The best advice to dental professionals using social media: You have to be wherever the attention of your audience is

Years ago patients would often see the same dentist their whole life. Nowadays, people are much more open to change, always looking for the best services, professionalism and human approach. So, how do you show them that you are the one they are searching for?

When patients know more about you as a dental professional, they are likely to be more interested in your service, too. In this article, we bring you strategies for attracting attention to your service online. Digital marketing specialist Aikaterini Pegka shows you the most effective way to communicate with your existing and potential patients via social media and other communication tools. Follow her tips, and make online content work for you.

What should dental professionals expect from online communication and a presence on social media?

What can be measured, can be managed. Before starting any social media activities, you should know why you are doing it. What is your goal? What do you want to achieve? Having 10,000 followers on your Instagram account is not a goal for improving business – it is just vanity; it just looks good. Do you want to build a strong network and be recognised as a leader in your field? Do you want to engage your community in conversations, take away the fear of the dentist, reach as many people as possible with useful information, attract more patients, become better known in your area, or grow your newsletter database?

If you use social media correctly, you can reach a lot of people – many of whom have the potential to be new patients. You can raise awareness of your dental practice and your dental work. You can even amplify the reach and attention you get on social media by using social media ads, if your country’s regulations allow it. You can also take advantage of influencer marketing, another interesting aspect of social media.

Reach, engagement, newsletter subscriptions, new patients – these are all metrics that you can measure and monitor, according to the goal(s) that you set. Try to do that on a monthly basis, in order to see how they evolve.

“If you use social media correctly, you can reach a lot of people – many of whom have the potential to be new patients.”

The most important goal, however, is one that is hard to measure because it cannot be reduced down to just one metric, and because it is something that pays off in the long-term: branding. Building a strong brand is a long-term goal, and your social media activities will pay into that investment.

If a dentist has an official website for their dental office, but they are not present on social media, where should he/she start?

The answer to that question is the same I would give to any brand, product or professional: You have to be wherever the attention of your audience – in this case, your patients – is. If you are a general dentist and you serve all adult age groups, it’s Facebook and Instagram. If your patients are younger, add TikTok to your social media game. If you want to establish yourself as a dental professional and build a network or find like-minded people, you have to be present on LinkedIn.

Right now, the “hottest” platforms are Instagram, especially the stories feature, TikTok for the younger audiences, and LinkedIn. LinkedIn has added a lot of interesting features in the past year – it actually reminds me of Facebook back in 2012, and it has definitely evolved from being a platform where you just post your CV and look for job opportunities, into a social media platform where tonnes of great and engaging content is being posted daily, by both professionals and brands.

How to effectively use social media as a dental professional

  • Set your goals. First, think about why you are on social media. What are the metrics that you’re going to track? Reach, engagement, newsletter subscriptions, new patients… Setting your goals will help you to evaluate the effectiveness of the communication.
  • Choose the right channels & content. Create new social media accounts or upgrade existing ones and decide what content you would like to add – news from your practice, educational posts, product recommendations…
  • Add content continuously. Be consistent in posting on social media and sending newsletters so you are always visible to your audience. When you post one thing today and the next post isn’t for a month, the communication and engagement will not be very effective. A social media calendar can help you maintain regular posting.
  • Choose your target audience. Think about the people who visit you and the patients you want to see in your office. When you want to target a specific profile, you need to know their interests, customs and environment, and adjust the content accordingly.
  • Manage the comments & answer the messages. Posting pictures and status updates is not enough. Always find some time to check direct messages and the comments on your posts, and try to answer the questions, thank the positive feedback, react to the negative comments and hide the unnecessary nasty ones.
Do you have any tips on how to inform patients that they can follow their dentist on social media?

You can put some printed signs up at your reception desk and waiting area, which promote your social media handles and remind your patients to follow you on those platforms. I once even saw a sign like this in the toilet of the dentist (it was behind the door, so you could see it whilst “seated”) and another right next to the main door, before I left the practice, so they made sure it was the last thing I saw when leaving – very clever placements.

Also include your social media handles on your business cards, your prescription pad and any other printed material you may hand out to your patients, such as oral-hygiene flyers, for example.

Make sure that you also include and link your social media channels on your website and any other online medical network that you may be a part of, or have a presence in.

