Neil Hillyard looks at how social media can be used to endorse, highlight and promote your practice to potential patients.
The use of social media continues to grow strongly. An estimated 42 million people in the UK spend an average of around two hours each day creating and engaging with content.
Using social media to promote orthodontic treatment and to engage with patients is steadily increasing. The majority of practices are cautiously exploring how digital marketing can help to 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.
One of the frequent questions we are asked by practices 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. It’s a mistake to 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. This will 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 carry out some research looking at orthodontic treatment from a patient’s perspective. Search for some popular hashtags and see what content is available. Look at other practices’ social media channels.
Ask yourself if this type of content encourages you 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? Does the content seek to effectively engage with potential patients addressing some of the perceived barriers to treatment?
From completing this activity, you should start to gain an idea of the style and tone of voice you would like to use in your channels.
Try to capture this by creating a style guide that you can share with team members who you will enlist 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’s home pages to ensure the banner images and headline text is clear and patient focused. This will often be the first engagement the patient has with your practice. Make sure it is consistent with the image you are trying to portray.
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. With the huge amount of content on social media, your posts need to quickly stand out to the reader.
When considering images, create your own library of photos taken in the practice. Although, 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 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. Make sure you understand the terms of the licence to avoid costly mistakes.
When publishing posts, consider the caption, description and hashtags. Make sure that 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.
They will seek information on more well-known brands instead. 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? Is there a clear call to action such as ‘call us today’?
After a while, it’s 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. 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 simply posting content which is trending at that time?
Engaging with patients
When trying to build a following, start with existing patients and encourage them to follow you. Often you will find they are talking about their treatment and experience at the practice. 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. 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. They frequently produce engaging posts featuring happy patients during and post treatment. Find the level you are comfortable at. Make sure 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 also enables you to develop and grow your brand and to create a unique identity that patients can relate to.
This article first appeared in Orthodontic Practice magazine. You can read the latest issue here.