Do you spend the holidays with your family? I enjoy the sentiment and serenity. On December 25, 2010, I woke up, poured myself a cup of coffee and went to sit with my parents. The scene was quite predictable: a 60-year-old married couple enjoying their cups of morning caffeine. However, I noticed something different this year: there were no newspaper sections scattered around their chairs. My mother scoured YouTube to view her young nephew opening presents. My father, a business owner, seemed absorbed by the updates on his companyâ€™s Facebook page. Yes, times have changed. Even as a 25-year-old in the public relations field, I find the pace of change in social media dizzying. New products seem to appear daily. But there is a constant: social media is here to stay. So does this cyber-slant in social interaction really affect you, a dentist? Whether you fear the trend or see it as a positive development the answer is undeniably yes. Do you seek more business, want to announce new procedures or rates, or simply desire a more natural connection with your patients? Whatever your motivation for contact and growth, social media offers the most effective and least expensive solution. The prevalence of social networks and their various outlets is so vast that it is imperative to partake in the communication â€œrevolutionâ€ in regards to business. Lee Schoentrup, Director of Communications at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, states: â€œThe use of social media is quickly becoming one of the top tools that any business should be using to promote itself. Businesses should be using social media to share information and start conversations to establish relevancy to its customers.â€ So what paths of social media are most beneficial to dentists?
Face itâ€”itâ€™s all about Facebook
By now everyone either uses or knows about Facebook. The social networkâ€™s CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was even named Time magazineâ€™s 2010 Person of the Year. Facebook has become the worldâ€™s most-visited website, and you, or at least someone you know, has not only created one but visits it frequently. Maybe youâ€™ve recently read an article about how having a Facebook page can help your business. Chances are, what you learned is already out of date. Fueled by an army of employees and a multibillion-dollar pocketbook, the face of the Facebook empire changes frequently. The site looks and functions differently today than it did a month ago. One simple Facebook page for your practice can increase awareness without much effort. Once your page is set up, your friends and current patients can become â€œfans,â€ â€œlikeâ€ your page, and post positive feedback and testimonialsâ€”all with the click of a button. (If you do not know how to set a page, ask someone to help at your office. This can be a great way to engage your younger staff members while also improving your marketing.) Patient referrals are no longer delivered just by word-of-mouthâ€”they multiply within the depths of Facebook messages, posts and likes. When someone becomes a fan of your page, all the personâ€™s network â€œfriendsâ€ immediately notice the post in their personal news feed. Imagine how rapidly this simple act sparks further interest, leading soon-to-be patients to click on links to your page and learn about your services and promotions. Bertrand Bonnick, DDS, of High Point, NC, appreciates what Facebook has added to his practice. â€œPeople feel as though they can participate in my business from far away,â€ he explains. â€œYou get a patient from New York telling a patient in New Jersey â€˜You have to go see this dentist!â€™â€
Twitter â€” not just for twits
Twitter. The word sounds faintly unprofessional. In reality, however, it carries the clout of a giant. Quantcast.com estimates that the number of Twitter users has skyrocketed from roughly 18 million in the U.S. to over 75 million in the past quarterâ€”a jump of over 317 percent. Even with the rapid escalation of people using Twitter, itâ€™s not necessarily the best way to generate new business. Which doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s not valuable. Let me explain. Twitter users â€œfollowâ€ you by clicking a button, meaning others can see what you post when they sign into your account. The same goes for you when you choose to follow someone. A main difference from Facebook is that your posts can only contain up to 160 characters. Limiting to 160 characters is not a drawback. With the onslaught of information available on the Web, short is sweet. Normally users will not follow other users they do not know, so this is a great way to let current patients know any special promotions or services you are providing. You can generate more business from your existing clients, and it is likely that theyâ€™ll let their friends know about your practiceâ€™s deals and high quality of work. Twitter is also the one place where you can discreetly stay acquainted with your competition. By following a competing dentist, you can easily see what products or services they are promoting. They of course will be able to see that you are a follower, but chances are they will turn around and follow you as well. You can even follow your friends from dental school to see what their specific interests are within the industry.
I, We, YouTube
YouTube is no longer considered a media upstart. Thatâ€™s not because it has popularity. Rather the video-hosting service has redefined what it is to be mainstream. Popular clips explode into public view, sometimes even winding up featured on CBS, NBC and ABC. Bring your practice to life by setting up your own YouTube channel. The look and name of your channel are customizable, so make sure consider how you want your audience to feel about your practice when they see it. Demos, patient testimonials and procedure results can all be featured by simply recording and posting them on your channel. Post links to your YouTube channel on your website and additional social media sites, and provide potential patients with a personal view of your practice. The amount of publicity generated from your social media sites clearly depends on how creatively and frequently you use them. Dan McConnell, principal of a large Northwest crisis communications firm, says â€œSocial networks are no longer the â€˜newâ€™ media. They have changed the world of mass media and are now leading mainstream media in new and very exciting directions. Public relations can now reach targeted audiences in innovative interactive ways we simply couldnâ€™t have imagined before.â€ As always, there is power in numbers. Posting information about the same promotion on all your social media sites is an effective approachâ€”the maximum amount of people will have access to it that way. Be sure to not bombard people by repeating the same information or deal multiple times. This repetition can be at least boring or at most annoying and cause people to ignore your future posts. If youâ€™re new to social media, it may seem a bit intimidating. But fear not. You navigated dental school, after all! Google and Bing are powerful tools, and they can provide you with a plethora of information about any social media site. You already well understand the reasons you and your staff provide excellent careâ€”and social media is just another tool, another way to get the word out and connect to people who need your help.