Social Media Becomes Key for Dentists

An Expert Interview With Amy Morgan

Laird Harrison

October 18, 2011

October 18, 2011 (Las Vegas, Nevada) — Editor's note: As blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media play an increasingly important role in society, dental professionals are using such tools to attract and communicate with patients.

A presentation on social media for dentists was featured here at the American Dental Association (ADA) 2011 Annual Session, held October 10 to 12. Medscape Medical News interviewed presenter Amy Morgan, CEO of the Pride Institute dental practice management consulting firm in Novato, California.

Medscape: Are a lot of dentists perplexed by social media?

Ms. Morgan: Marketing has never been a comfortable topic for dentists. A lot of them would rather break out in hives than ask for a referral. Social media is even more daunting. Many dentists are from the baby boomer generation, and are trying to figure out why we don't have rotary phones. They are wondering what to do and whom to trust because there are a lot of snake oil salesman out there.

Medscape: Why does it matter?

Ms. Morgan: Social media is as key in engaging existing patients as it is in attracting new patients. If you have an existing patient who is interested in what is happening on your Facebook page, you are creating a much deeper relationship. Not only will they be more likely to make referrals, they will be more committed and involved.

Medscape: How can practices begin to make use of these tools?

Ms. Morgan: Start with a solid Web site. A lot of dentists have Web sites that are 1-dimensional brochures. The Web site has to be your home base. Next get ready to blog. Educate your existing patients. Get their email addresses. Make sure they understand the purpose. Then start applying appropriate social media — usually we start with Facebook and YouTube.

Medscape: How can one practice keep up with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Yelp, DR.Oogle, and the like?

Ms. Morgan: Design for your target market. Step 1 is to know your brand. Step 2 is to is to know your market and what they respond to. Have a staff meeting and ask everyone to come with the names of 2 or 3 of their favorite patients and describe where these patients hang out. Ask your patients what social media they use. If you have an orthodontics practice that has a lot of teens, they may respond to Twitter. None of this is an event; it's a process. Roll up your sleeves and be committed for a really long time. It's a matter of saturation; we recommend posting to blogs or Facebook or whatever medium they are using 2 to 4 times a week.

Medscape: Can dentists do all this themselves?

Ms. Morgan: Dentists typically require outside expertise in Web site design, search engine optimization, and reputation management. There are companies that are dominant in the dental world. We often hear, "My son took a class in Web site design," or "I traded a bridge for a Web site," but we are going to try to steer them to the dental experts first.

Medscape: So if you hire the right experts, will they take care of everything?

Ms. Morgan: What the experts can do is provide a stream. They will generate articles about national caries prevention month or fresh research or testimonials about why doing Zoom whitening is a good idea. But every practice should generate some posts of their own. Otherwise, what you have is just a cookie cutter. We consider it part of everyone's expertise, so if you have 15 or 20 employees, create a marketing calendar. The hygienists might have a cookie recipe, or maybe there is a dental assistant who likes to take pictures of happy patients.

Medscape: Is this a huge investment in time and money?

Ms. Morgan: If a dentist used to pay $1000 a month for a Yellow Pages ad, now they pay $1000 a month for internet marketing.

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