All orthodontic offices are using some form of social media, and if they aren’t, then you know why we’ve never heard of them. That may seem harsh, but that is the reality. A poor online presence in this day and age can turn off prospective new patients and ultimately close down a practice. With boundless opportunities to reach patients online, what strategies does your office employ and are they better than the doctor down the street?

One tip Straight Wire consultants commonly make is to be more vocal. This point is in two parts – Quality and Quantity.

Quality. Your online presence should reflect open communication. There should be lots of dialogue, and let’s remember that dialogue is between more than one person. More often than not, we see offices that routinely post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They even throw out a blog (sometimes written by a third party) on the importance of orthodontics or last month’s sponsorship event. While we applaud the efforts, these are just not going to make you stand out amongst the 150 other orthodontists on this side of the city. That is quantity. What you need is quality, and that comes from conversations. In a thoughtful manner, you should be engaging by asking questions, responding to your patients’ comments to your posts and there should never, ever, be a patient review that goes up without a heart-felt thank you response from the Doc or team.

Some offices have had a hard time with this transparency. Docs may ask, “What if someone posts something bad or negative?” So what!? That is the perfect opportunity to address whatever the issue is. You don’t want your patients to experience any issues, so wouldn’t you want to know that there is one and have the chance to take care of it? I’d rather be aware of a problem and demonstrate how my practice handles it honestly than to not get the opportunity to make things right. More often than not, open dialogue with your patients online will consist of positive shout-outs and thank you’s from the supportive compliments your patients are sharing about you. Except this time it’s in print and shared with your fans, friends and their friends and so on.

Quantity. How often are you reaching out through social media? Better yet, how often should you be? The answer is different for each practice, primarily based on the practice’s size due to availability. Generally speaking though, we advise most practices to blog at least once a month, post to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube three times a week, and respond to every review you receive immediately after it goes up. Does that sound like a lot to you? It’s really not. How many Facebook posts does your Scheduling Coordinator post on her personal page? Tell me how long it takes for one of your team members to post “Doc is on fire today! Joey, Sarah and Debbie all got their braces on today and it’s not even lunch time! Take care of your new gear guys and we’ll call you later this week to see how you’re doing!” I will tell you it takes almost no time at all, and budgeting 10 minutes for this in the late-morning of a patient day is all you need. A client told me earlier this week about a great volunteer event he participated in at the last minute. My first thought was “Is it on Facebook? I haven’t seen a picture. Is it on your website?” He knew what the answer should’ve been. These are the kind of things your patients want to know about you! They want to see what their orthodontist does outside of their appointment. Just ask yourself “What have we done lately?” and make a blog about it. Link it to your Facebook and Twitter or make a quick video for YouTube.

In the meantime, assign a Communications Coordinator in your office to lead and manage the conversations on your social media outlets. Have that person update the team in morning huddles and staff meetings on what’s happening with your patients online.

Most importantly, make sure your practice culture shines through your social media as much as it does in the office. New patients, hands down, will always choose to do business with the Doc takes a personal interest and clearly cares about his/her patients over the Doc that was recently published in The Journal of Clinical Orthodontics. Don’t be afraid to talk to your patients through the many avenues online. They are your practice’s biggest fans!

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