Try Snapchat to “snap up” patients

Photo courtesy of Snapchat.

Photo courtesy of Snapchat.

As millennials, many of us are quite familiar with the app Snapchat. Whether we’re face-swapping with our dogs, or using it as a great way to embarrass that classmate who fell asleep in class again, the growing popularity of this mobile app has enabled us to connect effortlessly with our friends, family and even some celebrities. But could Snapchat also be a powerful, untapped marketing tool for health care professionals?

In a market that is moving towards increased commoditization of professional services, dentists must make a difficult choice: sell “affordability” by cutting fees or sell the experience that your practice offers. We want patients to focus less on purely seeking the lowest fees and focus more on the unique traits that make each provider different because we understand that patient needs can vary greatly. So how can we stand out?

For better or worse, our phones have become the portals through which we access most of our information and entertainment. Image- and video-sharing applications such as Snapchat, and even Periscope, are rapidly growing modes of communication for the next generation. Thus, an easy way to stay current is to embrace the rapidly evolving technology. In the advent of social media, the possibilities are endless. Social media provides dentists the opportunity to showcase what makes them different and engage current (and potential) patients on an easily accessible, personal level. According to the company, Snapchat has more than 100 million daily users, 60% of whom are 18-34 years old. Snapchat has also outpaced both Twitter and Instagram as the second most popular social network in the United States. Similarly, Periscope users have created more than 200 million live broadcasts to date and watch a combined 110 years’ worth of video content every day. Launched in 2011 and 2015, respectively, these two mobile app-based social networks are only two examples of how rapidly the landscape of communication is changing.

Some dentists have tapped into the potential of these applications and have started utilizing these emerging social networks as innovative ways to both “humanize” the patient-provider relationship and enhance personal branding. Notably, Dr. Daniel Rubinshtein, a 2013 graduate from the New York University College of Dentistry, has been recognized for his prolific and effective professional presence on networks such as Snapchat. The New York City-based dentist sees these emergent platforms as a means to break down existing barriers to care.

“Sharing content on apps such as Snapchat can help alleviate common fears that patients have of visiting the dentist by allowing them to familiarize themselves with our practice from the comfort of their own homes,” Rubinshtein shared. “People fear the unknown, and as health care practitioners we need to leverage the transparent nature of social media to alleviate the fear of the unknown for our patients”.

Dr. Rubinshtein thinks of social networks as channels for genuine dialogue with patients and an exposition of day-to-day life in a dental practice. For him, this is one of our best opportunities as dentists to showcase personalized care and encourage patients to pursue treatment with the goal of holistic dental health, rather than as an itemized series of services. As he shared with me: “Leveraging the marketing tools of today is how we can overcome the challenges of an increasingly commoditized marketplace and gain the respect and trust of our patients.” So who knows? Maybe all those hours spent honing your Snapchat game will finally pay off.

~ John Luke Andrew, Colorado ’18, ASDA video production manager

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About John Luke Andrew

John Luke is a third-year dental student at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine. On the local level he serves as the Director of Multimedia and Marketing at Colorado ASDA. On the national level, he serves on the Council on Communications as Video Production Manager. John Luke also serves on the District 9 Cabinet. When he doesn't have his hands in someone's mouth, he enjoys napping in hammocks, skiing in champagne powder, and reading classic literature.

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