Join Orthodontic Products Chief Editor Alison Werner as she talks to Andrea Smith, owner of Smith Social Company, a social media agency dedicated to supporting specialty physician practices. In this episode, they talk about what orthodontic practice owners need to know when contracting with a social media agency to handle their social media plan and the 10 questions they should be asking when vetting an agency during the discovery call.
But before practices can vet a social media agency, they need to know what one does—so Smith starts there with a breakdown. The truth is these agencies can offer quite a few services from graphic design and caption writing to community management, email marketing, and website management. Smith then talks listeners through timing: Specifically, when is the right time to bring in an agency to handle this aspect of your practice’s digital marketing plan. Clues that it might be time to hire an agency: You’re not posting at least three to five times per week and/or the staff member in charge of social media dreads the task. If your social media strategy is random then you aren’t going to get the return on investment, according to Smith.
From there, Smith provides guidance on how to find an agency that can meet the marketing needs of an orthodontic practice specifically. One tip she offers, go straight to Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn and search “social+media+agency+dentistry/orthodontic+practices.” Looking at social media channels like Instagram also allows you to get a good introduction to the agency’s work before you ever contact them.
And finally, Smith talks listeners through the questions they should be asking during discovery calls. Her 10-part interview guide gives orthodontic practices the tools for vetting an agency to know if it is the right fit for their digital marketing campaign and their practice.
Alison Werner: Hello, and welcome to the Orthodontic Products Podcast, a part of the MEDQOR Podcast Network. My name is Alison Werner and I am the Chief Editor of Orthodontic Products. Today we are going to talk about digital marketing, specifically social media marketing, and joining us to do that is Andrea Smith. Andrea owns Smith’s Social Company, a social media agency dedicated to supporting specialty physician practices. She has a decade of experience in healthcare operations, physician relations and referral management. Andrea, thank you for joining me today.
Andrea Smith: Thank you so much for having me.
Alison Werner: Great. Well, let’s get started. We’re going to focus in on what you need to know about contracting with a social media agency to handle your social media plan for your orthodontic practice and the questions to ask to get the right fit. To get started, what does a social media agency do?
Andrea Smith: Yes. A social media agency is an agency that can do a whole host of different things to support your practice in terms of your digital footprint. Your digital footprint could be your website, so some agencies manage and build websites, some will do search engine optimization, so they will help you reach the higher position on the Google search page. Others will focus on ads and then other agencies will focus on social media management and marketing. Some of them do all four of those things and then others just do their specialty, so it just really depends on the agency, but the goal would be for the agency to be the expert in that field so that way they can take that function completely off the plates of the office.
Alison Werner: Great. When is it time for a practice to bring in a social media agency?
Andrea Smith: That’s a great question. A social media agency would be a great partner to bring on once your office is not able to post consistently. If you are finding your office to not have a consistent schedule in terms of posting at least three times per week on Facebook and Instagram specifically, if it’s just too much to manage with all of the other daily fires that come up, or if you don’t have somebody in the office that has a passion for it. That sounds really cliche to say a passion for social media or really a passion for anything, but it’s really important that somebody genuinely cares, because otherwise you can really tell that the content just doesn’t look well thought out or well planned, and it’s just not going to bring any new clients in.
Alison Werner: Okay. How do you go about even finding a social media agency?
Andrea Smith: There are a lot of ways you can find social media agencies these days. Definitely, there are websites such as Upwork that I know we do job searches on Upwork frequently to find clients that are looking for an immediate need. Websites like Upwork can have a lot of spam or fishing type of scams on there, so you have to be very cautious of the type of interaction that you have on websites like that. Otherwise, you can always search on social media itself, which is great to search, especially on Instagram, because you can see the social media agency’s profile as their own portfolio, so you can get an idea for what their aesthetic looks like for the skill sets that they have, and it kind of gives you a great foundation to start. Looking on Instagram, you can search on Instagram, social media agency, and then you can also look on Google and search for agencies that specialize in specifically what you’re looking for, so dentistry or orthodontics, you could search in Google or on Instagram for that.
Alison Werner: Okay. Let’s break down what the orthodontic office should be asking on a discovery call. I know you have a list of questions that they should be asking a social media agency that they’re vetting.
