Using social media to manage your practice's online reputation

March 19, 2015
In this digital media age, your practice is online whether you like it or not. Since you can't keep people from talking about you-online or off-the appropriate approach is to step in and do your best to guide the conversation.

Kristie Nation

In this digital media age, your practice is online whether you like it or not. Since you can't keep people from talking about you-online or off-the appropriate approach is to step in and do your best to guide the conversation.

Social media for dental practices generally starts with dipping a toe in-starting a Facebook page, opening a Twitter account, and asking patients to review you. Every positive mention and every good review is another step in the right direction.

However, you can't please everyone, and eventually you will face an unfavorable reaction. You may not know about it right away; often, unhappy patients will bottle up their frustration, avoiding direct confrontation and venting later through their online personas. How do you minimize the effects of a bad review?

There are three steps you have to take to be ready for the bad review when (not if) it shows up:

1. Acceptance

A bad review is going to happen. It may not be for six months or six years, but it will happen. By accepting this and preparing for your own reaction ahead of time, you can move on to the next step.

2. Vigilance

Monitor the web for unfavorable content each day. All it takes is an overview of your social accounts, plus a quick check of Google by searching your practice name, your own name, and the name of any associates or partners. No news is good news, but if something pops up, you have taken the first step toward dealing with it.

3. Preparedness

Having a predetermined plan for dealing with a bad review is half the battle. Too many practice owners wait until the negative review is posted, don't think their response through, and respond emotionally. The result can be far messier than it has to be.

Once you spot a bad review, set your game plan into motion. The game plan should follow this order of progression:

Read the complaint. Breathe. Read it again.

CONSIDER EVERY ANGLE. Does the reviewer have a valid point? Did you or anyone at your practice drop the ball?

Start a file.Screenshot the review, and going forward, screenshot every update to the complaint, including your responses.

Stay transparent.If the bad review is on a platform under your control (Facebook is, while Yelp is not) don't delete it. Comments with foul language or otherwise inappropriate content are an exception. In that case, delete it and reach out privately.

Respond.This can mean one of several things, but any response should usually include both an apology and a solution.

- If the patient has a valid complaint, own it. Sometimes, "We messed up. We're sorry. What can we do to make this right?" is the only correct response. Bending over backwards to make things right can turn even the angriest patient into a loyal follower once again!

- If you don't agree with the reviewer, apologize for their unhappiness. If nothing else, explain your own position calmly and respectfully, and then ask if there is anything you can do to help resolve the issue. Sometimes it's simply a misunderstanding!

- If personal details that might violate HIPAA are involved, say so clearly and ask the reviewer if you can contact them offline. In any case, provide contact information so they can get in touch with you directly.

Try to look at bad reviews as an opportunity to shine. Bad reviews happen to everyone. After all, it's no great trick to get a good review out of a happy patient. Getting a previously unhappy patient to post a glowing account of how you solved their issue shows everyone just how amazing your practice's customer service really is!

Kristie Nation is the founder and CEO of myDentalCMO, a marketing consulting firm that provides strategic marketing "treatment plans" exclusively for dental practices. The firm was founded with a mission to prevent dentists from wasting countless dollars marketing their practices ineffectively. She can be reached at [email protected] or 877-746-4410.

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