Inside Dentistry
January 2021
Volume 17, Issue 1

Reach and Influence Your Ideal Patients

Leveraging the power of Instagram to grow your practice

Joyce Kahng, DDS

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. People from all generations, young and old, use their social media streams to consume content, communicate with society, and even generate revenue as a source of income. However, only recently has social media become more commonplace in the fields of medicine and dentistry. In particular, within the past few years, Instagram has become an essential resource for dental practice owners as a marketing tool, and it appears to be here to stay.

Remaining relevant is the name of the game. For many doctors, the longer they are in practice, the higher the likelihood that they will begin to age out of their patient population. If you have been practicing dentistry for at least a decade, you may already be seeing this happening. That is why it is important to get into the practice of reaching potential patients where they are, not where you feel comfortable being. It is for this reason that you can find me producing informational videos while dancing on a platform like TikTok. Some may say that it is embarrassing for a dentist of 11 years to be making dancing videos. My response to them is that these "embarrassing" online videos have resulted in real-life patients in my office.

Although doctors are now beginning to understand the importance and relevance of social media, one growing problem is that many are unwilling to take the time to learn how to use these outlets properly. For them, marketing on social media is viewed as just one more thing to worry about that will distract them from their practices and families. As such, many are tempted to outsource this task, especially because learning to build and grow a brand on social media is often perceived to be confusing and time-consuming.

I believe in the power of social media, and I draw about 70% of my patient population from all of the social media outlets that I use. It doesn't take a million followers for it to work, but it does take a dedicated strategy. I started my Instagram journey in February 2018 using the handle @joycethedentist with about 100 of my friends and family following me. Within a year, I had grown to 12,000 followers, and currently, I have about 30,000 followers. What started as a marketing mechanism has now transformed me into a public figure in the profession.

To be clear, I am not a social media marketing specialist. I am first and foremost a practicing dentist. But I am one who has learned to leverage the power of Instagram to drive patients into the practice. When used properly, Instagram is a free platform that has the power to reach and influence my ideal patients. But to use it well, some time and energy must be invested.

Having a strong social media presence on Instagram can do more for you than just converting patients. Some of the benefits include the following:

1. Growing Your Social Network

One of the greatest benefits of being on Instagram has been connecting with other like-minded dentists. Many celebrity dentists and highly esteemed clinicians are on Instagram trying to grow their brands. Personally, I have been able to connect with fellow female practice owners who were able to share their unique experiences as women in dentistry. As a solo practitioner, dentistry can be isolating, and having a strong supportive community is important for personal growth and mindset. Recently, Instagram was an especially important resource during the COVID-19 pandemic when the dental economy was struggling and we were all left navigating uncharted waters.

2. Taking Back Control of Your Narrative

We all have a love-hate relationship with Yelp and other review websites, don't we? It seems unfair that the entire reputations of our practices can depend on the opinions of any one of our patients. However, we deal with these platforms because we understand that social proof is very important in our society. The problem with relying on what others are saying about us is that we lose our control. Instagram gives me a powerful platform to curate a brand for myself that no one can really take away from. If a patient decides to post something awful and mean on Instagram, I can just delete the comment. It is my platform, and I have 100% control of it. If a patient decides to tag me with a glowing review, I will repost it so that everyone on my platform can see it. That is one way to start creating an image for yourself that you want others to see.

3. Exercising Your Reach

Why is reach important? Because you need a platform to be able to share what is going on in your practice. I often meet dentists who invest in expensive dental technology and expect these purchases to organically drive patient flow. How can patients know to come to your practice for your technology if they do not know it exists? On my Instagram feed, I promote my computerized anesthetic unit and my Itero Element 5D daily. I make sure that every dollar I've spent on my dental technology is reaching and impressing someone out in the universe.

I learned the importance of reach on social medial through a story that Kim Kardashian West shared about how she found her personal trainer. She was scrolling Instagram at 2:00 am (How relatable!) and stumbled upon the Instagram page of a personal trainer who had just recently given birth. Kim, who had also recently given birth, was able to relate to her social media content and immediately reached out to the trainer. They still work together to this day.

Patients choose their dentists for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, it is not because they perceive that their dentist is the best; rather, it is because they are comfortable with their dentist and enjoy being at the office, which results in a trusting doctor-patient relationship. Instagram can give you the ability to cultivate this relationship on your terms. I create content that stays on my Instagram feed for people to consume at all hours of the day, even while I'm sleeping. The content that I post is highly curated and directed toward my ideal patients. I literally have an expanded reach; the universe is at my fingertips.

Using social media in this way will ultimately get you noticed by your ideal patients. Best of all, it will connect you to their network of friends, family, and followers, which can result in exponential growth and recognition. Essentially, Instagram can become your new "social business card." Many of my current patients refer their friends and family to me using my Instagram account rather than my real name and physical address because it is easier to remember and access. I love when my referrals go through Instagram because I am introducing myself to future patients with my highly curated feed before they enter the practice. By the time they enter my practice, they already feel like they know and can trust me.

Make It Yours

Remember, you do not have to build an Instagram presence in the same way that I did. I have built a lifestyle account with absolutely no pictures of teeth. My feed is unique to me and focuses on the information that I want to present. When you start your own unique Instagram journey, determine what type of patient you want to reach and figure out what content works for you. Then, sit back and watch your practice grow. See you in Insta-land!

About the Author

Joyce Kahng, DDS, is the owner of Orange + Magnolia Dental Studio in Costa Mesa, California.

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