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The simple answer is no. The new generation, Generation Y, has adopted social media and cellular technology as its native way to communicate. Some 2.5 billion text messages are sent daily, and social networking has surpassed e-mail. For the first time in more than a decade, Boston College did not give incoming freshman an official university e-mail address. Why? Students are already so interconnected through social media networks that it wasn’t necessary.
In a recent survey, only 14% of people said that they still used the phone book to find a service provider. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube continue to grow. YouTube has become more popular than Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC combined.
Social media is simply “word-of-mouth on steroids.” It enables people to communicate more effectively and with a much wider audience. Twenty-five percent of conversations on social media Web sites are about products or services. A conversation about your dental practice could be going on now.
Social media goes beyond Twitter and Facebook. Social media is word-of-mouth, and it extends to forums and review sites. More than 70% of people said that they have been influenced by an online review and have believed the review to be truthful.
Social media is not a fad. We certainly are not going to go back to using the phone book, sending letters instead of e-mails, and taking our film to the store to get pictures developed. Progress has spoken, and it’s time for you to make a change.
How do I get started?
First, you need to create an action plan. Social media is made up of many parts. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t try to implement multiple strategies at once. Pick one or two areas of social media that best fit your personality. Many dentists feel comfortable starting with a blog and Twitter or Facebook. I encourage you to take the time to learn how to properly implement these tools.
Second, you need to define your objective. What is your goal? Do you want to grow your practice? Do you want to be known as the “expert” in your community? Do you want to engage and interact with the people in your community? You can. You can grow your practice by spending just a few minutes a day on social networking.
How will I find time to do all this?
When you first begin developing a social media campaign for your practice, it will take a few hours to set up. I say a few hours because there is a right way and a wrong way.
The right way is to set up a campaign so it is consistent with your brand, your personality, and your message. This means your blog, Twitter page, and Facebook page would work together to convey one cohesive message. This can take three to four hours. But it conveys a professional presence.
The wrong way is to simply jump in and create a blog that isn’t consistent with your Web site, and to use default template settings on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter. Nothing says “I don’t care” more than a nondescript template Web site.
Many dentists are not technically savvy. That’s fine. You can easily hire a graphic artist or Web designer online to help create a consistent brand to be delivered to the social media sites. Once you have a professional template, you can begin your social media journey.
The question I receive most often is, “How will I find time to run a campaign every day?” Once you have your blog and other social media sites set up, you actually can conduct a great campaign in as little as 10 minutes a day.
Here are some hints:
Use Twitter once in the morning and once in the afternoon. There are several resources online for articles to which you can link. Get to know your community. Post about things you are doing. You want to build up local traffic. Have your staff “tweet” or post to Facebook. Use dental students or retired dentists to write blogs for you. You can simply modify them as needed. Some companies, such as Social Media for Dentists, specialize in creating campaigns for dentists. These include branding, creating an online persona, and setting up social media Web sites.
Social media is an exciting new way to interact with your community. Remember, it is local traffic that will help grow your practice. Don’t worry about getting thousands of followers. Instead, focus on the individuals who have the potential to become patients. To be successful, focus on the opinions of the people who count.
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 handbook for dentists called, “Social Media for Dentists.” You can reach Dr. Lipscomb via e-mail at Jason@socialmediadentist.com.