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365 Ways to Make Your Practice’s Social Media Fun and Effective
An insightful Q&A with dental social media expert Rachel Mele
To many dentists, using social media to promote the practice is given the same priority that many patients give to flossing. Despite having been told numerous times that social media can benefit their dental practices, many practitioners have yet to make a habit of regularly engaging on websites like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
Will a dental practice survive if its Facebook page isn't updated on a regular basis? Of course it will. Just as a patient will likely survive without flossing on a regular basis. But just as the periodontal and dental health of those patients would likely improve from the practice of flossing, it's fair to say that most dental practices would benefit from a little social media savvy.
Committing to a new social media regimen can certainly feel like a daunting task. To help alleviate some of the initial hesitation, I reached out to one of the dental industry's social media experts to talk about all things social media and to examine how a dentist at any skill level can create and implement a social media strategy for his or her practice.
If you are not familiar with her, Rachel Mele is a well-respected dental executive, speaker, and author who has combined her passion for technology with her desire to see dental practices succeed using online strategies. I recently sat down with Rachel to discuss her latest book, 365 Days of Social Posts for Dentistry, and get her expert advice for dentists looking to jump-start their social media presence.
Naomi Cooper (NC): I thoroughly enjoyed your newest book. One of the first things that captured me was the structure. Each page offers an idea for a social media post, and there's a suggestion for every single day of the year. There are posts for every major and minor holiday (eg, New Years Day, Valentine's Day, National Smile Day) as well as posts geared toward the time of the year. This got me thinking, “how does seasonality affect a dentist's social media plan?”
Rachel Mele (RM): As far as the structure of the book, I wanted to provide a framework for dentists and their teams to work from that would help to ensure that they always have something to say. Of course, dental practices don't have to create a social media post for each of the 365 days in the year, but I wanted to arm them with enough ideas to keep their feeds as full of quality content as possible.
Social media posts that are relevant to the time of the year help keep dentists' profiles current. For example, there's a post for mid-November that addresses year-end benefits. This is an incredibly timely and useful reminder to motivate patients to get in before their benefits expire.
I also incorporated humorous posts, including one for Valentine's Day about a ring made from a tooth, as well as other ideas that have nothing to do with the time of the year, but that are still engaging to patients, such as “team appreciation” posts, which allow dentists to use social media to highlight their team members and help patients get to know them better.
Keeping the content varied and mixing in practical information with the fun helps to keep a dentist's social media feed feeling organic and relatable. So to directly answer your question about seasonality, the more that dentists can relate their posts to the time of the year, the more likely they will have something relevant to say that resonates with their patients.
NC: In your introduction, you mention that you have been collecting ideas for posts for more than a decade now. Is there one post in particular that stands out to you?
RM: I actually do have a favorite one, and I'll tell you why. There was an orthodontist who shot a quick 20-second video of a teenage patient getting her braces off. While that may sound routine, it actually ended up being quite remarkable.
The patient was incredibly excited to get her braces taken off and brought along a friend to share in the experience. When they saw her new smile for the first time, they both started screaming and crying. Their raw, emotional reactions totally captured the powerful role that an orthodontist can play in someone's life. It was only a short video, but it got shared and viewed thousands of times. It provides a perfect example of why posting genuine, practice-specific content is so incredibly important.
So, although all of the posting suggestions in my book are supposed to serve as inspiration to fall back on, when something organic naturally happens in the practice in real time, it's important to capture those moments and capitalize on them for social media content. Incorporating these interesting tidbits from around the office with the more general ideas that I've laid out in my book can help dentists tailor their social media to become more relevant to their individual practices and patients.
NC: Many practices only post sporadically to their Facebook pages and have less than a hundred followers. What advice would you give to those dentists, and what tips do you have for a practice that's never used social media in the past?
RM: First and foremost, pick someone on the dental team to be accountable for the social media presence. It is important to clarify that handling the social media is part of this individual's job description, not just another low priority task to be occasionally handled when he or she can find the time. Choose someone with the energy and passion to properly engage and keep up with social media and most importantly, someone who has the time available to do so. Ideally, plan for this person to commit about 4 hours a week to managing the social media, but even 4 hours a month would help get the ball rolling at practices with little to no online presence.
For practices that are new to social media, it is important to start with clear goals. In addition to appointing someone to handle the social media, decide upfront how many times per week that you want to post, and start collecting and planning content ahead of time.
I also suggest starting with Facebook. It is by far the easiest site to use to connect with and interact with local mothers in the community. Only after you feel that you have mastered Facebook, that the practice is engaging regularly, and that the specified team member is managing it well, should you consider branching out to other social media platforms, such as Instagram or YouTube.
NC: What if there isn't a person on staff who is capable of or interested in being responsible for the practice's social media?
RM: Most practices can't afford to have a full-time marketing resource, let alone employ a full-time social media expert, so it would be ideal to have someone who is already on the team become dedicated to the role. But for those who aren't so fortunate, social media provides a terrific opportunity to outsource.
NC: So would you say that it's better to go the do-it-yourself route or to outsource?
RM: Ideally, the best solution would be a hybrid of both. Even for practices with a team member who is ready and willing to take on the responsibilities of social media, partnering with a trusted company can help, especially in the beginning, provide guidance to the dentist and his or her team on how to correctly implement social media for a business while holding the team accountable for efficiently executing the efforts.
NC: Your book offers a wealth of ideas for dentists to use all year, but you also say it's important to personalize social media posts. This can be a time-consuming process. How can a dental team keep coming up with new ideas for relevant posts?
RC: That's a great question. It's important to involve the entire team in the social media plan and to avoid putting all of the responsibility for coming up with new content solely on the point person.Whether it's during the morning huddle or through email, encourage the whole team to share ideas for social media. Tell them to send their new ideas to the social media manager who will compile them into a library of content to be used in future posts.
Interestingly, following this process is exactly how I came up with the idea for my book. Since 2006, I've always been on the hunt for fresh ideas, and people constantly share posts with me that they think I'll like. I follow dentists, specialists, dental magazines, and manufacturers—always searching for fun tips to share with the dental profession. Throughout the years, I collected the most interesting posts and stored them in a file, which ultimately became the source material for the book.
Inspiration comes at all times. I highly recommend Rachel's book for any dental practice engaging in social media. Her ideas and suggestions will help you create a baseline plan for your social media presence and inspire you to capture the essence of your practice and let its individuality shine through your social media posts. Look for the real, the raw, and the beautiful things that happen in your office every day (eg, patients' smiles, kind words said). It's those special moments that will truly spark your social media feed, making it both fun and engaging for your followers and effective for your practice.
About the Author
Naomi Cooper is the president of Minoa Marketing and the chief executive officer and co-founder of Doctor Distillery.