Let me start by saying that I think the term “influencer” is overused and to the point of being irritating. It conjures images of a C-list celebrity getting paid by companies to post obnoxious pictures of a fantasy lifestyle. It’s difficult not to bring that bias to a discussion of “dentist influencers.” Give me an old-fashioned expert any day. An expert like this writes and speaks with authority, citing research and drawing upon years of impressive clinical outcomes. Expertise and a solid reputation are the real influence.
But it would be ignorant to simply dismiss the growing trend of influencers in our profession. We are living through a media revolution, and dental education has not been spared. Traditional media channels, such as television, print, and radio, have been joined by YouTube, blogs, podcasts, and the like. Anyone with a smartphone and a vision can build his or her own brand and sway public opinion. Sometimes that person is truly an expert in the field and has meaningful content to share; other times he or she is just persuasive with a personal agenda.
I think the term “influencer” should not just be used in a derogatory fashion. Influencers have always existed in our profession, even before we started calling them by that name. Dr. Gordon Christensen influences us when he writes his Ask Dr. Christensen column and when we attend his live courses, does he not?
An increasingly popular sphere of influence today is Instagram. At its essence, Instagram is highly shareable, easily navigated visual content. Facebook may offer many of the same features, but Instagram cuts out the profiles, private groups, and bedazzled comment threads and simply focuses on telling stories with photos and videos. It is a powerful tool for dental professionals looking to build their personal brands, attract patients, and win influence in the community.
How do we use this Instagram tool correctly? Many of us have jumped into social media pools only to slowly drown. The Internet is littered with ghost town Facebook pages and single-tweet Twitter profiles. If you’re looking to begin your Instagram journey, Bianca Velayo, DMD, will walk you through some of the basics to create an account and start posting (page 30). I have also interviewed some prominent dental members of the Instagram community (page 22) to learn about their successes and challenges.
So, let’s welcome the new media stars and the seasoned experts who are using newer media. We will judge them by the quality of their content, not by the number of their followers or post shares. They will reach us with their influence, on Instagram and on other platforms. We may learn how to improve our clinical skills and, if so inclined, how to wield some influence ourselves.
Chris Salierno, DDS