Social media "experts" are popping up all over the place. They seem to use similar modalities when attracting clients, and many of them seem to use the same framework for their posts. It occurred to me at a dental meeting last week that dentists are following the methods of many of these experts. Dentists may find themselves in peril following the methods of these prophets. Dentists work in the real world, face to face with real people. Many social media experts will never come face to face with a patient, or feel the real ramifications of a social media/professional interaction. There should be a time when dentists act like a social media expert, and sometimes when they shouldn't.
First of all, dentists should remember that social media efforts will hopefully result in a personal meeting. Followers and fans will hopefully come face to face with you. Be careful what you say to them. Always keep it professional. Many dentists are using personal Facebook profiles to reach out to followers, much like social media experts do. It is against the rules of Facebook to use a personal profile to represent a business entity. Facebook may ban your account if they find out or someone reports you. Don't set yourself up to lose all of your hard work. Marketers use personal profiles because it is much easier to add friends. Facebook Fan pages take a bit more finesse.
Using Facebook personal profiles can also let the wrong information be leaked publicly. There are some great privacy features in place for personal profiles, but some of them can be easily overlooked. This is one of the main reasons I advise against using personal profiles for your dental practice. Marketers will often "friend" thousands of people in the field. Dentists should not do this for their practice (Disclaimer: I sometimes friend other dentists for Social Media for Dentists, but Never for my practice). You can not "friend" the general public. It will make you appear like a spammer. Create a fan page instead. Invite people to come, but never force their hand.
Be careful not to "overdo" it. Don't think that you need a million Twitter or Facebook followers. Many marketers us a carpet bomb approach, and will try to get as many followers as possible. Too many followers that have nothing to do with your goals will only dilute your experience. Why do you need 3000 Twitter followers from California when you are in Maine? If you are trying to promote a single dental practice, it just doesn't make sense. If you think all of those followers will help promote your web presence, you are also wrong. Google has said it doesn't like Twitter accounts with too many unqualified or abusive followers. Stick to what you know is best. Get followers from your area. Other people may brag about how many followers they have, but anyone who really knows social media well tell you it is all about the quality.
Unlike social media experts, you don't have to be everywhere at once. Pick one type of social media to start out with. Say Facebook. Learn the correct ways to communicate on Facebook and use it to its fullest potential. Don't feel like you have to have a Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare account too. You can have success with just one profile.
Sometimes it is good to be like a social media expert. Many of the popular experts out there give information on many topics. I think this is what many dentists lack in their social media efforts, variety. You don't have to talk about dentistry ALL THE TIME. If your followers are real people, they will get dentistry burnout. Talk about sports or the community every once in a while. Make it seem like you are a real person and not a dentistry robot. Please don't quote mashable.com 500 times a day. I know they have great information, but do a little homework once in a while. Try to add some levity, but always try to be informative. If you find an interesting dental article, editorialize a bit. Add your spin on it.
Many experts employ the "list" i.e. 10 things you can eat to improve your complexion, or top 5 things to do on Facebook. This is a old advertising technique which you can employ. It allows you to give info in a compact form while making it appear to be more. It also makes it appear that you are giving some really good information even if it is very simple. i.e. top 10 things to do when brushing your teeth. Sometimes it is a bit overused, but still a valuable tool.
So remember, you are a dentist, you don't have to be a social media expert. Be true to yourself and the world is yours.
Jason T. Lipscomb is a general dentist in Richmond, VA and a co-author of Social Media for Dentists. Dr. Lipscomb has developed the methods used by Social Media for Dentists after several years of private practice. He maintains a unique perspective on dental marketing by operating two busy practices and researching social media practices.