DR YASMIN SHAKARCHY
Dr Yasmin Shakarchy completed her dentistry training at the University of Birmingham. She is a Member of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (MFDS Ed) and holds a a PG certificate in aesthetic and restorative dentistry. She recently won UK Best Young Dentist at the 2020 Dentistry Awards. Follow her on Instagram: @ doctor_yasmin_
Shaz Memon is an award-winning digital marketing expert. Founder of dental marketing agency Digimax Dental, Shaz has worked in the industry for more than two decades across a wide variety of sectors, gaining experience with leading names, including the BBC, before finding his preferred niche in dentistry marketing. He has published two business books – Instagram for Dentists and Instagram for Business. He is also founder of the charity Wells on Wheels.
Social media is no longer a new concept, but a stalwart means of communication, with most medical professionals now having an online presence, mostly on Instagra1,2 The real question lies in whether it is as straightforward as just opening an account and posting content.
We are now ten years since the inception of Instagram, and the importance of a social media presence seems even more crucial. While in the past, most clinicians relied on word of mouth or local endorsement for business, the modern patient actively uses social media to search for professionals.2
Let’s break this world down and look at some of the aspects from a clinician’s standpoint.
WHY SOCIAL MEDIA?
A majority of dental patients would rather be anywhere but your chair. The scary reality is that the media, friends and family typically portray a dental professional as one to be feared, or who will inflict just the necessary amount of pain. We all know this to be false. We are human, empathetic, kind people who only wish the best for our patients’ wellbeing.
One of the beauties of social media is the ability to bring your true nature across, in a world still dominated by stereotypes. Potential and existing patients have the ability to connect almost on a personal level with each professional individually. In my personal practice, I have found that meeting patients after a social media connection enhances the consultation process significantly. They already have some awareness about my life, outside interests and even my dietary requirements! They seem to know me before they have even booked into the practice, which creates an even better rappor1,2
“One of the beauties of social media is the ability to bring your true nature across, in a wor ld still dominated by ster eotypes”
It is important at this point to understand that we are not just selling treatment, but rather asking patients to invest and believe in us on the path to a beautiful smile. So, authenticity is key. An honest social media presence allows you to find the right patients; those who are attracted to you individually, rather than just any patient who might not be the best candidate.
International like-minded professionals are now just a click away, with access to their techniques, patient management and lifestyle choices which help them professionally. It is almost like an unfiltered hub of information, discussions and learning, creating a community of clinicians willing to share knowledge. This is highlighted never more so than during the covid-19 lockdowns, where professionals would conduct live seminars on social media to help fill the void. Without the large social media platform of the 21st century, such things could only be imagined.2
Social media is essentially a shop floor for the services that you provide, and an ability to showcase the talents you have worked tirelessly to develop. With a greater number of patients now using social media platforms over Google to find clinician results, it is a fantastic way of driving attention towards yourself and your practice.
Using a variety of techniques such as posts, videos/ reels, stories, question-and-answers and live moments, we have the ability to educate our own audience. This means that from the viewpoints of consent and adherence, patients with knowledge are the new normal. They understand terms such as composite bonding or porcelain veneers, asking direct questions about potential treatment options. This two-way conversation has been of huge benefit when going through a treatment plan and the importance of each step.
It is important to note here that there have been some drawbacks with this too. While patients may understand terms more, they do not understand what makes someone a suitable candidate for a treatment. The risk of creating unrealistic or impossible outcomes is very real, and there is an important element of communication and management when attempting to explain the best option for treatment and why.
Virtual consultations and telemedicine
It is pretty much universally accepted that following the pandemic we are heading towards an ever-more increasingly virtual domain. Forwardthinking professionals must now be managing patients – either at initial consultation or monitoring of treatment – through virtual means. Some have created separate entities; however, my personal belief is that managing information or access via social media has retained a significant degree of engagement. This funneling methodology keeps things more streamlined and simplistic in the long term.3
Admittedly, during the pandemic patients found access difficult, with all practices closed and only urgent care available. These became overloaded, overflowing into hospital departments. As a result, telemedicine is more important now than ever. Patients can send acceptable images, and with the concept of early diagnosis so crucial, we can potentially improve and provide positive outcomes. Counselling through social media has become a mainstay of advice and guidance.3
GROWING YOUR PROFILE
There is undoubtedly an increased pressure to attain followers and likes once you enter what can feel like a “social media race” to the top. We must first understand and accept that “followers are vanity, and engagement is sanity”. What do I mean by that? Well, 10,000 followers who are not particularly interested in what you do are unlikely to ever recommend you to someone and are not useful to you. On the other hand, 1,000 followers who are located at an accessible distance to your place of work and are following you because something about your account piqued their interest, are far more likely to benefit you in the long run.4 How do we grow our profile and following with the “right” people?
The answer lies in the kind of patients you want. Here are some questions you must ask yourself first (and write down answers to):
• What do my patients love about me?
• What kind of patients am I most successful with?
• What kind of patients make me most happy?
• What type of work am I most interested in?
• What kind of work do I want to do in the long run?
• Which brands do my ideal patients transact with?
• Where do my ideal patients go on holiday?
• What do people not know about me that they should?
Based on your answers you need to design your Instagram account to relate to your ideal patients. Everything you want to post must be passed through some of the filters you create from your answers to the above. These can be broken down further:
What do my patients love about me?
If your patients love that you take your time with them, then a post explaining your unhurried approach with a striking image would resonate with patients that appreciate this approach. Similarly, if many patients travel a considerable distance because of your [fill in the blank] then double down on posts about this.4
What type of work am I most interested in?
If cosmetic work or facial aesthetics is of interest to you – which it probably is given that you’re reading Aesthetic Medicine – is that clear without your users having to do much scrolling or clicking to find the answer? One post from six months showcasing your interest is unlikely to be enough. You must re-emphasise your message regularly.4
Where do my ideal patients go on holiday?