Andrea Smith: Yes. When you are on a discovery call with a potential social media agency, or even a freelancer, if that’s the area that you’re looking, the kind of the size that your office is, if you’re really just looking for a freelancer or a full blown agency, the discovery call is not just for the business to decide if you are the right fit for them. It’s also for you to decide if they’re the right fit for you. You definitely want to make sure that you’re going through a very thorough interview to make sure that you’re getting the right fit. I’ll just walk through.
Andrea Smith: I have 10 questions here that I’ll make sure to provide a list at the end as well, but the first question I have is, can you tell me about your existing clients and your previous clients? The goal of a question like this is to make sure that the agency specializes in what you do, because it’s already complex enough to take on a new client and onboard a new client and learn their brand voice and learn their branding and make sure that all of the tech is in place and that the aesthetics are in alignment with your branding and all of that stuff. That’s complex enough, so then to add in having to learn the language specifically to what you’re specializing in is a whole other layer that just makes things worse, so that’s one reason.
Andrea Smith: Then the other reason is that you don’t want an agency that just wants another client. You want an agency that is passionate about working in your space, so that way they know how to market to your potential patients. Otherwise, you’re just getting some run of the mill cookie cutter strategy, and you really want somebody who’s going to dig deep and really be in alignment with what you’re looking to accomplish and not just someone that focuses on eCommerce, for example. They might be great at eCommerce, but that whole strategy is going to be drastically different than working with an orthodontic practice. You’re not going to do influencer marketing and all of that like you would with eCommerce, as an example.
Andrea Smith: The second question is, is it just one person in your agency or is it a gigantic agency? The reason why that is important is because working with one person isn’t as reliable, because things happen. We learned during COVID things happen, things come up, life happens, so you definitely want to make sure that the person that’s managing your contract has a backup plan. I will say, just from my own experience, before my agency grew to the team that it is now, when I was just by myself, I had my second son and I was running social media from my phone in the hospital. I felt like I wasn’t able to give my clients the best at the time, and then I also felt like I wasn’t present in one of the most important moments I was supposed to be present in, so it’s just good to have multiple people as part of the team.
Andrea Smith: Then in terms of the agency being too big, then you get lost in the sea, so you want to make sure that you have somebody that you can call if you need something and it’s not, we’ll get to you when we get to you. You want to feel like you matter to them, so that’s a great question to ask. The third question would be someone who can show results, so make sure that they are able to show you a list of other client accounts that they have worked with so you can always ask for client examples. I would stay away from client references just because that really puts everyone in an awkward spot to talk to existing clients, but you can always insist on that if you want to, but being able to take a look at their accounts, you want to look at how much engagement their posts are getting. Are they getting a lot of likes? A lot of comments? Are their reels getting a lot of views?
Andrea Smith: You want to make sure that they have a decent follower count. Does the feed look aesthetically pleasing and purposeful? Is the bio optimized to where you read it and you feel inspired to work with them? On Facebook, you want to make sure all the fields are built out so that their hours are listed, there’s a contact link on there, the website’s on there, they have a banner photo. All of those things so that you can really tell that they really put their all into each client. That’s super important to look at client examples.
Andrea Smith: The fourth question would be, would you provide me with references that you’ve worked with? It doesn’t have to necessarily be a client, but it is nice to talk with clients. As an agency owner, I’ll tell you, it puts me in a really awkward spot when prospects are asking to talk to our current clients, because our current clients don’t owe me anything to do that for me, so they will because they appreciate working with us, but it’s just an awkward conversation, but there’s a lot of people that I have worked with in the past that would love to be a reference, so you can always talk to people that they’ve worked with in the past or existing clients if that’s really the route that you want to go, but talking with other people is super helpful just as if you were hiring any other employee. It’s helpful to get a reference.
