Image makers

What a search for 'dental' will find for you on Pinterest, which has over 70 million users.
What a search for ‘dental’ will find for you on Pinterest, which has over 70 million users.

Move over, Facebook—Instagram and Pinterest are the new kids on the social-networking block. Kerryn Ramsey explains how your practice can utilise these photo-sharing apps easily and effectively

These days, the majority of successful dental practices have an online presence with a website and email address. Some have gone even further setting up a Facebook page, a blog and even a Twitter account. But now there are a couple of new kids on the block that dentists need to consider—Instagram and Pinterest. These are photo-sharing apps that can go a long way in creating that sense of trust between your practice and both current and prospective clients.

“Photo-sharing apps allow a business to open the doors and windows on an organisation,” says Kate vanderVoort, founder of Social Mediology agency. “It gives patients and potential patients a look at what happens inside. It also allows you to put the human face behind your brand. These apps can be used very effectively to demonstrate credibility, show a welcoming environment and showcase the possible results of services provided.”

So how do they work? Instagram is a social network where members share their photos and micro-blog. Facebook recognised its potential and bought it for around $US1 billion. Last year, Instagram grew by 23 per cent, while Facebook grew by a mere three per cent. Viewers upload photos—usually taken with a mobile phone or tablet—and add hashtags to make those images searchable. Connections can be made with friends, family, strangers and businesses.

Pinterest, as the name suggest, is like an online pinboard. Members create virtual pinboards of images on subjects that interest them. It could be anything from food or rugby union to plastic surgery.

Each image is linked back to the website from where it comes.

While it’s easy to dismiss a couple of photo-sharing websites, the number of members is truly staggering. Instagram has well over 150 million users while Pinterest, founded by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp in 2010 and now managed by their company Cold Brew Labs, has over 70 million users. By the time this article goes to print, those numbers will have risen by another couple of million. Both these sites can enable your dental practice to start building a relationship between you and the general public. They are a powerful tool to create connections between existing and prospective patients by fostering a sense of community. After all, people are much more inclined to utilise businesses they believe and trust.

These sites work on a visual level so it’s all about the images. While it’s perfectly fine to highlight your cutting-edge technology, amazing dental transformations and fully appointed waiting room, the real power of these sites is in humanising your business.

Dr Lakshmi Morisetty, principal dentist of Smiles Nambour in Queensland, agrees. “Pinterest is helping our practice to communicate with the public and vice versa,” he says. “The topics that most viewers are interested in relate to general oral health awareness rather than information regarding specific treatment procedure.”Whether we like it or not, most people view a visit to the dentist with a certain amount of anxiety or even outright fear. A lot of those bad feelings can be alleviated by showing that the people in the white coats holding the drills have the same interests and pastimes as their patients.

A great idea is to post fun photos on Instagram and Pinterest, showing the lighter side of your practice. Does the dentist play soccer, scuba dive or own too many pets? Post images with a brief explanation. Do the staff work out together, has the hygienist changed her hair colour or is there a new baby picture? All these things will help demystify the practice and show a warmer, more caring side.

Humour is also a great way to get your images commented on and reposted. Things like cartoons that gently poke fun at dentists or photos of instruments from the early days of dentistry are a light-hearted way to reach out to people.

Paltoglou Dental Centre in the Melbourne suburb of Toorak was an early adopter of Instagram. “Our Instagram is a behind-the-scenes look into what Paltoglou Dental is all about,” explains practice manager Megan Darzins. “We have a great team environment that made it very easy to show our personality. We take our work seriously but Instagram gives us a chance to experiment and show our fun side.”

“We have a great team environment that made it very easy to show our personality. We take our work seriously but Instagram gives us a chance to experiment and show our fun side.” Megan Darzins, practice manager, Paltoglou Dental Centre

While this light-hearted approach is important, your practice should also be seen as a place of consummate professionalism with great results. Photos of happy patients—used with their permission—can work extremely well on these photo-sharing sites. Images that highlight dental tips or a new product that you recommend or even healthy, low-sugar recipes can all be used to show the far-reaching expertise of your practice.

Both Instagram and Pinterest are active, evolving sites and once you join up, a staff member will need to maintain your online presence. This can usually be accomplished in a couple of hours a week. Dr Morisetty explains: “Being a single-dentist practice, it’s hard for me to find time in answering the viewer’s comments quickly, but with the help of my staff, I can manage. They hand over the list of things that I have to do at the end of the morning or afternoon session in the practice.”All comments, links and tags should be responded to as soon as possible. New images keep your page fresh and patients will return to see what’s happening.

On the other hand, it’s also important not to over-post. Leanne Peard, coach and trainer at Social Media Specialist, suggests, “With Instagram, it’s important not to post more than three photos in a row, and allow at least a three-hour window between them. With Pinterest, because it’s attached to a board, you only need to look at posting a couple of times a week.”

The whole point of a dental practice creating an Instagram or Pinterest account is to engage and connect with as many people as possible. It’s the online equivalent of having a chat around the water cooler. It has to be casual and friendly, encouraging people to comment, tag and repost. Headings like ‘Dr Smith just completed a marathon’, ‘Smith Dental has sent volunteers to Cambodia’, ‘We certainly made a difference to Mr Jones’s smile’ are the way to go.

By being creative, posting intelligently and responding positively, these photo-sharing apps can be a very valuable tool in branding your practice and expanding your customer base.

As Leanne Peard says, “Eighty-six per cent of people on social media buy from what others have recommended, or businesses that they are following. Why? Because through communication and visual posts, the dentist builds trust and rapport with clients that they haven’t even met yet.”

If you haven’t already got your practice up on social media try this step-by-step guide.


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