If your patients stay at the Four Seasons and frequent luxurious destinations, then they are attuned to elegant, subtle messaging and creative imagery. Observe the brands your patients interact with and infuse those learnings into your style.4
What do people not know about me that they should?
Are you multilingual? Did you live between different parts of the world? Is there anything unique about your practice? Do you have any philanthropic interests? We often assume that these details might not be worth sharing; however, I know many clinicians that attract patients who were interested in seemingly insignificant details. Tell people what they do not know.4
Creating content that connects your personality and approach to your patients is far more critical than a stream of before-and-after pictures of teeth. Most patients assume that all dental professionals can achieve the same results; the majority do not need convincing that you can produce great quality work. Use your Instagram account to share insights into the social or “real” aspects of you and your work for heightened engagement.4
Should I have an alter ego?
While it is tempting to change truths and design a personality you think that is likely to be more successful, inauthenticity could come at a great cost. (Mirkin, 2016, p.3) states, “Social media platforms provide the opportunity to comprehensively explore facets of identity, while utilising degrees of self-disclosure, privacy and self-presentation”. Clinicians using social media successfully report that they have greater rapport with patients due to their candid approach to sharing on their channels. I believe that the clinician you meet face-to-face should not be different from the online persona in the slightest. This approach also lends itself to a more uncomplicated social media strategy.4
“While it is so important to be real and authentic on social media, you must also be professional at all times”
The “power of 9” model on Instagram is the concept of ensuring the first nine squares on your page tell most of your story.5 Further, ways of maximising engagement include posting Stories at least once a week, running polls and asking your followers questions. Adding location(s) in your bio and profile name is also key, as is replying to all comments and messages.
Crossing the line
While it is so important to be real and authentic on social media, you must also be professional at all times. Sometimes this line can become blurry, but remember that what is put into the virtual world cannot be taken back6, The General Dental Council (GDC) has guidance on using social media. It makes it clear that professionals are expected to maintain standards when communicating through social media, as they would face to face. The responsibility of behaving professionally applies both online and offline. A key area is protecting patients’ information, so any photos must have explicit consent obtained for their use before posting, with the patient’s identity ideally anonymised, unless otherwise consented to. We must ensure our content does not contain ethical violations that could lead to unexpected consequences.
Trolling and mental health
Having access to so much information, not to mention to an audience of potential patients and colleagues, is fantastic, but we cannot have a discussion about social media without addressing the ugly side. With cyber bullying more prevalent than ever, we must understand that this type of negativity exists within our world and find ways to protect our mental wellbeing. All social media platforms allow you to report bullying behaviour, though only limited numbers ever do so. We would not deal with this behaviour in the workplace or within our social circles, so why would we accept it in our online space? We have to take care of our wellbeing and mental health and if social media is having a negative impact on that, then we have to reassess its value to us9, This topic will be covered in more detail in future articles.
Events – Anniversaries and key oral health events
Birthdays – Team member birthdays
Training – On-site and off-site team training
People – Posts with a face get 38% more likes
Newness – Showcase anything interesting that is new at the practice
Makeovers – Share smile transformations without retractors and ideally full face
Gratitude – Show gifts and thank you cards
Wins – Finalist logos, award wins or accreditations
Advice – Interesting top tips with your own angle
Sneak peeks – Behind the scenes look into any exciting developments
Open days – Past and present
Tutorials – How to …
Brands – Showcase brands you use within the practice
Inspiration – Anything that inspires you
Family – Share your human side
Prizes – Offer a prize to the winner of a poll or quiz on your IG page
Reposts – Reposts or reshares from followers4
1. Parmar N, Dong L, Eisingerich AB. Connecting With Your Dentist on Facebook: Patients’ and Dentists’ Attitudes Towards Social Media Usage in Dentistry. J Med Internet Res. 2018 Jun 29;20(6):e10109.
2. Melker J, Hicks D, Rosenblum S, Isett KR, Elliott J. Dental Blogs, Podcasts, and Associate Social Media: Descriptive Mapping and Analyis. J Med Internet Res. 2017 Jul 26;19(7):e269.
3. Machado RA, de Souza NL, Oliveira RM, Martello Martelli Júnior H, Bonan PRF. Social media and telemedicine for oral diagnosis and counselling in the COVID-19 era. Oral Oncol. 2020 Jun;105:104685.
4. Memon S. (2020). Instagram for Dentists. London: Verb Press
5. Forbes. (2020). The ‘Power Of 9’ Model: Attracting The Clients You Want On Instagram [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/08/13/the-power-of-9-model-attracting-theclients-you-want-on-instagram/?sh=7d3bf44130c9 [Accessed Dec 2020].
6. Holden ACL. Social media and professionalism: does the profesion need to re-think the parameters of professionalism within social media? Aust Dent J. 2017 Mar;62(1):23-29.
7. de Melo Simplicio AH. Social media and Dentistry: ethical and legal aspects. Dental Press J Orthod. 2019 Nov-Dec; 24(6): 80–89.
8. General Dental Council. (2016). Guidance on using social media [online] Available at: https://www.gdc-uk.org/docs/default-source/principle-4/ guidance-on-using-social-media.pdf?sfvrsn=abf03a63_2 [Accessed Nov 2020].
9. O’Reilly M, Dogra N, Whiteman N, Hughes J, Eruyar S, Reilly P. Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents. Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018 Oct;23(4):601-613.
10. Gao J, Zheng P, Jia Y, Chen H, Mao Y, Chen S, et al. Mental health problems and social media exposure during COVID-19 outbreak. PLoS One. 2020 Apr 16;15(4):e0231924.