Social Media Strategies for the Dental Practice
Amidst the College of Dentistry’s research in such areas as immunology, oral cancer, wound healing, and dental materials, a research topic that is equally far reaching, but rather unique to dentistry, has been taking place. Rachel Kearney '07 MS, assistant professor in the Division of Dental Hygiene, has been conducting research on social media and the role it plays in a healthcare environment.
“As social media has become such a pervasive part of our lives, I thought about the positive and negative impact it might have on healthcare providers and their patients,” said Kearney. “I noticed that there is very little literature on the subject of social media and dentistry, so I set out to discover what role it is playing in the field.”
Kearney said that in surveys of private practice dentists, she found that just over 50 percent of dental practices actively use social media to market their practice.
While protecting the privacy of their patients was dentists’ biggest concern, respondents also expressed concerns about what to post and how to make their social media efforts reach the most people.
Kearney offers the following advice:
The benefits of adopting social media in your practice are connecting with current patients and potential patients of the practice. Choose a social media tool that your site administrator is most comfortable with and one that your patient demographic heavily uses. Facebook has the most users, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
If your practice has not yet leaped into the social media pool, but you are interested in getting started, I recommend that you start by maintaining just one social media site. Be sure to include your practice’s branding on your site.
Train more than one member of your team to manage and administer the site and decide ahead of time what types of messages you wish to share on the site (for example, oral health tips on a particular day of each week or featured employees each month). Your staff members may have great ideas about how to utilize social media.
I encourage each practice to have a social media policy, not only for the social media pages that represent the practice, but also for the employees of the practice as it relates to their personal pages. Be clear about your expectations regarding the use of social media and make it clear that it is not legal to share information about any of the practice’s patients through social media sites.
Practices should be most cautious in protecting the privacy of patients. While many dental care providers want to share interesting cases or findings within their networks, it is not appropriate to share images or information about patients without explicit consent.