The use of social media continues to grow strongly with an estimated 42 million people in the UK spending an average of around 2 hours each day creating and engaging with content. Using social media to promote orthodontic treatment and to engage with patients is steadily increasing with the majority of practices cautiously exploring how digital marketing can help grow their practice. Others, seeing the potential these platforms provide, have been early adopters and have actively leveraged every opportunity to engage with new patients seeking orthodontic treatment. In this article, we will look at how you can use social media to promote your practice and to more effectively engage with new and existing patients.

Which channel?

One of the frequent questions we are asked by practices considering making better use of social media is which social media channels should I use? The answer is quite straightforward, you need to promote yourself on whatever channels your prospective patients are using. Each channel has a unique identity and purpose and it is a mistake to simply post the same content to each channel in the hope it will attract an audience. Creating engaging and compelling content on social media takes time and resources. It is far better to direct your efforts into one or two channels than to spread yourself too thinly and produce content which is of poor quality or not well aligned to your overall marketing strategy.

Before starting to develop your social media content, take time and undertake some research looking at orthodontic treatment from a patients’ perspective. Search for some popular hashtags and see what content is available. Look at other practices’ social media channels and ask yourself the question, would this type of content encourage me to seek more information about treatment? If the answer is yes, consider why that would be the case. Is the content well written with a clear call to action, are the images inspirational showcasing the benefits of the treatments provided and does the content seek to effectively engage with potential patients addressing some of the perceived barriers to treatment?

From completing this activity, you should be starting to develop an idea of the style and tone of voice you would like to use on your channels. Try to capture this by creating a style guide that you can share with team members who you will be relying on to help you curate content. This will add consistency to your posts that will help your followers to identify with your brand. Take some time to learn from your existing patients which channels they use and what type of content they engage with. This will help you to better target your posts if your intention is to attract similar people into treatment.

Once you have decided on which channels to use and have developed a style guide, review your channel home pages ensuring the banner images and headline text is clear and patient focussed. This will often be the first engagement the patient has with your practice so make sure it is consistent with the image you are trying to portray.

Content

When creating content, consider the patient first and produce content that interests them and makes them want to explore treatment further. This could be through producing great images on Instagram that promotes the experience of treatment at the practice or writing informative posts on FaceBook seeking to answer questions new patients may have. Whatever you decide to do, you need to ensure it is of high quality as, with the huge amount of content on social media, your posts need to stand out and grab the attention of the reader before they have moved on.

When considering images, it is always best to create your own library of photos taken in the practice but make sure you have the permission of those in the photos before using them on social media. It will take some time to build up a library but with some willing helpers, a good smartphone or digital camera, some simple editing apps and a little creativity, you can produce some great images aligned to your brand. Using photo libraries is another alternative when first venturing into social media but make sure you understand the licence to avoid costly mistakes.

When publishing posts, consider the caption, description and hashtags making sure you use terms likely to engage with the audience you are trying to attract. If you use a little known brand of aligners, don’t be surprised if patients overlook your posts as they seek information on more well-known brands. When reviewing content prior to posting, ask yourself the question, would the type of person I’m trying to attract to my practice find the content interesting and engaging and is there a clear call to action such as ‘call us today’.

Once you have been posting content for a little while, it’s always worth taking a look at the analytics to see how well your posts are performing. The goal is to build a following and to get people to engage with your content so review which posts have performed well and try to work out why that is. Is it due to the time of posting, the use of certain types of images, specific hashtags or have you simply posted content which is trending at that time?

Engaging with patients

When trying to build a following, it is always worth starting with your existing patients and encouraging them to follow you. Often you will find they are talking about their treatment and experience at the practice so think about whether it would be appropriate to share this content or to positively engage with the patient through their posts. The GDC has produced guidelines on the use of social media and you need to ensure you respect patient confidentiality if you decide to do this. There are some great examples of practices who regularly share patient-generated content and who frequently produce engaging posts featuring happy patients during and post-treatment. Find the level you are comfortable at and ensure the content you are sharing and posting is consistent with your brand.

Social media is a great tool for engaging with patients. Used well, it can replace or complement many of your existing marketing activities at very low cost. It enables you to develop and grow your brand and to create a unique identity that patients can relate to. Great social media on its’ own will not get a patient into your chair so in the next article, we will be looking at how to engage with patients through your website.

This article was written for Orthodontic Practice and appeared in their Mar / Apr 2019 issue.