by Jack Hadley
One of the best things about the internet revolution is the power that it has given each of us to make informed consumer decisions. With just a few minutes and a smartphone, we can search for and compare all the options in our city for whatever we need: restaurants, home repairs, healthcare, and everything in between.
The ability to do our own research is a significant contributing factor that's changing the traditional relationships between endodontists, referring dentists and patients. There's a rise in self-referrals as people increasingly take it upon themselves to compare practices' online reviews, digital testimonials, and social media pages.
There are so many different ways that people research your practice online that it can be difficult to know how you, as an endodontic practice, should best enhance your digital presence. By focusing your efforts on these three social media marketing fundamentals you'll be well on your way to helping patients find you and better ensuring the patients referred by general dentists actually end up scheduling with you.
1. Manage Your Digital Footprint
What do we mean by "digital footprint"? Essentially, it's what comes up about you and your practice in search engines. It's the "online real estate" that people typically use to gather information about healthcare providers-much of which comes from Google, review sites, and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
What are the first results that appear when you search your name and/or your practice name on Google? The results may include your website, your LinkedIn profile, or your practice's page on a reviews site like Healthgrades. This is a great way to see where you have the highest visibility, and identify opportunities to increase your activity on pages you would like to rank higher.
However, with every social media or reviews service your practice is on, there is an expectation of accessibility, participation and transparency that potential new patients have of you. Make sure that your practice information is always current, and regularly check for and respond to all reviews, messages and comments.
2. Post the Right Content Mix
Having a practice blog and social media pages are virtually meaningless if they are not constantly supplied with relevant, engaging content. It doesn't do any good to just post something generic and stale once a week-in fact, it can even give the impression that you are unavailable and unresponsive.
What you should be posting are things that showcase your practice culture, your involvement in the community and your desire to build lifelong healthcare relationships with patients. Prospective new patients are just as interested in learning about your passion for endodontics and willingness to go the extra mile as they are in the procedure itself. Involve your whole team and spotlight how each member contributes to the success of your practice.
Many endodontists report significant increases in self-referrals after becoming more active on social media channels. When your pages are constantly updated with new and engaging content, you look ready to do business and to welcome new patients. You don't have to create all of your content from scratch. Share information from the AAE website and social media pages to educate your patients as well.
Of course, whenever your practice shares a photo that includes a patient, make sure to use a simple HIPAA consent form to get your patient's permission before using the photo for marketing purposes.
3. Ask Your Patients for Help
While branding content is great for nurturing personal connections, it does little to push your name to a wider audience. For that, you need marketing content-and when your patients participate, they can be your practice's greatest advocates.
When patients share a photo taken in your practice on their own social media accounts, their friends and family-who trust their recommendations-will see it. It's an instant credibility and awareness boost with the people most likely to become new patients.
Obtaining positive Google, Facebook, and Healthgrades reviews is one of the best things you can do to build your online presence. Each week, identify a few patients who love your practice and who you suspect would be happy to leave you a review. Assign a team member to request a review from each one, and follow up on how it goes. One or two reviews written in-practice are better than dozens of promises from patients to write reviews after they've left.
Approaching social media and patient participation as an endodontist entails some slight, but important differences from what a general dentist would do. Patients commonly go to general dentists for routine checkups, which can easily be turned into fun, lighthearted social media content.
However, when people see an endodontist, it's typically because there's a problem-they're in pain, and in no mood to think about social media or reviews. Sometimes, the ideal time to ask is when they come in for a follow-up appointment and are feeling great!
With over 90 percent of consumers using search engines and social media to find healthcare providers, your endodontic practice's digital presence is more important than ever. Improving in these key areas will help you gain digital traction online where it matters most-and in turn, help grow your business.
Jack Hadley teaches social media marketing to MBA students at Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management in Provo, Utah. He is a founding partner at My Social PracticeT, an agency providing social media marketing content, strategy, and support to dental, orthodontic, and dental specialty practices worldwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.