A quick look at the social media channels from a number of different orthodontic practices will reveal that everyone has a slightly different approach to how they engage with patients. Some reach out on a regular basis with the same message, duplicating content in the hope it reaches its target audience. Others carefully craft posts linked to campaigns and take a more targeted approach to engaging with specific patient groups. Some practices do not have social media channels or worse still, have inactive channels with out of date content giving the impression that patient engagement is not something they consider at all important (the reality being that the member of staff who set up the channel probably left and there was no one else to pick up the responsibility).

So what should you do if you do not currently use social media or want to re-launch your channels? The first thing to do, before making any start on setting up accounts or creating content is to think about writing a social media strategy. Don’t worry, this is not a complex document (it can be if you want to really drill down to the detail) but should contain some key elements that help you to produce a consistent message that engages with your patients.

The first question to ask your self is ‘what do you want to achieve from using social media?’ Are you looking to attract new patients, better engage with existing ones or position yourself differently to differentiate your offer from other competitors? The second question is ‘who do you want to reach?’. It’s unlikely that one message will effectively engage with all audiences all of the time so you will need to think about running several campaigns simultaneously or targeting your efforts to a smaller group. The third question is ‘what content do you want to provide and how will this be styled?’ Content can be provided in many different forms and the answers to the first two questions will help you to determine this. Content can be informatively aimed at educating patients, promotional to attract new patients or centred around specific campaigns aimed at achieving practice objectives such as reducing the number of missed appointments.

Now that you have given some thought to setting up your social media channels and populating them with appropriate content, you are going to need to ask yourself ‘how will I measure the results?’ Properly running a number of different social media channels takes time and resources so if used as part of a wider practice development strategy, you will need to consider some simple ways in which you can measure the effect it is having on your practice. Are you gaining more patients, is there a reduction in the number of appliance breakages or have you managed to reduce the number of missed or late appointments?

A social media strategy can be as simple or complicated as you wish to make it but by considering these straightforward steps, you will be better positioning yourself and reducing the amount of effort required to take advantage of what social media has to offer.

How we can help you

We recognise that social media is just one aspect of practice development and huge efforts to engage patients online need to be backed up with a patient experience that reflects the messages you are promoting. We can help you to develop your social media strategy as part of a wider programme of practice development activities ensuring the required changes are understood and implemented by the whole team. We can support you in developing it yourself or offer a range of services up to fully managing your channels for you and producing interesting and engaging content. You can find out more about how we can help you here.