A picture is worth a thousand words

July 1, 2010
One question that I am asked often is what pictures dentists should use on their Web sites and blogs.

Jason Lipscomb, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: social media, pictures, Web site, blogs, biological needs, patient fears, Dr. Jason Lipscomb.

One question that I am asked often is what pictures dentists should use on their Web sites and blogs. It’s a great question since most dentists only include pictures of doctors, staff, the dental office, and before-and-after photos on their sites. While these are helpful, you can do much more to convince potential patients that you are the expert who can meet their needs.

The general perception of dentists by the public has been skewed by movies, comedians, and even music. Owl City, a rock group that has a large following, has a new song called “Dental Care.” In the song’s video, you see a fearful patient and a maniacal dentist enjoying the patient’s discomfort. But patient fears are real. Hundreds of thousands of patients across the country cancel appointments because of fear.

People are driven by a series of hard-wired biological needs. If you can address these biological needs and patient fears head-on, then you will be way ahead of the game. So what are these biological needs?

  • Care and protection of loved ones
  • Freedom from fear, pain, and danger
  • Enjoyment of life and life extension
  • Social approval
  • Enjoyment of food and beverages

These biological needs give us the clues we need to provide the pictures that will appeal to potential patients.

Care and protection of loved ones

Women are responsible 80% of the time for making appointments for their families and spouses. Women also are the ones who decide which care provider to choose. Some great pictures could involve you giving a consult to a family or sharing with a family.

Another great picture series would show you working with a child — engaging the youngster — and getting down on the child’s level. Any photo like this is helpful since it eases a mother’s concern and corresponds to care and protection of loved ones.

Recently, a friend of mine chose her pediatrician for this very reason. After visiting several Web sites of local pediatricians, she found a doctor who had posted a series of photos of him interacting with children. The doctor had a genuine smile, and looked like he enjoyed working with children.

This doctor also was a nutritionist and included pictures of healthy meals and healthy children on his Web site. My friend has since been to this doctor twice and speaks highly of him. This doctor could also highly benefit from a blog in which he could post some nutritious and healthy meals that mothers could prepare for their children.

Freedom from fear, pain, and danger

As I said earlier, patients cancel appointments due to fear. So use images to address patients’ fears. I would suggest using images that show relaxed patient faces, and pictures of you consulting with patients. One of the biggest factors in fear is the unknown. An informed patient is less likely to be a fearful patient. Ask yourself: What are the top five things patients fear?

Show pictures involving sedation dentistry or gentle dentistry. Connect those pictures to short articles on how you make sure that patients are comfortable and pain-free during all procedures. Meet their fears head-on, address them, and I think you will have fewer patients who will cancel their appointments.

Enjoyment of life and life extension

Many of my colleagues have models on their Web sites who display beautiful smiles. You also can use images that show people in successful situations who have beautiful teeth. If you want to show how a smile can perhaps make people feel better about their self-image, show two people engaged in a conversation (hint of romance), or a job interview in which the interviewee portrays self-confidence via a smile.

As a bonus, during holiday seasons such as Valentine’s or New Year’s Day, post photos captioned “Is your smile ready for the holidays?” Topical pictures are great. This is a perfect time to address enjoyment of life and life extension.

You can only do so many before-and-after photos. You can show your staff, office, and equipment. But you really want to engage and communicate with people to let them know you are an expert and a human being who understands the considerations that go into choosing a dental provider.

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, “Social Media for Dentists.” Reach Dr. Lipscomb at [email protected] or visit www.socialmediadentist.com.

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