can tell a patient a lot about the quality of your work, as well as show what your practice is capable of offering them.

Consider using Facebook or other social media accounts to display powerful before and after pictures of patients' teeth. Some dentists use these photos to talk about the harmful effects of periodontal disease, while others use after photos to show how effective restorations such as dental implants can be. Before you post photos, always make sure that you have a written consent form filled out by the patient, so that you don’t have to struggle with any kind of legal trouble stemming from your pictures.

5. Increase Your Referrals

Some dentists offer specials online to encourage their existing patients to spread the word about their business. For example, you could offer an online referral coupon that your existing patrons can send to their friends, who can print it off for their first appointment or show it to the office manager during their initial consultation. Referrals through social media are effective because they can occur quickly and result in improved traffic when you need it. If you are having a slow month, you could offer a great referral incentive that gives existing patients and the people they refer a price break on services--and watch the referrals roll in.

6. Improve Your Practice Valuation

If you are considering selling a dental practice in the future, improving your social media presence can even help to improve your practice valuation. Upgrades to your website or social media account can help up-and-coming dentists to see the potential volume your practice might be able to offer, which can drive up the purchase price of your business. As you rework your social media accounts and website, it is often worthwhile to seek out IT professionals who can create functional, beautiful content for your business.

As you can see, social media won’t harm your practice if you know how to use it properly. For more information about improving your dental practice or getting your business ready to sell, contact an ADS Dental Transitions broker.

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