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Striking a professional tone on social media

What happens on the Internet doesn’t always translate to a corporate social media account. Think about it: you wouldn’t spam your patients with funny YouTube videos, and you wouldn’t send a teenage patient a text saying, “U ready 4 yr appt?”

Whether your practice is speaking to a patient via the phone, a voicemail, a mailed letter, an e-newsletter, or a social media post, it’s critical to remain professional. But it can be a fine line between professional and too personal, so here are a few things to think about.

  • You are legally responsible for adhering to the rules of your dentistry college/association
  • You are ethically responsible for respecting your colleagues and fellow staff in the dentistry community
  • You are morally responsible for maintaining your patients’ trust, and protecting the professionalism of the patient/doctor relationship

Nearly every element of our lives is shifting online, but the Internet has traditionally invited a more casual way of conversing. If you aren’t careful, it can blur the boundary between a private life and a professional life.

So what’s a business owner to do, particularly if they’ve asked an employee to handle their social media management?

Decide on your personal boundaries

You don’t want your patients to have unrestricted access to your personal information, but every dentist has to determine their own boundaries. Only you can decide which parts of your life are totally off-limits, which parts you’ll discuss socially during an appointment, and which tidbits you’re comfortable sharing on social media.

EXAMPLE: You might chat with patients about your upcoming trip to London while they’re in the chair, but you probably shouldn’t post about the vacation on social media until you’re safely back at home. Anyone, anywhere could be following your practice, and you never know who might decide to break into your home (or practice) if they know it’s going to be unattended.

Set clear expectations

Unless you’re the only person posting on the practice’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, you need to sit down with your team and discuss what is and isn’t permitted. Talk about possible scenarios, and find out what (and how) your team would post in those situations.

EXAMPLE: Someone on your team is very interested in helping you with the social media posting, but their spelling and grammar is questionable. You might welcome their help, but politely ask that they run all posts by you first so you can approve them. As the head of the practice, it’s a good idea for you to vet all posts until you feel 100% confident that your team understands your office’s tone, content, and presentation.

Find your voice

Think about the kind of messaging you’d like to use with your patients, and what topics you’d like to cover. If someone on your team is going to be posting, make sure they write in a professional, appropriate tone.

EXAMPLE: Posting on a professional social media channel requires a very different style than if you were posting on a private account. Suggest that your social media team members browse other the social media channels of top brands like Invisalign, Crest, and Colgate, so they get a feel for casual-yet-professional content.

Engaging patients on social media can be hugely beneficial for your practice, providing it’s done correctly.

Here are a few final tips to keep in mind . . .

  • Everything on the Internet lives forever. Messages and posts can be found even after they’ve been deleted, and anonymous usernames aren’t really that anonymous. Make sure no one on your payroll is doing anything questionable using the practice’s social media accounts.
  • Keep your personal Facebook account separate from your practice’s Facebook account. It’s true that you’ll use your personal account to access your practice page, but they are still completely separate identities. Do not accept friend requests from patients. Instead, encourage them to “like” the practice’s page.
  • Be prepared to handle potentially damaging situations. If a patient posts a negative review on your Facebook page, decide how you’ll respond. If a patient sends you a flirtatious private message, how will you handle it?
  • If you’re unsure, ask. Since websites are a form of advertising, some forms of social media are considered advertisements - which means there are regulations you need to follow carefully. When in doubt, check it out.

Questions or comments? Send us an email. We’re always here to help!

Heather Laura Clarke
Heather Laura Clarke
Heather has been working at Optio Publishing in various capacities since 2008, and she's currently a Custom Content Strategist and Social Media Manager. She is also a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines across Canada, and spends far too much time on Pinterest.
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