Grow Your Practice With TikTok by Dr. Ashley Kisling

Categories: Marketing;
Grow Your Practice With TikTok

by Dr. Ashley Kisling

By now, you’ve heard of TikTok, either from a movie reference or from telling your teenager to spend less time on the app. Maybe you’re considering making an account for your office but wondering if the effort provides any ROI. Months before I opened my startup in Orange County, California—arguably one of the nation’s most competitive markets— I considered the same and tried to devise a plan to have credibility as a new provider to the area and let the community know I exist.

Before I opened my startup, I took a leap of faith and posted my first video on TikTok. It was horrible: orange lighting, cringy trending song, and I didn’t use my face or any brand identity. But I continued to post, and when one video would perform well, I’d study it and repeat it. Over a single week, @socopdo gained more than 10,000 followers and soon almost all my videos were hitting more than a million views.

I learned from other industries, such as fashion and beauty influencers, how to monetize my account, and set up meetings with potential third-party vendors to negotiate exclusive partnerships. That effort paved the way for me to become Invisalign’s first doctor influencer. Today, I do not provide any aligner, bracket or product in our office without this structured partnership. In my first year as a startup, I generated six figures in brand deals and produced $1 million.

This did not come easy and is a lot of work. However, if you’re looking for a creative outlet or ways to grow your practice organically, this may be your best approach. When trying to grow a following, you need to inspire, educate or entertain. As orthodontists, we have all done years of schooling and have so much education to share with the masses.

Here, I share some tips and tricks if you’re looking to grow your practice organically through social media.

1. Start now.
TikTok is more saturated with content creators than when I began, but it’s not too late to start. Don’t overthink your content; just begin posting and studying what performs and what doesn’t.

That said, think of TikTok as the anti-commercial: Consumers want to feel like you’re taking them behind the scenes for an exclusive look. Film in your car or while you’re taking a walk. You don’t need a ring light or to be perfectly groomed before you begin.

If the video I’m creating is just for my page, I film once, then edit and post immediately; the whole process takes less than five minutes. When I’m working with a brand, however, I might do multiple takes and edits. In the beginning, while I was building an audience, I would post once a day. Two years into it, to avoid burnout, I try to post three times a week.

Remember, TikTok is not the same as Instagram—and purposefully so. TikTok is not curated, and if a post appears overproduced, it will come off as an ad and people will scroll past. Be you. Be authentic. You want people to engage with your video and doctors can be intimidating, especially to teenagers watching braces-related content. I have never written a script before filming, except for collaborations, because it always seems to flow better and come off more relatable and approachable.

2. Utilize SEO and geotagging.
Say you’re going to Aspen, Colorado, soon and trying to decide where to get dinner reservations. If I search “places to eat in Aspen” on Google, I’m going to get very boring text results. Even if I find a blog, it probably will be extremely wordy and I don’t have time to sit and read an entire article that may not even have a picture of the restaurants. Now go to TikTok and search “restaurants in Aspen.” You’ll see 10- to 30-second videos that give you a quick visual representation of the food and ambiance, added with true testimonials from the creator and engaging video comments. The way people use technology to find information is changing, and your marketing strategy should be too.

The hashtag #tiktokmademebuyit has now been viewed more than 47.7 billion times! The consumer is a distracted buyer, and TikTok videos are easily digestible, ready-made ads that can be searchable and targeted locally. Always make sure to add your location to better target your audience; I switch up tagging our office, our city and our county (Fig. 1). This is geotagging.
Grow Your Practice With TikTok
FIG. 1

To reach your target audience, you must be thinking in terms of search engine optimization (SEO):
  • First, you’ll need to find the correct keywords that apply to your video and add them to your video (Fig. 2); this can be done through using the native feature “on-screen text” in TikTok.
  • Second, turn on automatic captions so TikTok will automatically translate what you say into on-screen text.
  • And finally, be thoughtful about what you include in your post description.
  • On TikTok, hashtags are the least important factor for SEO purposes.
Grow Your Practice With TikTok
FIG. 2

