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Social media – what works and what doesn’t

Posted by Joanne Mellor 

As the means and ways of dental marketing continues to expand, one medium which can’t be ignored is that of social media.

When used correctly, this can of course be an extremely useful tool. However, if used incorrectly or ineffectively it can actually be more trouble than it’s worth.

The General Dental Council (GDC) introduced its latest Standards for the Dental Team at the start of October, which for the first time included guidance on the use of social media.

Online revolution

With the ever-increasing growth of the internet, more people are turning online to check when their dental appointments are and even book short-notice appointments through online booking schedules. 

So if the trend is moving in this direction, what is the best way to interact with the market?

Social media is an obvious choice – with many people these days logging onto an account of this nature in one form or another, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or a number of others.

The rewards

By maintaining a social media presence, a dental practice can achieve a word-of-mouth reputation like never before. If someone is happy with the work and care they have received from you, there is every chance they will happily tell the world about it via the web.

You can also make the most of social media to actively promote yourself to an audience. An account is easy to set up and generally free – so from there on you are able to market any messages you want to get out to the waiting world without cost.

Of course, make sure you include contact details like a website or phone number through which potential patients can contact your reception desk – there’s no point in shouting about something if there is no way your audience can effectively respond.

The risks

The GDC wouldn’t be issuing guidance on managing social media if it wasn’t without its risks – which tend to focus on what you can and can’t say.

Patient anonymity is certainly a focus here, with the GDC maintaining that any dental professional on social media needs to follow three basic rules. 

One – patients information and identities remain confidential. If you want to talk about a specific case to use as an example of good practice – you can’t identify patients without their explicit consent.

Two – make sure that your relationship with a patient isn’t compromised through social media and a professional boundary is maintained.

Three – make sure that your tweets/status updates do not breach any policies already in place with your employer and the wider internet as a whole.

On top of this, the GDC uses the new standards to remind dentists that by actively taking part in social media marketing, you carry the risk of potentially bringing the professional into disrepute by posting inappropriate content. 

Ultimately, the guidelines also want dentists to keep a difference between what would be a professional social media account and a personal social media account. 

While you may already have a Facebook profile of your own, when you launch one for your practice you should not treat it in the same way – doing this could easily result in you undermining yourself.

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