What is social media?

April 1, 2010
Social media is mainly about communication. Most of the time we see people gather because of a common interest.

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: social media, topics, Internet, community, traditional news sources, Dr. Jason Lipscomb.

Social media is mainly about communication. Most of the time we see people gather because of a common interest. Social media is unique, the only commonality between everyone is that human beings love to gather and share.

Social media enables everyone to have a voice, and share their thoughts and opinions through an array of media. This community makes up more than half of our population, and it is still growing.

Social media is a natural environment in which people can easily engage in conversation about any topic. Individuals use social networks to discuss everyday events, spread news stories, comment on products or services, find jobs, and even market products.

Social media is an open invitation to congregate and interact with millions of people. If you are genuine, make a contribution, and take time to listen to what others have to say, you will find that you also will have a following of people who want to hear what you have to say.

Why should I care about social media?

Take a moment to look around you. Look at the next generation, Generation Y, which is 60 million strong. Ninety-six perent of the people born between 1977 and 1997 have joined a social networking community.

Two out of three people visit social networks, according to the Nielsen Global group. Forrester Research surveyed 1,217 business decision-makers worldwide and found that 95% use social networking to some extent.

Individuals now rely more than ever on the Internet as their exclusive source of information. Traditional news sources (television, radio, and newspapers) are no longer considered to be the place to go for news and entertainment.

For the first time in history, you have the ability to engage in a conversation with 60% of your local population. You can interact with thousands of people who want to listen to what you have to say.

Social media enables you to access potential patients in an arena in which their “do not disturb” shields are lowered. In no way does this mean that you can abuse this power. To be successful in social media, it is much better to give first, then receive.

In short, being a student of social media will allow you to access potential patients and begin a conversation with them. In time, you can build up a reputation as an expert and a valuable member of the community. You can build a local community of followers who will market for you, and be happy to tell others about you.

Through word of “mouse,” they will help your business grow. The average person talks to five people online daily. Imagine if you had 1,000 local followers like I do. At any given moment, I can talk to almost 5,000 people! That is enough to have a solid dental practice. I can be a part of people’s lives in my local community daily.

Potential patients spend more and more time online, and are seriously listening to the opinions of others. Some 25,000 people were surveyed by the Nielsen Global group, and 70% of the people interviewed said that they trusted consumer opinions posted online.

I think Business Week magazine said it best. “For companies, resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people are creating content for the social web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it ought to be.”

Simply put, social media is one of the best ways to grow your practice. To many in your community, you are just a name or an advertisement in the local phone book. You may even be a voice they hear once in a while on the radio that offers sedation dentistry or free whitening. But what does that make you? To them, you are a one dimensional entity offering yet another service.

The big difference between social media and traditional advertising (Yellow Pages, radio, and direct mailings) is there is no interaction between you and a potential patient with traditional advertising.

Think about this. In a recent survey, only 14% of those interviewed said they would use the phone book to find a dentist. Meanwhile, 66.3% said they would use the Internet, and 19.8% said they would call and ask questions.

The truth is that you cannot afford to be just a picture on a postcard or a voice on the radio. Social media will make you look like a real person, and this is what consumers desperately want.

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.” You can reach Dr. Lipscomb via e-mail at [email protected].

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