Social Media and Legal Considerations for Dentistry



Today begins student week at Patterson Dental. Each day we will be publishing content solely for the dental student heading back to school, or the recent graduate heading into the field.

After years of being in dental school, you’re finally embarking on an exciting new career. You can now proudly add DDS or DMD to your name, and you’ve earned that privilege!

Whether you are joining a group or starting your own practice, social media can be a powerful tool for your professional development and in this day and age, having a good online presence is a must for any business.

Here are five social media essentials, foundational bricks you’d do well to lay at the outset of your career:

1. Manage your reputation

  • If you are a millennial, chances are you at least have a Facebook account. And on your Facebook timeline may be one or two photos or comments you’ve posted in a moment of indiscretion that don’t accurately or fully portray who you are or your moral integrity. This is understandable and quite normal; it’s part of growing up. But your online reputation matters. A lot. As you develop personally and professionally, it is definitely important to be transparent, but due to the nature of the online social space, understand that the line between personal and professional is blurred and you therefore might want to do a little “clean-up” on your social media channels to ensure that you are presenting yourself and your company well and giving everyone in the social space the best impression possible.

2. Follow the right people

  • There are a number of influential people in the dental industry who are very active and engaged on social media platforms. You’d do well to follow them, glean from the content they push out daily, stay informed by them about industry events (conferences, seminars, etc.), and, most importantly, interact with them and join the conversations they initiate online. It’s also a good idea to follow and connect with associations, most of which are very active in social channels.

3. Decide which platform(s) is right for you

  • As you begin practicing and growing your business, your time will undoubtedly become more and more limited. That’s why it’s important that you do some research about the different social media channels that exist, and which ones a) would be the most beneficial for you and your business, and b) you can commit to posting to on a daily basis. Maybe you are already very active on Twitter and know that you can handle tweeting 2-10 times a day, which is best practice for that particular platform. But Twitter is not for everybody, so maybe you’d benefit more from creating an attractive and inviting Facebook page and following the best practice of posting 4-9 times a week. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple social media accounts for your business; just make sure you can commit to being active consistently on all of them.

4. Find your local community online

  • If you are starting your own practice, social media will be a useful tool for marketing your practice and building your client base. If you are joining an established practice or a dental group, social media will help you interact with and build relationships with existing patients. Do some digging and find out which platforms your prospective and existing clients are most active in, and get active in that space yourself. (It would be pointless to tweet 10 patient-relevant tweets a day if most of your clients or prospects spend most of their time on Facebook.) As an aside, do everything you can to separate your personal life from your professional life online; as I stated earlier, the line between the two can easily become blurred. To learn how to avoid HIPAA violations in social media, click here.

5. Educate yourself about effective social media marketing

  • Certain traditional marketing tactics simply don’t work well in social media. There are some nuances that need to be understood in order to be effective in this unique digital space. While social media certainly isn’t rocket science, there are online behaviors that are effective in your efforts to grow your business – it’s not difficult to find tons of articles online about social media best practices – and there are also certain behaviors that are not so effective and can actually turn people off. A lot of it comes down to common sense, but social media is always changing and it’s important to stay informed and change with it.

 

What social media channels are you currently using?

How do you plan to use social media for business?

8 comments on “5 Social Media Musts for the New Dentist

  1. We have tried to fully integrate social media into our practice, utilizing twitter to connect with industry leaders, current trends, and new products and Facebook to connect with our potential patient base. As a new practice, we are focused on creating a brand and a web presence. About 80% of our patients find us through the web, whether that is through their insurance company website or googling their zip code. Our main goal now is increasing our Google rank for broader categories. I think it’s important to understand that social media won’t guarantee an influx of new patients, but it stands to reinforce your practice image and support your other marketing strategies.

    • Great points, Brooke. You are correct when you differentiate between reinforcing your brand and culture with social media, and Google search results. They are, in fact, very different strategies and practices are more successful on both fronts when the “get” the difference. Good luck with your social media efforts!

  2. Brooke – Thanks for your comment. Your last sentence is key. We don’t necessarily believe a company needs a social media strategy per se; rather, social media should be integrated into the existing marketing mix and overall strategy, as you so wonderfully articulated. It’s a tool, and a very useful one at that, but it should never replace an already well-oiled machine.

  3. Great post. Social media marketing differs from search marketing and Google Page rank concerns in that search relies on patients actively looking online. They’re either searching for a dentist by location, or searching their own dentist’s contact info. SMM, such as Facebook content and ad marketing, doesn’t rely on search but is proactive, going after new patients where they already are (leisurely hanging out on a social media platform). SMM let’s you target potential new patients by geo-location, interests, professions, connections to your existing Page fans, and increasingly, real time status updates. You have the opportunity to present a problem and solution or pique their interests proactively instead of waiting to be found on search. Many practices confuse the two strategies.

    • Thanks for the insight, Celia. You’re right in stating that social marketing doesn’t rely on search, but I would add that search marketing – the inbound piece of digital marketing – can certainly compliment and give a boost to social media marketing efforts. Ideally, SEO and social media should go hand-in-hand; two separate strategies working together for an optimal interactive experience for both the business organization and the customer.

      • Christian, so true. To implement social marketing does not mean in lieu of search marketing and SEO. Both are needed. Regarding search, a pet peeve of mine is practices not placing clear contact info *above the fold* on their web home page (ideally, on every page). Every practice should audit their website for this! Thanks for your posts. Always helpful.

  4. Regarding social media, our office has a Facebook page that patients sometimes post pictures to. Is it a HIPAA violation when their name appears next to their photo? I’ve been searching the web for any discussion on this topic and I’m surprised it hasn’t yet been addressed.

    Thank you

    • Thanks for your question, Mr. Cruz. Before we answer, one caveat: ***this is not legal advice***. Now that that’s out the way, here are our thoughts. It is our understanding that when someone self-discloses their relationship to your dental practice on Facebook (whether explicitly or implicitly), this likely does not violate HIPAA Privacy Rule requirements. This reasoning applies when an individual has his/her name next to a photograph.

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