Social Media, Everyone Is Doing It?

The most recent buzz in dentistry is Social Media.
I get all kinds of inquiries from dentists who want to know how to write a blog, how to set up a Facebook page.  They want the newest thing, they do not want to fall behind and loose market share.  Still, I think there is a problem.  First, there is the problem of over-saturation, of dilution; everyone’s doing it.  The second concern is that most dentists know dentistry, but they have no idea how to use the tools of Social Media.  They all have a web page, Facebook and Twitter accounts, but rely on someone else, or no one at all, to actualy run the pages, post the comments and photos because they have totally missed the point.  It’s a dead end for them.  It’s useless.
You know there was a time when almost no dentist even had a web page.  Advertising, as it existed just a few years ago was yellow page ads.  In my college economics class, before I was even in dentistry, I asked my professor about something I had noticed.  Some dentists were beginning to advertise.  It was frowned upon for dentists to advertise back then.  It was unprofessional.  Really, this was a pervasive attitude.  It was allowed, but you had to put all kinds of disclaimers in any announcement.  The only thing you were “allowed” to do was announcing the opening of your practice in the local paper and later on, your retirement.  Now, there were a few dentists back then who were beginning to put “ads” in the yellow pages.  These were fairly minimal things; a quarter of a page max.  These dentists enjoyed what you might expect from the increased visibility, an increase in business.
I asked my economics professor, what happens when more and more dentists advertise too.  You know,  just to keep up and compete?  He said the first adopters would reap the most bang for the buck.  Once it spread and most if not all were doing the same thing, the benefit would diminish.  Everyone would be back to square one, but with a higher monthly bill for advertising.
These days we do not advertise, we do “marketing”.  It’s more accepted to put your practice name out there on billboards, TV ads, etc.  There is a reduced stigma.  There is nothing wrong about telling people what you do and where you are located and educating people about your profession.  There is still a concern about deceiving the public, about presenting oneself as something you are not.  For instance, a general dentist saying he does braces is one thing, but saying or implying he is a specialist, an orthodontist, is unethical and in most states illegal.
So, what is the newest thing in marketing? -Social Media.  Dentists are being advised to not only have a webpage, but a business Facebook page, a locations page, a Twitter account and a Blog.  This is good as these are modern vehicles for not only information, but interaction and education. I love it. I started this blog in 2006 and had a Twitter account before most even had heard of it much less understood what it was.  Still, I wonder as more and more dentists get on the bandwagon of “Social Media” that a dilution effect will ensue.  This time perhaps not, at least for those who know how to actually use Social Media.  It is so sad that there are so many physicians and dentists who hire someone to establish their webpage, set up their blog and Facebook Page.  Then they just sit back and expect it all just to run itself like the yellow pages of old.  This is so off the mark.  You have to actually engage, interact, update and communicate on these sites.  It just doesn’t work without that level of energy, interaction, and caring.  You can’t take the Social out of Social Media.
So, Facebook, Twitter, videos, and blogs are all things that can help a practice grow and thrive in the 21st century.  The key is actually knowing how to use these new tools properly.