And the most obvious advice for how to inform your patients that you are on social media is: Tell them!

What kind of content would you advise dentists to post on social media?

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” That’s one of my favourite quotes from an expert on strategic communication, Simon Sinek, as he explains his theory of the Golden Circle. It’s all about the WHY. Why are you a dentist? What drives you? What can you do, or what do you want to do for your patients?

The content should be personal, meaning it should have your signature – your style, own words, values and truth. You can also show a bit of your private life, although only if you feel comfortable with it, and without revealing intimate details. Your patients will appreciate knowing a bit more about the person who is treating their mouths, don’t you think? Showing yourself up close helps with this – it’s all about building trust on social media.

“Your patients will appreciate knowing a bit more about the person who is treating their mouths, don’t you think? Showing yourself up close helps with this – it’s all about building trust on social media.”

Also, as a dental professional, you should use social media to try and educate your patients – about oral care, the connection of dental health with overall health, how to build healthy habits, recommended products, etc.

Don’t be afraid to show yourself in front of the camera – the first time it’s gonna feel weird, I know, but then you will get the hang out of it. Speak to your patients directly, and they will respond directly. Do live videos on Facebook and Instagram, make Q&As, answer their questions, etc. If you are out of any content ideas, here’s a tip: document, don’t create. Show your everyday life as a dental professional and a dental team, and let it be raw and authentic. Create your social media content for your community, not for yourself.

We all know that the typical pictures from dental offices are not very pleasant for patients. What type of photos should dentists post on social media? Which pictures should they avoid? 

Avoid anything that shows a mouth from the inside, especially a bloody one – seriously. It is the natural workplace for a dentist, we get it, but believe me, it’s not what users and your patients want to see on social media. Save those pictures for your dental network, white papers and congresses.

Take your own pictures – nowadays you don’t even need an expensive camera for good photos – and show things that patients usually don’t see. Use natural lighting and try to apply the same filters or editing settings on all your images and videos for a more coherent look. Do not use your logo on your images – it makes them appear as ads and nobody really cares or pays attention to them, honestly.

“Avoid anything that shows a mouth from the inside, especially a bloody one. It may be the natural workplace for a dentist, but it’s not what users and your patients want to see on social media.”

When you have an online presence, some unwelcome comments are probably unavoidable. How should you respond to negative feedback – hide comments, or better to reply to them?

The best tip I can give you is that you have to respond to any type of feedback, positive or negative. If the feedback is positive, great! Thank the user and reassure them that you and your team will continue to strive for good service and patient satisfaction.

If you receive negative feedback from an unsatisfied patient, or a negative comment under a social media post, then reply by comment as well and thank them for their feedback first. Let them know that you will contact them by private message in order to get to the bottom of the issue at hand. Contact them privately and resolve it.

In case of a completely irrelevant comment or feedback from someone trolling your feed or a social media bot, then you can just go ahead and delete that comment.

In addition to social media, newsletters have also become very popular. Is a newsletter a good way to go for dental professionals?

Newsletters are a very direct way to communicate with your patients, plus it is a medium you own and so can fully control. So yes, you should definitely use them for your patient communication, and you should always work on growing your newsletter subscribers – something you can also do through social media.

As with social media content, before sending out your newsletter you should always ask yourself: What value does this newsletter bring to my patients? Why should anyone open it? Would I open it?

Share your office news and patient or therapy success stories, inform them about upcoming special offers or events, recommend products, give advice for oral care at home and general health tips and hacks, and links to interesting research and website articles. 

Send out a newsletter once a month, or if you have enough content, maybe even twice a month.

Any final advice that can help dentists before they start using social media?

If you can, use social media advertising to achieve the goals you set. It is the most efficient and cost-effective way to reach your audience: there is no middle man, you can granularly define your audience and other parameters and it is still very cheap compared to other, more classical advertising media.

Aikaterini Pegka is a social media expert and founder of Social Cosmos based in Munich, Germany. She is a graduate biologist “who has chosen online marketing as a natural environment and social media as a primordial habitat.” In her daily practice, she focuses on social media marketing for health, wellness & lifestyle experts, and brands. Recently she has shared her know-how with dental professionals in Curaden Academy’s webinar Patient Communication on Social Media during the Crisis: Tips & Strategies.

Photo credits: Sara Kurig, Steffen Düvel