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Key Ways to Improve Social Media Engagement

If you’re like me and use social media pretty regularly, you may think you have a good handle on what social media can do and how it works.

That’s what I thought too, but I was surprised to see the latest news about social media.

According to Shareaholic (a social media research firm), social media recently overtook search as the #1 referrer of web traffic. That means Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram now have a bigger piece of the referrer pie than Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Then I got to thinking: If I’m surprised about what’s going on with social media, I imagine some of our doctors may not be aware of what’s happening in social media either.

I set up an interview with our resident social media expert, Stuart Hardy, to discuss what social media really means and how doctors can take advantage of the surprising trends we’re seeing.

Kevin: So, Stuart, let’s start off with just a basic overview of what social media is and how it can help doctors engage with people online. I’ve talked about how I see social media as an online version of word-of-mouth.

Stuart: I think that’s accurate, but the biggest thing I want to remind doctors about social media is that it’s social. If you’re “all business” in a social setting, it’s a turn-off for people. Think of it as a cocktail party. If one person doesn’t want to make small-talk or be friendly, they just want to dive into making a business deal, that wouldn’t work, would it?

Kevin: I see what you’re saying.

Stuart: So while doctors and doctors are obviously on social media for business reasons, it’s a mistake to treat social media like it’s a business atmosphere. It’s so much more relaxed. You have to be social on social media. In other words, you have to lead with a friendly, fun, topical or otherwise casual form of interaction before you can open the door to a further conversation about your practice in a business sense.

Kevin: That makes sense, but I think sometimes people struggle with that kind of interaction, because it seems kind of forced. How can doctors “be social” on social media in a natural way that’s not a turn off?

Stuart: It’s tough to flip a switch and to just “be social” without any context. One of the best ways to create content or a reason to reach out to your friends and followers is to start following and then interacting with organizations that your followers are likely to be interested in. Following these types of organizations gives you that kind of natural context of  relevant, fun, social content that you can share on your social media accounts.

Kevin: Organizations, like what?

Stuart: One of the best kinds of organizations to follow is a local news organization. Then whenever you see a news item that’s appropriate, you can like it, comment on it, or share it on your wall. Being social is a 2-way street – it’s not all content that comes from the dental practice, it’s about sharing things other people might be interested in too.

Kevin: Okay news organizations make sense, but can you give us some other examples?

Stuart: Sure, some other groups are things like your local dental associations. Here in California the biggest one is the California Dental Association, and they are always posting relevant, fun, social content that doctors can share and re-post.

Doctors can follow major brands in the dental space, like toothpaste companies or toothbrush manufacturers. And it’s a good idea to follow insurance companies that the doctor works with.

Basically, any major organization that’s either interesting to the people in your area and/or is relevant can fill up a doctor’s social media feed so they always have something to talk about, comment on or share.

Kevin: That’s great. What about when a doctor has something they want to talk about, that’s not sharing or commenting on someone else’s post – any tips for posting that kind of content?

Stuart: Absolutely. That’s what we call “native content” – it’s stuff that is created by the practice that’s posted to their account. And it’s important to remember the other part of “social media” – the media itself.

All the platforms on social media are built so you can share different kinds of content. The big mistake doctors and businesses in general make is to post text-only messages.

Most people skip past something if it doesn’t have an image or a video or something visually interesting to catch the eye. Plain text posts get less than 10% as much attention and interaction as a post with an image.

So the biggest thing is to post native content that’s social and relevant, but to always include an image. If you’re not including an image, it’s not likely that your followers will even notice the post.

Kevin: That’s a good tip – but is there any specific type of post that is easy for a doctor to post that you recommend?

Stuart: Definitely. I think staff photos can be a great way to engage socially with your followers. Especially around the holidays or big sporting events – posting a fun picture of your staff enjoying themselves in your practice is super easy and it does the job of being social in a compelling media.

Kevin: Thanks for letting me pick your brain on this. I know doctors will get some good use out of this information.

Stuart: Anytime, Kevin. And if any doctors have any questions about social media, they can feel free to drop me a line at

Further Reading:

Sometimes interacting with social media can feel like shouting in the wilderness. You post, share, comment and like – but don’t really know if it has any effect. If you’re not sure if your Facebook efforts are working, there’s a simple way to check. In this article we discuss how to use a (free) Facebook tool to get comprehensive information on your Facebook marketing efforts. Click here for the full details.