The most successful dentists have been practicing for decades and developed a loyal patient following because of the quality of their care. Others took over an already thriving practice and knew they had to continue to market to build it up.
The rest underestimated what it took to compete with other excellent local dentists. Now it is even hard for the best in real-world technical skills and patient care to be ranked in the first pages of online searches. Few today have implemented a truly successful search engine optimized (SEO) content marketing program. Now, the next tidal wave of social media competition is hitting the shores of digital dentistry in the form of Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
Instagram is probably not the most obvious source of new patients or current patient education, even though it is second only to Facebook (its owner) in social media reach, with an estimated 113 million users in the U.S. for 2020.
It gets a lot of publicity for the fact that 72% of American teens use it, but a decision about orthodontics or cavities would be made by parents. However, 67% of 18-29s could be interested in veneers and whitening, less aware of the need for advanced dental work. More promising in terms of need and finances are the 47% of those on the platform who are 30-49, as well as 23% of the 50-64s and 8% of the 65+. Of all women, 43% use it, with their greater interest in health and beauty reflected in the mere 31% of men.
“Social media is great for showing the quality results of all the services we provide, what our beautiful high-tech office looks like, and getting them acquainted with our dentists and staff members,” said Dr. Igal Elyassi of Wilshire Smile Studio in Los Angeles, on the border of Beverly Hills, arguably the most competitive dental market in the world, with standards for smiles set by celebrities.
“A picture is literally worth a thousand words, but this also helps potential and current patients connect with us and build our relationships,” he said. “We can also use this to provide more education on the importance of dentistry.”
Before-and-after photos are the most critical element because viewers will often get excited about what they see and make a call for an appointment.
“You need a high-definition camera with a lens for close-ups of your work and a video camera to produce clips, especially of testimonials, to post,” said Elyassi. “If someone in the office knows or can learn how to use these well with the right lighting, great, but sometimes we’ve hired a professional photographer. Be sure you get permission and privacy agreements in advance.”
What to Post on IG and Facebook
Some 150-200 million Americans are on Facebook and from a dental practice viewpoint, the audience is perfect, with a quarter of them 25-34, 19% 35-44, 16% 45-54, and 14% 55+. Of these, 56% are female.
Dr. Elyassi provides similar images and videos for his FB page as he has on IG:
https://www.facebook.com/wilshiresmilestudio/. It has earned a phenomenal 11,226 “likes” as of this moment. Be sure to optimize your page and website for mobile access, he recommended.
Some of the things that could be posted on either Facebook or Instagram:
- Pictures and short videos of happy, smiling patients.
- Photos of team members with professional and personal background, including details on their families, pets, and hobbies.
- Show-and-tell about new technology and tools.
- Video close-ups of treatments.
- Following staff who are sanitizing tools after use, to show how thorough the process is.
- Giveaways and contests.
- Questions to answer about where patients are going on vacation or how they are celebrating birthdays or holidays.
- Scenes from staff parties and educational events.
- Demonstrations of exactly how to brush and floss right.
- Videos that are funny–staff in goofy masks, wearing buck teeth or colorful hats for an occasion, playing games, joking, and showing that dentistry is not all serious, lightening the anxiousness of prospects.
Three-quarters of all businesses are on Instagram and a third of the most-viewed “stories” are from companies. These are photos and videos that appear just for 24 hours at the top of the feed. They can include stickers for context, hashtags to connect with trending topics, polls, and @ mentions to tag other users. Some in-depth guidance can be found here:
But you might be asking, “Who is going to put in all this time to develop and make all these posts?” Don’t get overly ambitious: it’s like an exercise or diet program that fails if it tries to accomplish too much too fast. Decide priorities and divide up responsibilities, posting on a manageable schedule, with help from a social media agency (which pays for itself if you screen through references from dentists you respect who are not competitors).
Using YouTube Effectively
Very few dental practices have yet to fully exploit YouTube, but with the COVID-19 crisis giving more people lots of time to be online, it should become a greater priority for reaching them. According to its parent, Google, 64% of consumers use it to research healthcare professionals and 56% watch videos on specific treatments.
It’s worth remembering that destination dentistry means that you can attract patients from all over the world. YouTube has two billion users around the globe and can be a way to reach them, with 90% of Internet users 18-44 accessing it and even 51% over the age of 75. About 62% businesses post their videos on YouTube, with an easy way for viewers to share with friends.
Once you have set up a practice account, consider populating it with videos like these (you can even use a mobile phone to make them):
- Short clips that provide a backroom tour, giving the patient the feeling of being an insider.
- A demonstration of someone undergoing advanced imaging. Showing the results of an x-ray and how it is used to explain what needs to be done.
- Educational videos that go in-depth on, say, why dental implants are important, what the options are, and the process (five minutes is the recommended minimum for this type of social media).
- Answers to patient questions
- A filmed explanation of credit options. “Successful social media posts, especially on YouTube, require understanding the details of how they can be brought to the attention of prospective patients,” said Isaac Rau of Proactive SEO Solutions
The individual who is working with you to do this needs to know how to use the Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, and other resources. They should even do a manual search to find out which ones that are popular enough, but not so competitive that it will be almost impossible to be noticed.
You should not only optimize for the search engines, but also think like the humans. Think of a title that includes your most important keyword and is eye-catching or funny. Descriptions should be clear and include the most important keywords and tags. To fully exploit the potential, a YouTube video will also need backlinks and embeds on your blog and other social media accounts.”
With so few dental practices anywhere near their social media potential, the gates are wide open for those who dedicate the time and money to do it right.