Andrea Smith: The fifth question is, how do you design your strategy for our practice and do you provide us with analytics on a regular basis? This question, you’re really looking for them to tell you that they are data driven so that they’re not just doing the next cool thing that comes out. They’re really using analytics to assess if what they’re doing is working. If they’re providing you with an analytics report on a monthly basis, which they should be, you want to make sure that they’re using those analytics to drive the strategy. For example, if the posts that you do related to results, so before and after pictures is one thing, if those do the best, then the next month we should bump up and do a couple more before and after examples, where if you did an inspirational post and it flopped and no one really cared about it, then we would not want to do another one of those. You want to make sure that they’re using analytics to drive your strategy. Otherwise, you may never see results from your campaigns.
Andrea Smith: Number six, is English your first language? In what country are you based out of? This one is important number one, because paying people overseas is very difficult. I’ve had contractors overseas and it can be challenging to pay them, first of all. Second of all, because the clients that are coming to see you are paying a significant amount of money, they want to feel like you are really presenting yourself in the best light possible, so having English mistakes in your writing is not going to present you that way. Just making sure that English is their first language and that they’re based in the US is a recommendation I would have. Of course, I’m not saying that you can’t find a great agency overseas, but it does have extra challenges in there. I’ll say that.
Andrea Smith: The seventh question is, can you tell me about your process for graphic design and images to be used for our social media? That question, one thing that you’ll notice, if you really start looking through other practice’s social media accounts or even maybe your own is the extensive use of stock images. Stock images are just so cliche these days. We see them everywhere as consumers, whether it’s in a store, whether it’s on social media ourselves. Everywhere you look, you see stock images, so stock images have no impact whatsoever anymore. Being able to have real images of your practice and your office and the space that you’re in and of your team and the equipment that you use, actual pictures of your stuff is going to set you apart, even if the quality of the pictures doesn’t look as commercial as the stock images. It’s more authentic and people will identify more with that. That’s one part of that question.
Andrea Smith: Then the other thing you’re looking for is that they are really in alignment with your branding. One thing that looks really poor on social media, especially Instagram, is when an account has a whole bunch of different variety in the way that the posts are put together. If the colors are all over the place, the fonts are all over the place, the graphics are all over the place, so it looks like someone just logged into Canva and went to templates and just picked the coolest template that they thought for that day versus having a well thought out and planned aesthetic. It’s just taking it that next level. If the agency is saying that they’re going to do stock images, that would be a concern to me.
Andrea Smith: Now, working with a virtual agency, I’ll tell you with our agency, we have clients all over the country and our team is based all over the country, so we don’t go to the practices to take the pictures ourselves or the videos. As part of our packages, we always hire a local photographer. I find them, I hire them, I contract them, I pay them and I manage them. They spend four hours per month in the practice taking the pictures and the video content that I need taken for that social media campaign, so we pay them each $400 a month as part of the contract. You can get a photographer for about $100 a month and just have them come in and do that, and you could totally do it yourself or have an agency manage that as part of their process. It’s just a critical part to make sure that your images are not all stock.
Andrea Smith: The eighth question I have in here, because of terrible experiences we’ve had with handoffs from other agencies, the question is, if our contract were to end, how would you ensure that we have access to our accounts, and do we own the rights to the materials created during this contract? We’ve had it on multiple occasions where the prior agency or freelancer was upset that the contract ended, so they would not hand over passwords, or they were very upset so they just did things to really make the process and transition more difficult. I always add in with our clients a subcontract that just states, at the conclusion of our contract, we will immediately turn over access and you’ll be able to change all of your passwords.
Andrea Smith: We just include that as a piece of mind. We have had that on multiple occasions now, so I would just make sure that, of course, when you enter a contract at the beginning and everyone feels good about it, you want the contract to last forever and ever and ever, but the truth is it will end at some point, so we want to make sure that at the end of that contract that you have all of your ducks in a row and that you are protected and that there’s not going to be the going back and forth of figuring out passwords and such. That’s an important one.
Andrea Smith: The ninth question, how do you incorporate our brand voice, branding, upcoming events and things that we want to focus on? This question is important because you don’t want to have an agency that’s just running wild, posting whatever they think needs to be posted. Social media really needs to be the voice of the practice and especially of the physicians in the practice, so it needs to be directed by the practice. The social media agency’s role is an advisory role, not just an author creation, publishing role. They really need to partner with the office.
