By Rita Zamora, BDS.
Where is social media marketing headed? Imagine a world where people are expected to know personal details about their doctor, such as where they vacation, what kind of pets they have, whether they are married or single, or which gym they work out in. If that makes you uncomfortable, you are not alone. However, there is a new generation of dentists who are perfectly comfortable sharing the details mentioned above and a whole lot more.
There is a new generation of “super social” dentists. In many cases, these super social dentists are snapping their own selfies, making their own videos and handling their practice posting and hash-tagging themselves. These doctors enjoy the social aspect of social media and are just as comfortable letting patients see photos of themselves in scrubs in a professional setting as they are hanging out poolside in swimsuits. I’ve run across both male and female super social dentist social media accounts. While many of them appear to be in the Millennial age range (Millennials are typically defined as approximately 18-34 year olds), I’d guess there are other doctors out there in other age categories who are equally social. The common thread is that they are comfortable sharing their authentic selves online—in some cases unfiltered and raw.
What Is It About Those Millennial Dentists?
I’ve always believed social media use is not tied to age, rather it’s more about the individual and their mindset. However, there are certain traits that likely impact many Millennials’ comfort levels with social media, and sharing, in general.
Consider these facts:
- Millennials are the first generation never to have known life without technology.
- They are multi-taskers who can text, snap selfies, post to Instagram, add a variety of hashtags to their post and carry on a conversation at the same time.
- Most professionals use two to three work and personal devices in their daily lives.
- 83% of Millennials sleep with their smart phone.
- Over 33% use their smartphone in the bathroom.
- A majority of Millennial professionals would select their smartphone instead of their television.
- Nearly half (42%) would choose Internet access rather than their sense of smell.
Also notable is the fact that Millennials are now the largest labor force in the U.S., and have surpassed the Baby Boomer population (Pew Research 2015). Welcome to the new age—a time when many aspects of professional life will change dramatically due to Millennials’ comfort level with all things related to technology, device, and social sharing.
Social Media in Dentistry: The New Wild West
Combine Millennial preferences, as well as individuals of all ages who embrace social media, and we’ve got a whole new world of social media marketing categories in dentistry. I’ve heard some dental professionals and associations refer to social media in dentistry today as the new Wild West. Today is different from 7 or 8 years ago when many practices were just beginning to explore social media for the first time.
While we now have many practices onboard with social media, they are using many different tools, and to varying degrees. And yes, there are still some practices that continue to ignore social media. Some practices dabble in it. Other practices have an internal employee managing sophisticated campaigns on their behalf. There are also practices paying agencies or vendors anywhere from $99.00 to over $1,000.00 for monthly social media management. Add to these groups, the super social dentists who prefer to manage social media personally.
When I’ve discussed these categories of dental social media users during some of my presentations at dental conferences, some doctors and teams seem overwhelmed, shaking their heads at the thought they may need to someday compete with dentists sharing photos of their lunch or creating videos of themselves while driving (note, I do not advocate using social media or making videos while driving). Is this what future generations of patients will look for in healthcare providers? I don’t think it will be an expectation, but more of a convenience or simply a norm for some people.
It’s a convenient discovery to find a doctor on Instagram through an in-common hashtag, ad, or word of mouth from friends. If the patient likes what they see, they can follow the doctor, post comments or questions, like the post, share, or click to visit the doctors website and become a new patient. As Erik Qualman, author of SocialNomics said several years ago, “In the future, with social media, people will no longer search for products and services, they will discover them through their use of social media.” Indeed, the future is here now.
So, is this the future of social media marketing?
Perhaps this will become the easiest form of marketing … We may be headed to a time when some dentists won’t need to spend money on marketing, but rather spend time sharing many aspects of their lives online and in return, getting the benefit of attracting patients who know exactly who they can expect to meet.
Keep in mind; the super social dentist likely enjoys social media. They may love photography, enjoy taking selfies and posting snaps, find it fun to create video or make cool graphics. Apps and mobile tools make it easy to create beautiful, fun and custom branded images within seconds. It may just be fun for some and for others it’s simply something they’ve grown up with so this level of sharing is easy and natural.
Another aspect of this conversation is the preferences of patients. Would patients rather know many details about their dentist or would that make them uncomfortable? The beautiful thing about social media is that like attracts like. For every super social dentist out there, there are super social patients who will be drawn to what they see on their devices. Likewise, for you private dentists out there, there are likely patients who prefer dentists who keep their personal lives private.
One thing is certain; there is a new type of dental practice on social media. Love them or hate them, super social practices and a new level of sharing is here to stay. I have learned to never say never when it comes to social media. Time will tell if sharing at the super social level will benefit doctors and practices or not. In the meantime, I encourage you to take a look around for yourself.
Just because you and your practice are not active on Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat or the gateway social media tool, Facebook, doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens, hundreds or thousands of practices already taking advantage of the visibility or relationship building possibilities there. There may be photos, posts, or snaps that shock or delight you. Most importantly, don’t let your own bias hold you back from seeing the change that is happening in the online world of our dental profession.
Let Your Values Guide Your Efforts
Of course, there are professional guidelines, legal obligations, and important legislation, such as HIPAA, that practices need to be aware of in their social media use. There are also nuances and boundaries unique to patient-doctor relationships. However, each dentist or specialist needs to let their personal and professional values guide their level of use and sharing on social media. If you are not handling your social media personally, you need to communicate your values to your social media manager.
What do you want to be known for? List 3-5 adjectives you want people to think of when they see your social media presence (reference my past Progressive Dentist Magazine articles for more on the topic of social media and core values).
Your values may include some of the following:
- Education Focused
- Community Driven
- Technology Oriented
- Family Friendly
Once you are clear about your values, you can review your social media presence and confirm you are in alignment. As Roy Disney said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are”.