Social Media for Dentists: Keep It Legal, Keep It Ethical

As a professional in the dental community exploring the opportunities and insights presented by social media, you must understand that social media usage carries risks, too. Not that you haven’t always honored legal and ethical considerations for marketing your practice, but the need for transparency is even greater with social media. When we design websites and develop social media marketing strategies, we focus on five critical areas.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Bad reviews happen to even the gentlest, friendliest, most brilliant dentists. Sometimes the complaint is valid, sometimes it’s nothing short of outrageous. Heck, sometimes it’s not even a review of your office—just ask any Dr. John Smith, DDS. If you respond to negative reviews, keep two things in mind. One, everyone will see your response. Everyone. Whether a negative claim is true or not is not immediately relevant.

A combative, insulting, accusatory response can derail your reputation online and offline.

Patients are generally lenient when reading others’ reviews. Most are rational enough to differentiate between a legitimate complaint and a nitpicker. You can acknowledge positive or negative reviews, but be mindful of potential HIPAA violations. Keep it general and empathetic, no names or treatment specifics. A touch of gratitude doesn’t hurt, either.

Don’t Forget the Permission Slips

When we design websites and blogs, our clients often request that we use photographs of their actual patients. Compare to a stock photo, it’s hard to deny the impact of a real-life “before and after” shot, and it’s an awesome way to show off your handiwork. Even so, using patients’ info or images without their consent can land you in serious trouble. Informed consent goes hand in hand with HIPAA and applies to full names, x-rays, photographs, and videos

Oh No, He Did NOT Just Post That

Doing business in the fishbowl of social media essentially means that everyone sees everything in real-time. An online lapse in judgment goes a long way, especially in the age of the screenshot. It’s okay to adopt an online “persona” for your practice, something to create a distinctive voice that speaks directly to your target market. It’s not okay if that persona is the type to share bikini and beer pong pics and suggestive or profane language. Leave religion and politics out of it, too.

A Little Privacy, Please

Some social media websites—I’m looking at you, Facebook—insist on implementing confusing new features and requirements that affect the way you share content and with whom you share it. Social media is dynamic, and you must be, too. The MDPM team works hard to keep abreast of privacy changes and how they affect your professional social media strategy, but it’s up to you to ensure that your separate, personal profile respects these guidelines as well.

It Takes a Village

You might very well be the most social media-savvy dentist in the land, but it counts for nothing if the receptionist is abusing social media in the name of your practice. Creating a clear, comprehensive social media policy protects your patients, your practice, and your privacy. Your policy should include considerations for HIPAA, blogging, personal social media use, and a list of each employee’s responsibility as it relates to social media and online reputation management. Periodically update your policy to reflect regulatory guidelines and/or new social media formats, and have each staff member sign an acknowledgement of the policy.

Be social. Be smart. CEO Jill Nastasia works closely with dental clients to bring their unique vision and voice online. She’s something of a social media ninja and wouldn’t dream of posting bikini and beer pong pics. Questions about social media, blogging, or SEO for dentists? Call Jill at 972-781-8861, or email her here.