Andrea Smith: With that one, I would answer the question by saying that we have monthly strategy meetings and that I’m always available via email or text to let me know of things that come up. Last minute things like, hey, we’re closing on Friday. Can you please announce that? I have availability for those types of things, but then for planning ahead, we always have strategy meetings each month to go through, what are we planning for next month? What do you want to focus on? What events are happening in the office? Do you have any promotions? Do you have any specific items that you want us to focus on? Strategy meeting, that’s an important answer.
Andrea Smith: Then the last question I have is, what strategies do you use for growth and how do you engage on our behalf? One thing that we’ve learned very, very strongly this year is the importance of engagement as part of a social media package. I’ll give you an example. I have a client that I’ve had for quite some time. They’re not in the medical space at all. It’s just a client that I started out with when I first, first started my business, and we didn’t have, we still don’t have engagement as part of their package, just because their budget was significantly lower and engagement takes daily time from me, so we don’t have that as part of their package.
Andrea Smith: Because we don’t have engagement as part of their package, over the course of the last two years, their Instagram has only grown by about 100 followers, which is really terrible metrics, to be honest, but that’s what happens when there’s no engagement. We’ve gone back to the drawing board multiple times, and it’s just the budget isn’t there to pay for it and I can’t take it on. The rest of the content is well thought out, it’s well planned. The graphics are good. The copywriting is good. Everything is in place, but without engagement, the account cannot grow.
Andrea Smith: Then we have another client where we do two hours of engagement per week, and she gained over 100 followers in the first month, and they’re potential clients. They’re not even just random followers. They’re potential clients in her market, so we were able to do that on Instagram by very specific engagement strategies. Making sure that they’re including engagement in the package is critical. The other answer that you want to make sure is that they’re not buying followers. We have a client right now that it’s really unfortunate because they just reached 1,000 followers, and we kept going back to the drawing board. Why are the reels views not higher? Why are the reels views not higher? Then what we figured out is the prior agency purchased followers.
Andrea Smith: The way that the Instagram algorithm works is that it will show content to a small percentage of your followers, and based on how they interact with the content, then they will continue sending it out to larger and larger sample sizes of users. Well, if you have bots in there that aren’t even active in their accounts, that will hurt the potential reach of your content, so your engagement will be low because they’re bots that aren’t even looking at your content. We just reached 1,000 followers. We did this whole giveaway. We’re super excited we crossed that mark of 1,000, and then now over time, we have to go through and delete about 100 bots out of there. That’s really like taking 10 steps forward and then 12 steps backwards, but eventually we will be ahead. It’s just kind of cleaning that up. Making sure that they’re not buying bots, bot followers, because that’s what happens. It’s just not best practice for Instagram specifically. It’s good to just know how they grow accounts and really digging into that, because engagement is the most critical part of growing an account.
Andrea Smith: That would be the most comprehensive list of interview questions that I can think of outside of generic interview questions that you would ask any potential person that would be joining the practice, whether it be a registration staff member or anybody that you could be hiring. I would say, ask those regular questions as well, but these 10 agency specific questions should really help you get to the bottom of whether they are the right fit for your practice.
Alison Werner: Yeah. Well, Andrea, thank you so much for that. I think this is really good information, and I love that you have broken it down like this. In fact, for our listeners, Andrea has made a PDF of the list and is making it available to you. You can find it on our website, orthodonticproductsonline.com in the show notes for this podcast episode, so go check that out. You can download it there and you can use it to go talk to social media agencies when you do. Andrea, if our listeners want to contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Andrea Smith: Yes, I would love to hear from the listeners. You can find me on Instagram at Smith Social Company, or you may email me Andrea, A-N-D-R-E-A, at smithsocialcompany.com. That’s my email address. If you have any questions or want to dig deeper into the interview guide, I’m more than happy to help and support anybody that has questions.
Alison Werner: Great. Well, thank you, Andrea, so much for joining me today, and to our listeners, be sure to check back soon on the MEDQOR Podcast Network for the next episode of the Orthodontic Products Podcast. In the meantime, to catch up on the latest industry news, please check out orthodonticproductsonline.com. Until next time, take care. Thanks.