Just having social media accounts for your orthodontic practice across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat isn’t the same as using them effectively. You also have to know how, and when, to utilize them if you want to boost engagement among followers, and it helps to know who your “power users” are.

For orthodontists, the main power user is the millennial mom, says Brenda Ashwell, director of customer success at PracticeGenius. The company focuses on patient engagement.

“I think a power user in general is anyone that uses technology to make purchasing decisions … or they use it to be a voice or conduit for their opinion,” Ashwell says. “Every practice has their own type of social influencers—orthodontic practices in particular. They’re dealing with millennial moms, and their native tongue is social. They share on social, they answer surveys; if they get rewards, they will post reviews. They’re doing tons of research and due diligence online.”

Orthodontic practices can think strategically about their reach across social platforms by taking time to hone their social media content to their users. That’s part of what PracticeGenius can help doctors do.

In her work, Ashwell notices that many practices “kind of ad hoc all their social”—they do it “on the fly,” with team members looking to each other each morning and asking, “What are we going to post today?” That’s not a good approach.

“The relevance and the traction they get with their posts are difficult because there was no planning involved,” she says. “They’re expecting a lot from their social, but they’re not putting the energy into it to get the results they want.”

Instead of day-by-day decisions, she says, it’s better to use a calendar or some sort of system that helps plan out social media posts for the whole month.

Facebook is great for targeting moms. Instagram works for young moms as well as teens. Snapchat and Pinterest can also work to reach an intended audience, but aren’t as key as the first two, Ashwell says.

When it comes to Facebook, crafting posts designed to elicit specific emotions can help to drive more shares.

“The algorithm now says, ‘If someone loves [a post] or has a reaction rather than a like, we’re going to weight that higher in the news feed’,” Ashwell says. “How that trickles down to us is, we need to plan and make sure that our content attracts more shares and more reactions.”

Good times to post on Facebook are around 9 a.m., 1 p.m., or 3 p.m., and you should post roughly once a day there. Most videos should be around 22 seconds, unless it’s a Facebook Live video, in which case it can be 3 to 5 minutes long, Ashwell says.

She also recommends that businesses wait and see what kind of organic traction a post gets on Facebook first, before paying to promote the post.

“If you find that you have zero traction, no reactions, nothing is happening with that post, it’s a pretty good indicator that maybe your messaging is a little off,” she says. That gives practices an opportunity to tweak their wording or delivery before spending a few dollars to boost a post.

In addition to specific points about when and what to post, Ashwell said it’s key for practices to keep in mind that millennials in particular view communicating online and offline as one and the same.

“I’ll say the same to my husband—and I’m not a millennial mom, I’m older than that—I’ll say, ‘I talked to my mom today,’ and he’ll think I actually talked to her,” Ashwell says. “But you and I both know, no, I texted her. So there’s no difference between online and offline.”

Using social media as a business is also about becoming a part of the business community there, as much as in the brick-and-mortar world. Ashwell suggests liking or following as many local businesses as you can, from realtors to local pizza shops, to build a network of sharing back and forth.

It’s important to have a business profile on Instagram, Ashwell says, and you shouldn’t simply repost there all the photos that you’re posting to your Facebook page.

“If they continue to see the same thing, what we’ve found is they start to pick their favorite platform,” she says. “You want them on both platforms, so make sure you have different content.”

Businesses can set themselves apart on Instagram, and social media in general, by having a specific style that carries over into each photo.

“We are in the business of aesthetics,” Ashwell says, “and users can determine how serious you are about aesthetics with every online interaction they have with you.” OP

A.J. Zak is a freelance writer for Orthodontic Products. She can be reached at [email protected].