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The AAE recently interviewed Kathryn Inman, Director of Social Media Marketing for PBHS Inc., (an AAE Advantage partner) about best practices and tips for social media that endodontists can use during COVID-19. Kathryn Inman leads the creation and implementation of digital marketing campaigns, both paid and organic, that help endodontic practices increase brand awareness and patient base by building meaningful interactions with target audiences.

Now more than ever, why does social media matter for endodontists?

Facebook and Instagram have reported that usage has more than doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the number of active daily users more than doubling, it’s a beneficial time to connect with patients and referring doctors online. Since there is so much potential for increased engagement, your practice should at the very least be relaying new office hours, the best way to make an appointment, access to virtual consults, promotion of dental emergency protocols on your social media channels. While these are challenging times for the industry, smart social media strategies can influence patients and referring doctors in a positive and profound way.

What sort of content should endodontists be posting online or sharing? (Getting the word out about reopening, new protocols, content to alleviate patients’ concerns etc.)

Since COVID-19 is still a hot button issue for dental professionals, lead with how your practice is adhering to state reopening guidelines, precautions that your practice are taking, and how PPE will be used during office encounters. You can also share how your practice is implementing patient safety. Showcase your new policies limiting patient exposure during treatment with a personal office video. Post a photo of your waiting room staggering patient intake to limit the total number of people in the office, as well as showcase how your practice is increasing sterilization measures! These are all ways you can get the word out about how your practice is reopening!

Are you offering virtual consultations?  Now, more than ever, virtual consultations are critical to the health of many endodontic practices. Those we serve are delivering exceptional care remotely and if you are offering teledentistry services, now is the time to post and share this information on social media to let your patients know about your expanded access to care and to instruct them on how to get involved! Patients can join you securely and remotely all while completing patient registrations, consents and COVID disclosures from the comfort of their own home.  We recommend initiating a targeted social media root canal teledentistry campaign to virtually assess and consult with patients in real time and facilitate case acceptance outside the office.

Social media is also a space to inspire your followers. If you’ve donated PPE to local hospitals, or if you’ve volunteered as a practice to give back to those livelihoods who have been impacted by the pandemic – share it! Use your practice’s social media platforms to distract followers with a post, video, or live stream that makes them feel good. You can still get involved – donate masks and excess medical supplies, help a senior(s) by delivering groceries, or donate your time and money to a nonprofit.

In what ways should endodontists differentiate their social media marketing between targeting patients versus referrers?

Social media marketing can be challenging for specialists because you’re simultaneously trying to promote yourself within your community and your referral base. Your practice’s efforts to attract both can productively coexist.

You can engage both potential patients and referring doctors by establishing your practice as an authority in root canal therapy. Share information about the latest technologies and techniques. Share pictures of your team communicating with a patient. Share educational articles written by industry experts or training you’ve recently attended. This is how you can build patient trust and gain credibility amongst your peers. And don’t forget your positive reviews — don’t be afraid to ask and showcase testimonials from patients and referring doctors alike.

What is the best way to keep frequent contact to referring dentists using social media?

Engagement. Engagement. Engagement. Social media is designed to build and support relationships, and there is no better way to keep frequent contact with referring dentists than meaningful content and guidance that will help their practice.  You should also practice community management. Your online relationships should mirror your real-world working relationships. “Like” your referrals’ social media channels and engage with their posts.  During the holidays, create fun social media contests between referring practices — host a pumpkin or Christmas tree decorating contest, winner gets bragging rights! If you share a photo of a happy patient (with their consent!) on your social media channels, tag the referring practice and thank them for the wonderful referral.

If sharing content that may involve a patient’s personal info, anecdotes about a patient’s experience, or a photo of a happy patient post treatment, what should an endodontist do to ensure HIPAA compliance?

 Always abide by HIPAA regulations. Remember to always acquire written permission from a patient before posting or sharing photos on your website and social media channels – any online platform requires written permission. I suggest establishing an in-office social media policy, so staff doesn’t accidentally snap photos of patients and or patient information. Make sure that your staff isn’t sharing details of their day on their own personal Facebook pages. We all have those days we want to take to social media and vent about our day but sharing situational details of patient experiences or interactions could potentially violate a patient’s rights under HIPAA. And lastly, don’t respond directly to patients online in the comment sections of Facebook and Instagram. For the sake of compliance, have them contact the office if they have questions about procedures or their dental health!

While HIPAA compliance can be daunting, try to always encourage your patients to engage with your practice’s social media. Ask patients to like and follow your social media channels, ask them to check-in on Facebook and Yelp. You can still have fun and generate engagement with your patients while maintaining HIPAA compliance.

There are many social media platforms available, which are the most effective or popular?

There are many social media platforms, the popular ones being: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok. While they all have their beneficial uses, I believe the most crucial social channels for endodontists are Facebook and Instagram. Facebook and Instagram are both very user-friendly, they have easy built-in advertisement options available, and they have the largest diversity of demographics using the platform at once.

How does the use of “tagging” or “hashtags” help increase audience reach?

Tagging and using hashtags increases your practice’s reach by allowing users who don’t like or follow your social media accounts to easily find you! If you want to attract users within your community, tag local businesses or use local hashtags. If you’re wanting to attract attention from other endodontists, tag popular endodontic profiles and use procedure-based hashtags. Some popular endodontic hashtags are:

  • #endodontist
  • #endodontists
  • #endodontic
  • #endo
  • #endodontictreatment
  • #rootcanal
  • #rootcanaltreatment
  • #dentistry

How can endodontists leverage patient reviews for SEO and pay per click (PPC) campaigns?

Patient reviews are extremely important for your practice’s online presence, they have a direct impact on your website’s SEO performance. Online reviews are just one of several factors used to rank your website for local search engine results, and they act as a signal for search engines to determine the authority of our practice’s website. Google’s algorithms specifically look for: total volume of patient reviews, recency of patient reviews, quality or star rating of the reviews, and your practices responsiveness to reviews. We recommend starting a patient review campaign by soliciting patient reviews – a.k.a., asking happy patients to leave you a review on Google. Frequent and positive reviews will help bolster your SEO over time, and help you get found on page one! Patient reviews can be a powerful tool for your practice’s PPC campaign as well, and they’re becoming increasingly necessary to compete for page one rankings on Google.

PPC advertising is now listed both the top of the search list and at the bottom, this ensures that they’re being seen before organic search results Fortunately, the best type of advertisements for your practice are genuine patient testimonials that describe the care received at your practice. Focus on patient pain points and goals, example: “I was thoroughly impressed with the emergency treatment and expert service that I received. They did a great job in alleviating my tooth pain while keeping everyone involved as safe as possible from COVID-19.” Use ad extensions to directly engage with patients and prioritize click-to-call campaigns that get you in touch with prospective patients right away. As always, make sure you’re obtaining appropriate consent to use all content and reviews from patients to stay HIPAA-compliant.

Besides AAE member resources on aae.org, where can endodontists go to learn more about best practices and tips for social media?

ADA Center for Professional Success, PBHS’s Blog: https://www.pbhs.com/about-pbhs/blog/,  DentalTown and Dr. Bicuspid are just a few resources to use.