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Instagram success for dentists: Connection, consistency, and ... bloody teeth?

April 18, 2022
Jason M. Auerbach, DDS, saw a void among the sea of thumbnails in his Instagram feed. A void that could only be filled with ... bloody teeth. Read more about how he built a following, and a community.

It was seven years ago, during some rare downtime between patients. I sat back in my office chair and thought to myself: There are very few, if any, social media accounts about dentistry. I considered, “We watch pimples being popped, so why not bloody teeth being pulled?” @BloodyToothGuy was born right then and there.

This social media account, much like my practice, had to start somewhere. With both my first patient and first follower, I was truly humbled that someone would choose me among many other options, and I knew how important a personal connection was in that defining moment. Fortunately, both my practice and Instagram account grew rapidly through my commitment, consistency, and most of all, connections built with other people.

As I sit here today, with over 175,000 followers, I’ve learned that the words “social” and “media” can cause quite a reaction among dental professionals. The phrase is either met with great interest or sheer panic. Regardless of your reaction, social media is here to stay, and I’ve learned firsthand that it can be a tremendous benefit to both your business and personal life. When we think of social media, our minds often turn to likes, follows, and metrics, but the truth is, it all starts with one thing: people want to connect with people. We often forget there are humans behind our screens who inherently want to socialize and be a part of a community. Whether you’re just scratching the surface or completely entrenched in social media, always remember that these platforms tap into a basic need, and that’s the power of connection.

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Today, I am truly in awe of the @BloodyToothGuy following, and moreover, the community that I am honored to be a part of every day. It spans miles, countries, and even language barriers. Turns out, whether you’re in Istanbul or a New York City suburb, a surgical video of an extraction is a great equalizer among dental professionals. The success of my account has created endless opportunities for me to grow my business, expand my network, partner with reputable brands, and above all, connect with a larger community. Through social media, I’ve made lifelong friends, lectured at conferences, guest-starred on podcasts, and even welcomed aspiring dentists into my office. Each of these incredible experiences has been made possible because of my commitment to social media and enduring vision for delivering content to an untouched demographic. Believe me, it has taken quite some time and many versions of the newest iPhone to make this account what it is today. I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way, and I encourage you to take this advice and discover the limitless opportunities of social media.

Be authentic

Every prominent account on social media started with zero followers and slowly built from there. At one, one hundred, or even thousands of followers, your audience is engaged purely and completely because of who you are as an individual. Each follower is gaining something from your content that they are lacking somewhere else. My most watched content is often an impromptu recap of my day or a free-flowing discussion of a case that didn’t go as planned. Since day one, I have posted content that is natural, candid, and often spontaneous, and my followers are drawn to that because they are missing it from other accounts. To this day, I post “when it feels right” and that authenticity always comes through to my followers. The social media audience for dentistry is highly focused, and thus, highly engaged. They are very insightful to what content is unique, and conversely, what is fabricated. Be true to yourself and the followers will, well, follow.

Consistency is key

In today’s fast-paced world, it is essential to market on a continuous basis, especially when it comes to staying relevant on social media. In the United States, people spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes on social media per day. This a remarkable opportunity to constantly be in front of your prospective patients and referring network. When you are posting on a regular basis, users will come to anticipate, and look for, your content. On social platforms, the more views, the more likely people will see your content. Don’t wait for the perfectly curated post at all times; instead, position your account to be seen by posting consistent and authentic content.

Promote the right content

With a considerable user base and accounts that overlap, it’s important to share the right type of content to get noticed. For instance, videos consistently perform better over static images among my followers and in general on Instagram. To that point, I routinely focus on creating surgical videos on stories, as well as video posts, to draw in my audience. As it stands, my followers can expect surgeries, case discussions, and a significant share of my personal life when they see my account. By delivering what my respective audience responds to on a regular basis, my current followers are engaged and I’m also steadily building new followers. Fortunately, the right content for my audience is what my real life looks like, which further reinforces the authentic approach to content.

Share with care

While it is vital to post on a continual basis, I also caution you to press pause before you share. When I share content, I often consider how the content could be perceived; perhaps there are a few who might find certain content polarizing or disagreeable. In today’s climate, I prefer to keep my content about my mission: bringing education to dental professionals across the globe. I intentionally choose to omit divisive topics from my content in order to maintain an amicable space for followers. By preserving this level of decorum, I have found that my followers are here for the right reasons: to learn and connect with the @BloodyToothGuy community.

Get engaged

To be honest, I have amassed the following that I have largely because of engagement. From the beginning, I have engaged my audience by providing content that encourages feedback and by being responsive to messages. I am also widely known for my candid Q&As, answering everything from how to start a dental career to my favorite band. This offers a great opportunity to connect with my audience on a personal level and in effect, socialize through this platform. We are separated by continents and sometimes even languages; however, by sending a direct message or offering a phone call, I have been able to truly connect with many of my followers. Together, we have built this amazing community that trusts and supports one another, and I am sincerely grateful that it allows me to continue doing what I love.

When I started this account, as one of very few in the dental community, I was determined to fulfill a specific need that was not being met. At the moment, there are tons of accounts that have followed suit and joined a much larger group of dental professionals on social media. How can one possibly stand out among the crowded space of dental practices online? Simply put, be yourself! At one follower, I was proud to engage one person because they were, and still are, more than a name on my followers list. Behind each follower request is a person who has chosen me among plenty of options. Seven years ago, when I had the idea for @BloodyToothGuy, I knew I had a lot to learn about social media. Nonetheless, I stayed true to myself and drew upon what I knew from the success of my private practice; and that is, people always want a connection. Whether they are in a dental chair or an Instagram Live, people want to connect with people, and that is the success story behind my practice, Riverside Oral Surgery, and now, @BloodyToothGuy. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the April 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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