3. People buy from people.
Build a personal brand as a doctor and be the face of your company. All too often, offices follow trends and reproduce a video that a staff member has seen—which can be fun from time to time, but what value are you bringing to the consumer? I recommend using your own voice and showing your face in almost all your videos. I do this with the greenscreen filter within TikTok (Fig. 3).
Grow Your Practice With TikTok
FIG. 3

The TikTok algorithm favors videos created and edited within the app itself, so the only other apps I use are Canva and Splice. I’ll make a background static image in Canva, or record several videos in the vertical orientation and use Splice to create one edited video, then use these as my green-screen background and record and edit within TikTok.

You want users to see your face as often as possible on their “For You Page” and view you as the authority when it comes to braces and aligners. I have a 100% conversion rate with consumers who find me on social media, because they feel like they know me as the doctor even before they walk through my doors; we’ve already built a connection and they trust me even before personally knowing me. (This is why I recommend not handing this role over to a staff member or social media agency.)

This relationship continues while the patient is in treatment, and every patient knows I personally answer all questions on social media. Patients know they always have access to me through direct messaging.

4. Don’t focus on the numbers.
Once you start, do not get discouraged by the numbers (followers and views). I may have 340,000 followers, but some videos will get only 5,000 views over their 90-day life cycle. To the uninitiated that might sound like a relative failure, but remember: 1,000 views is the equivalent of lecturing to a full school auditorium, 10,000 views would be like speaking to a sold-out minor-league stadium and 20,000 views is the equivalent to selling out the Arena (formerly known as the Staples Center).

When you think of it in terms like this, you’re getting in front of a lot of people organically—and for free!

5. Leverage your exposure.
Just as DSOs have leveraged their volume to third-party vendors for huge discounts, I have leveraged my exposure on my page for these same discounts. This business model helped my startup turn a profit very quickly and allowed me to quit working at other corporate jobs within a year of opening my practice. Skeptics might ask how, if the views and influence of my posts aren’t entirely local, this helps grow my business. It’s exactly because my exposure is global that companies want to work with me.

As orthodontists, we conventionally focus solely on what we produce, but it’s not about what we can produce— it’s about what we keep. Imagine how much your profits would increase if your aligner lab fees were reduced or you never paid for another bracket again.

If you don’t have many followers, that’s OK, too! User-generated content is the next wave in influencer marketing, and you don’t need many followers. Just as you need social media for your business to grow, orthodontic companies need content from doctors they can share on their platforms (Fig. 4).
Grow Your Practice With TikTok
FIG. 4

When you’re starting out, the best way to partner with a company is to first create content for free about their product. (If you use their product and are trying to grow your own account, you would be doing this already.) Next, email the company’s vice president of marketing, showcasing your work and, if you have a media kit (Fig. 5), include that as well. Then ask for credit or discounts in exchange for deliverables—videos.

Grow Your Practice With TikTok
FIG. 5
Grow Your Practice With TikTok
Grow Your Practice With TikTok

Some companies may not want to discount their product but will compensate you in cash instead. If you grow your account large enough and have more leverage, you can begin to earn credits or discounts combined with cash, as I have done.

The best way to do this is by creating a long-term relationship where you create a video for the company monthly and a credit is applied to your account monthly, which reduces your costs and increases your profits.


With consistency and dedication, TikTok can be a powerful tool for orthodontists to connect with patients and increase profits. These tips will help you create engaging content, reach your target audience, build a personal brand and grow your practice.

Author Bio
Dr. Ashley Kisling Dr. Ashley Kisling is a board-certified orthodontist and the owner of a pediatric dentistry and orthodontic practice in Southern California. Kisling earned a bachelor’s degree in public health sciences at UC Irvine in 2011 and a DDS from UCLA in 2015, then completed her three-year orthodontic residency program in Georgia.

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