According to a 2015 Zocdoc survey, nine out of 10 millennials don’t schedule appointments with their doctors or dentists.1 When I learned this, I thought to myself, “What better way to reach millennials than by creating an account on our favorite platform, Instagram?” I was impressed by the social media presence of doctors such as @beautybydrcat and @doctor.mike. I found their Instagram profiles inspirational because they do a great job showing the multidimensional aspects of our lives as health-care professionals. As a young dentist, I saw Instagram as an opportunity to show the world that dentists aren’t so scary after all. We are normal people who have families and lives outside of the office.
Social media has become extremely popular and allows users to reach a wide audience. There are a lot of inaccuracies on the internet regarding dentistry, and through the use of social media, we have the opportunity to help counteract those misconceptions and create research-based content.
I’ve always been passionate about oral health education. In my practice, I try to present dentistry in a way that my patients can understand. Sometimes that includes creating quirky analogies, especially with younger patients. This strategy has been very beneficial for increasing patients’ comfort level with me as a provider, and case acceptance has also tremendously improved.
Many of us have had close friends and family members ask us questions about dentistry that they were perhaps too embarrassed to ask their own dentists. As clinicians, we often take the knowledge we have for granted and assume everyone understands the disease processes, terms, and procedures that we’re discussing. This was my inspiration for the Instagram video series Oral Health Minute and content to help demystify the dental experience.
The intention was to establish a positive public dialogue about dentistry. On Instagram, most of the popular informational health-care accounts are managed by doctors of medicine, whereas the active dental accounts are generally dedicated to sharing clinical cases. This was a great opportunity to break into the community of health-care providers on social media and represent dentists. The goal was to do something different that wouldn’t narrow the audience to just the dental community.
Creating these Oral Health Minute videos to share on Instagram has enabled me to showcase my knowledge and expertise as well as my personality, which has allowed me to convert Instagram followers into real-life patients. In the year that has passed since I launched my page, I’ve amassed more than 12,000 engaged followers. The videos have been shared across the social media platform and have accumulated hundreds of thousands of views. My Instagram presence has also given me unique opportunities to grow my reputation through collaborations with trusted brands, such as Colgate, as well as TV spotlights.
If you are looking to grow your brand using Instagram, here are six tips to get started.
1. Do your research.
Search for the top profiles in health care and analyze them to get a better understanding of how other doctors are setting up their profiles. Develop a clear vision for your page.
2. Create an account.
Decide whether you want to set up a business profile or a personal page. I already had a decent number of followers on my personal page and didn’t want to start from scratch. I deleted or archived photos that were not consistent with my new professional theme and grew the page from there.
Next, choose a username for your account. Do you want to use your business name? Do you want to use your full name? Do you prefer a nickname? Identify something memorable.
3. Plan your content.
High-quality photos and videos are crucial to attracting followers and establishing credibility. It isn’t necessary to have a professional camera. Modern smartphones take great photos and videos that are Instagram-worthy.
Having bright and crisp photos is key. Clear audio is essential with videos. Consider investing in a lavalier microphone.
When creating video content, it is helpful to keep current or prospective patients in mind as the audience. The most important part about writing the scripts is to make sure the information is factual and evidence-based. It’s important that the content is in line with the views of our profession.
It is recommended to post a few times a week to maintain an active page. It’s best to have a collection of photos, videos, and before-and-after cases before launching the page so you have enough content to get through a couple of weeks. If you’re able to post every day, that’s even better. More posts can often lead to more engagement.
4. Include quality captions and hashtags.
Captions are the best way to highlight your personality. Be yourself and do what feels natural. Popular captions have tones that are factual and informative or clever and humorous, or they might feature questions or a call to action. When in doubt, be brief. Include a location to add your post to a photo map and increase engagement.
Consider creating your own hashtag to use in your posts. For example, mine is #oralhealthminute, making it easy for other users to find all of my video posts when they search for the hashtag. Include industry-specific hashtags. When selecting a hashtag, avoid picking the most popular hashtag because this will minimize your reach. For example, #dentist has 5.3 million posts. If you use this hashtag, it will be hard for your post to stand out. The hashtag #biomimeticdentistry has 12.4 thousand posts, making it easier for interested users to come across your post. The sweet spot for hashtag count is between nine and 11, so don’t go overboard.
Be HIPAA compliant. When posting cases, be sure to obtain written consent and avoid any identifying information.
5. Grow your network by championing in your network.
Like, follow, and comment on similar accounts or posts in your niche. Show genuine interest on these posts. Consider using Instagram Stories and collaborate with other users.
6. Monitor your efforts and adjust accordingly.
Learn your audience so you can create content that appeals to your followers. Use Instagram analytics to track engagement.
Social media is a powerful tool for connecting with patients. It’s important for dentists to utilize this platform to network, share ideas, learn from each other, and provide evidence-based information. My hope is to encourage others to get active on social media to promote positive conversations about dentistry and oral health.
1. New study: Why Americans are dropping out of healthcare. Zocdoc website. https://www.zocdoc.com/about/news/new-study-why-americans-are-dropping-out-of-healthcare. Published June 23, 2015. Accessed May 1, 2019.
Bianca Velayo, DMD, is a 2015 graduate of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. She is the owner of Green Valley Smiles Dentistry, a practice supported by Pacific Dental Services in Henderson, Nevada. She serves as a subject-matter expert in facial injectables for the PDS University Institute of Dentistry.