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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's the biggest party on earth,...and you're invited.

According to Google the internet is just that- a party, growing everyday and showing no signs of stopping. The challenge becomes how do we put the internet to use for us as dental hygienists?
Social media can work to our advantage as hygienists in two very different ways. The first directly affecting the dental office that we practice in and the second affecting our ability to educate and communicate with our patients.
Never before have we had such an opportunity to take an active role in advancing and growing the dental practices we work in. In the past the phone book was considered the best form of advertisement and for the most part our hands were tied as far as promoting ourselves professionally. Now we are in a time when paid advertisements take a back seat to genuine personnel reviews and online recommendations. One patient’s experience, good or bad can easily reach the eyes of countless potential patients.
In most areas of the country the competition in the dental field is fierce, both for the dental office trying to remain profitable and acquire new patients, and for dental hygienists trying to find employment. More and more dentists are looking for prospective new team members who can help advance their dental practice as well as provide their patients with excellent treatment. If you show an interest in advancing the office and provide innovative ideas to improve areas such as new patients, patient retention and patient education it can set you apart from your compition. As with any business a thriving profitable dental office is usually more enjoyable to work in, usually pays better and rewards their employees better.
A few ideas for promoting yourself/dental office through social media:

·         Asking your patients who enjoy and appreciate the services you provide for them in the dental office to review the dental practice that you work for on sites such as Google+

·         Offering incentives for patients who “check in” on sites such as 4 square while in the office, or “like” your offices Facebook page

·         Mentioning interesting things about your office on your personnel Facebook page.
A hygienist friend of mine posts a few times a month something about her day at work “Happy Birthday Dr. Smith- you’re the best” , “we have the best patients, Thank you Mrs. Jones for the donuts” and a picture. Her latest post “I spent the last hour trying to convince a patient that her mouth is actually connected to her body and therefore affects her overall health.” The posts are nothing pushy but they show that she likes her job and the office sounds like a nice place to be. As a prospective patient I would find these things inviting.

The number one concern of offices that I work with on their marketing strategies is always over the time involved in maintaining an active social media presence. The solution that I have seen work the best is to set up a schedule and divide out the responsibilities of posting on social media sites and your office blog. Another solution is to make it priority if there is a cancellation or a few open minutes. The benefit of social media information sharing is three fold-
1)      Prospective new patients- Although most offices aren’t seeing droves of new patients due to Facebook the name recognition and ease of accessibility can result in new patients
2)      Information Sharing- Keeping your patients informed of new accurate dental information, office happenings and promotions
3)      Increased SEO- Link your posts back to your website and post your latest blog entries. The back linking and additional traffic will help keep your offices website from getting buried in a sea of other dental offices
   All of these can prove valuable for the dental practice and since the investment is minimal social media a nice adjunct to most dental practices marketing plan

The second avenue for social media in dental hygiene is educating the masses.
For most of us this is our passion. We spent years learning about bacteria, decay and proper flossing technique. One by one we have tried to help our patients understand and improve their health. For most patients 1 hour two to three times a year isn’t enough time to discuss all of the topics we need to cover. Now we can expand our reach, we don’t have to wait for the patients to come to us. We can go to them- weather through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, e-Newsletters. I would rather be the one informing my patients of new research or information pertaining to their dental health then pretty much any other source.
For example, Dr. Oz, currently a reputable medical advisor as far as the general public is concerned – recently he recommended viewers eat raisins to keep their teeth white because they will induce saliva flow. Another great tip (please pick up on my sarcasm here) swab a mixture of baking soda and lemon onto your teeth to whiten them.  It’s important that as a dental community we keep our patients informed with correct dental information.
I had the opportunity at the beginning of last month to attend a conference at the Colgate Technology Center. Colgate’s intention was to identify what we in the dental profession perceive as obstacles and short comings with social media and dental education. The number one topic of concern was how we get good reliable information spread to both consumers and professionals. The internet isn’t policed so it’s just as easy for me to put out information that says flossing is good as it is for someone to put out information saying putting Aspirin on your gum will help with a tooth ache.  
How do we spread good reliable information? By staying connected, by forming circles of people we trust to provide us with reliable information and passing that information along to those who trust our professional guidance. During the conference there were discussions about how important communities such as Hygiene Town are to our profession. The ability to stay connected with hygienists from around the country is so valuable and the information sharing keeps us all more informed and allows us to be better practitioners.
During our time at Colgate we were fortunate to spend time with the Head of Industry Healthcare for Google. She was able to shed some light on internet trends and predictions. Currently Google Plus is the largest growing widget with 90 million users. Google + allows us to form actual “circles” and allows for more targeting information sharing with the added benefit of privacy controls missing from other sites. An additional benefit is the ease of “recommending” places to people in your circle- it’s as easy as clicking +1. Patients who will actually write out a nice review tend to be few and far between, but the patient who will click +1, a little more common. To start your own business Google + page:

New sites such as  are starting to emerge and trying to fill the void of reliable dental patient resources on the web. This could be a great service to our patients and allow for the spread of accurate reliable dental information among the general public. Others are speculating that in the future people looking for information on the internet will associate reliable information with brand names. Companies such as Colgate are trying to provide dental professionals with information they can easily share with their patients through various social media outlets.
With a little time and minimal investment the rewards of joining the “social media party” can be beneficial for you and your patients.

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