Social Media Marketing in the World of Orthodontics

It seems like the rules and trends for marketing in orthodontics changed overnight. In 2009, orthodontists were first exposed to the “new” marketing paradigm of social media engagement by way of Facebook and Twitter, the orthodontic journals abuzz with “how to’s,” “best smm panel,” and “what’s what” articles showing up monthly. Orthodontists charged headlong into the world of social media with less of a blueprint for marketing success and more of a “let’s get there first” approach only to find themselves in 2010 asking, “What now and how do I measure ROI?”.

Most orthodontic practices charged into the revolution without any ammunition and no clear objective, so it would seem obvious to question the social media engagement a year in. Many decided to delay their foray into the revolution because they have no idea how to even fire the first shot. Either way, you are not alone if either of the above applies, and that’s good news. While the majority of orthodontists have some form of social network presence, very few have seen their participation pay off. And most fall short by simply not grasping the fundamental objective in a practice’s participation in social media; increase patient based referrals by giving your “network” reason and incentive to introduce the practice to their “network.” This concept is beautifully summed up by Ford CMO James Farley, “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.”

Before delving into a discussion about social media marketing, it is imperative to understand and clearly define your practice’s “brand” and its place in the local market. The importance of starting with this exercise will help you to keep the plan focused on delivering an easily repeated message, one that patients and the community at large will associate with your practice. You have to give the practice a “voice” and “personality” that can be communicated easily. Social media is, after all, social. So you must begin with humanizing the practice. In the social media world, the practice itself is the “person” with whom visitors, colleagues, friends, and patients will be interacting. And as such, if your posts are purely clinical, “How to care for your appliance, etc.”, the practice will be perceived as lacking personality, being “uncool,” and will therefore fail in terms of social interaction. To the point made earlier, you have to provide the “it” that people will say to each other. Ask yourself, or your team, this question, “Why would someone choose my practice over another in town?” Answers may range from “expertise,” to “friendly,” to “cutting edge,” to “best terms.” Then put yourself into the shoes of a potential patient or parent. Aggregate the answers into the creation of personality traits with which you can endow the practice.

Once you’ve established those traits, write them down and share them with your team. The team member(s) tasked with posting need to be keenly aware of the practice personality that you’ve created. He/she will need to become schizophrenic when making posts; he/she is no longer a team member, but rather “the practice.” This is very closely mirrored in your scripting for case presentation. The most successful practices in terms of case acceptance rate, are usually those that invest effort in humanizing the practice by promoting comfort and familiarity. They take the would-be patient on a tour of the facility, introduce him/her to the team, and establish confidence in acceptance because the practice as a whole cares “personally” about the patient’s outcome and the benefits it will yield throughout his/her life. This is the same message that you will convey through social media. Congratulations, you have your “brand.”

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