Social Media

The truth about social media for dentists

Aug. 2, 2022
Social media has evolved drastically from the days of early adopters. With so many dentists promoting their practices on social media, where should you focus your efforts?

As the major social media platforms evolve, we’ve seen popular sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram move from essentially free ways to communicate with patients to highly sophisticated money-making machines. Early and aggressive social media marketing led to massive followers, engagement, and community networking. Those who joined Facebook as a business in 2010 may have felt like one of the first miners in the California gold rush! Though there is still plenty of gold to find in social media marketing in 2022, it is much harder to dig up. 

We used to hear dentists talk about Facebook and social media like it was the solution to all their new-patient problems. More recently there has been a quiet realization that social media is not the phonebook replacement so many had hoped. We want to help you understand what today’s social media is good for, and perhaps more importantly, what it is not good for. 

An important note: Here's the difference between organic and paid social media: organic refers to the content and exposure gained from free posts, while paid refers to content that businesses pay for to be seen, such as ads or boosted posts. Paid social media has many nuances and can be quite complex. Here I focus exclusively on organic social media. 

What social media is not

One of the challenges with social media marketing is that social networking sites were built to facilitate connections between family and friends. When we try to insert business messages in the middle of a consumer’s newsfeed, we become intruders. Poorly planned messages are bad for the reputation of a business and the social media platform itself. 

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Early adopters of social media could post meaningless stock content and watch their following grow. These benefits are no longer available. A business can no longer create posts and expect them to be seen for free by all their followers. Social media is also no longer a place where you can casually post something and expect it to work in your favor. Instead, you need to be very intentional about what you post because complex algorithms will penalize accounts they view as consistently producing low-quality content. You read that right—if you post lackluster content, you will lose access to your own followers! 

What social media is

We like to consider social media as an extension of our physical office. It’s a place for us to build an impression and reputation in the minds of patients. You can use your page to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your team and company culture. Share birthdays, vacations, or five-star patient reviews—whatever makes your team come alive. This exposure gives an authentic perspective and will set your practice apart from those that lack spirit and engagement. A clean, professional, and active social media presence sends a message to your patients about the care they can expect from your practice. 

Dentists often ask if they can take an all-or-nothing approach. Who wouldn’t want to go viral and gain your practice millions of views and perhaps even mentions on national morning talk shows? Planning for this type of outcome requires a lot of time, tenacity, and mountains of charisma. That’s why we never recommend any dental practice do something that could get them these kinds of results. It’s a huge gamble and most likely won’t pay off. For the few that do break through, I encourage you to consider the value of viral exposure, when 90% of your patients likely live within 15 miles of your office. 

Instead, we recommend a slow and steady approach. Think of social media for dentistry similarly to how you deal with car maintenance. You don’t need to put gas in your car every day, but you shouldn’t ignore the gas gauge and end up stuck on the side of the road. If you’re proud of your car, you’ll want to keep it clean and tidy. Your social media strategy should be the same. Fill up your social media tank by posting quality content on a weekly basis. 

Quality content is anything that engages your followers.

  • An employee birthday, anniversary, or in-office baby shower
  • A team outing or group continuing education course
  • A gift from a favorite patient, sales rep, or local specialist
  • A beautiful before-and-after photo of a patient who received excellent care

What platforms should you focus on?

Despite the recent exponential growth of apps like TikTok, Facebook remains the dominating social media platform with 2.91 billion monthly active users. We encourage practices to start there, and once you have a healthy and manageable strategy, grow to some other common platforms such as Instagram. 

When considering expanding, don’t forget to evaluate YouTube. Though it isn’t traditionally considered a social media platform, YouTube has 2.29 billion monthly active users and can be a powerful tool for getting your practice positive online exposure. 

What is the truth about social media?

Social media may not be the get-rich-quick gold mine it once was, but it still holds an important place in any dental marketing strategy. Think of social media as a way to make a positive first impression and keep your practice top-of-mind with patients. If you maintain a conservative and consistent online presence, you’re laying the groundwork for a cohesive and positive patient experience, from the first click online to their final checkout. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the August 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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