Jason Lipscomb, DDS
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"I've been sitting in Dr. Smith's office for an hour and a half and no one has acknowledged me." "I'm expected to be here on time, but my dentist has not even arrived yet." Both of these MESSAES reached hundreds of people in their local community, and they were sent from the doctor's waiting room.
You might say, this will have no impact on me or my practice. Here is where I beg to differ. During the past month, we have been studying thousands of Twitter messages sent from dental patients. These messages are coming from your waiting room - even your operatory.
People are using this opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions and have an interested audience. Your patients are tweeting everything from how the staff and doctor treats them to the location and cleanliness of the office.
Let me put things into perspective. There are 80 million people in the U.S. who use their cell phones to connect to the Internet. Ground Truth, a Seattle-based mobile measurement firm, found that consumers use their phones for social networking 59.83% of the time.
These messages (tweets) can be powerful, especially the ones in which specific offices and doctors are named. One tweet that caught my eye contained a picture in which the patient had snapped a photo of the waiting room and a clock. His tweet said that his doctor was over an hour late.
Again, why is this a big deal? Well, this person happens to be a local journalist who reviews local businesses and has more than 2,000 people on Twitter following him.
What makes these messages so powerful? Trust.
This form of communication has become the accepted norm. Most people who use Twitter have a local following of friends. What I mean by local following is people within their own community. They are people they work with, went to college with, or even attend church with. They communicate via Twitter and other social media platforms such as Facebook. Nielsen research has found that 90% of people trust recommendations from people they know.
People know they have a powerful social platform in their hands. If they think they have been treated unjustly, they will not hesitate to let everyone know. In the past, they would have told a significant other or maybe called a friend. Now, they post their thoughts to Twitter immediately.
If they have 200 friends who follow them on Twitter, then 200 people in your local community see this message. Negativity can certainly sway whether a person will become a patient or not.
Before you think cell phones in your office are all gloom and doom, there is a tremendous upside. This upside is positive word of mouth. We were excited to see that people were even more tenacious about posting to Twitter when they had a great experience or they were treated kindly.
Here are a couple of examples of this positive word of mouth:
"I love Dr. Green's office. He just came out and apologized to me personally to let me know he was a little behind. That's service."
"I love my dentist, Dr. Hunter. Compliments on my teeth, and a flower for being a great patient."
We also found that hundreds of people were posting to Twitter to ask for and give referrals.
"Can anyone in the Gastonia or Charlotte area recommend a good dentist?"
This is actually a great opportunity for dentists. Really, for the first time, we have an immediate insight as to what patients are thinking in our waiting rooms and operatories. There are a few easy things dentists can do.
Make sure that your staff is friendly and courteous, and that people who are waiting in your office are addressed, acknowledged and reacknowledged, if there is a long wait. People want to feel significant. Just a little extra recognition will go a long way toward their speaking positively about your practice.
The book, "Social Media for Dentists," includes a report and action plan for the mobile dentist. In this report, the top five things your patients are saying online about your practice are discussed. The likes and dislikes, and how to get your patients to tweet about your office and offer referrals are covered. Go to www.socialmediadentist.com to view this report.
Jason T. Lipscomb, DDS, is a general dentist in Virginia where he operates two dental practices. He educates dentists on how to market a practice with social media. Dr. Lipscomb and his partner, Stephen Knight, have released a social media book for dentists, "Social Media for Dentists." Learn more about Dr. Lipscomb at www.socialmediadentist.com.