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How Social Media Changed the Culture of My Dental Practice


Let’s see a show of hands out there.  How many of you have dentists who have content rich websites and are active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest?  That’s what I thought.  Not too many of you.  Well, as a dentist, I am on a mission to change that.

Dentists and Marketing

Marketing has not been an easy journey for the healthcare industry. For a very long time, professionals in healthcare were discouraged, if not reprimanded, for advertising. About all you could do to “market” yourself was to have your name appear in the local phone book. The early adopters in attempting healthcare marketing were not well received and were, in fact, lambasted for their efforts.

“Classless” and “cheap” were words used to describe healthcare professionals’ small attempts at marketing and advertising.  Slowly, very slowly, this limiting attitude has changed. The healthcare industry has finally, if not reluctantly, taken the full plunge into the ocean of marketing and social media.

The Extremes

As with most things in life, there is a modulating process that needs to accompany change. Before that modulation occurs, typically you are going to see extremes. In healthcare, the extremes have been pretty obvious. There are the pharmaceutical, hospital, weight loss and dental implant companies that barrage us with promises of the best, the only, and the right options for our healthcare needs on radio and TV. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the general dental practice that sits quietly on Main Street USA hoping that “word of mouth” will continue to bring in new patients. While, just down the street, new dental offices are popping up every day providing more and more options for these same new patients.

The Reality

As “experts” in our respective fields, no matter what our business, the reality is that as a rule, every day when we go to work, we do basically the same thing as our competitors. So, in the field of dentistry specifically, most of my colleagues that are vying for the same patients that I am vying for do the same kinds of fillings, cleanings, x-rays, crowns and bridges. Some of us offer slightly different options but, for the most part, our days are very similar.

So then, how can we make ourselves appear “different” to potential patients?  What can we do to increase the traffic through our door instead of letting the dentist just down the street get the new patient?  That is the age old question!

The Answer

Think outside of the box. We already know what we’ve been trained to do as “experts” in our field. And we should always strive to do it better! But we can’t just rest on our laurels anymore. There are far too many other businesses like yours and mine out there and potential customers/clients/patients are getting more and more digitally-savvy all of the time. They are doing their homework and basing the decisions they make on their research. And to make ourselves show up in an enticing way, we need to think outside of the box. And one of those ways is social media.

Let’s Get Personal: My Story

Let me tell you how social media changed the culture of my dental practice. I’ve been a dentist for over 22 years and have owned my own practice for 16 of those years. I, like many of my colleagues (and other small businesses), tried many of the traditional forms of marketing including, but certainly not limited to the Yellow Pages, Dex Knows, church bulletin ads, local newspaper coupons and participation in local school events. In the early days, the only way of tracking my analytics was by keeping track of my results with a notebook and pen. And one by one, I eliminated ineffective and sometimes costly marketing efforts that had little to no ROI (return on investment).

I was conflicted because I still felt that there was value in the tried and true “word of mouth” method of growing a practice. But I knew that with new competition popping up at every corner, I was going to die as a business if I didn’t figure out how to create growth effectively and inexpensively. And then, one day, one of my awesome patients came up with the answer. The conversation began innocently enough. I was complimenting her on her oh-so-funny blog and asking her how she was able to promote her blog so successfully. She looked me straight in the eye and said “You can do it too. Just create a blog for your website and get a Twitter account and tweet about your practice”.


There is Value in Being Impetuous and Impressionable

That very day, I solicited the help of Heather Acton,  freelance WordPress developer extraordinaire and I started designing a new WordPress website that would allow me to blog directly from my business website. I also set up a Twitter account and created a Facebook page. I worked diligently on increasing my presence on social media. I played with many ideas and tossed out the ones that didn’t work and kept the ones that did. I began doing videos that were posted to both YouTube and my website that dealt with dental health issues. I started a regular feature called Ask the Dentist in which someone emails me a dental health related question that I post and answer on my website.

I began to post articles to local newspapers to increase awareness of my office’s presence. I attended functions, some with the clever name of “Tweet Ups,” in and around the city of Chicago so that the many people that I was communicating with in social media I could meet face to face IRL (in real life)!

The result was a measurable increase in my “new patient” numbers as a result of my presence on social media.

To be clear, I made many mistakes along the way and even allowed myself to get slightly addicted to social media. But, the lessons that I gleaned as I muddled through the myriad of information I was reading and experimenting with, grew my desire to share a best practices sort of approach with dentists wanting to use social media. The result was my site, Social Media DDS, which allows me to consult with and coach dental professionals in the art of social media strategy.

What I Have Learned

  1. Have an interactive website. By interactive, I mean, make sure that your site is content rich and content fresh. Create a space on your website modeled after traditional “blogs” from which you can provide information to your readers and they can communicate with you. Have a fully functional and user-friendly commenting platform integrated into your website and “blog” such as Livefyre that allows conversation-like communication to occur, encouraging readers to participate in dialogue with you and the community.
  2. Be regular and predictable in your posts.  As Marcus Sheridan, the awesome author of The Sales Lion, says in this video interview, blog with regularity. Let your audience know that you will be there for them. Listen to their needs and then…engage, engage, engage. Social media is, after all, social. Once you have established a solid “home base” with your website presence, consider expanding your social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and, yes, even Pinterest.

Don’t Have Time?

I happen to LOVE working the social media and marketing angle for my dental practice. But I understand and appreciate that not all owners of a business can find the time to put into growing their social media presence. One of my favorite go-to people in the dental, social media marketing world is Rita Zamora of Social Media & Relationship Marketing. She suggests finding a “champion” for your social media presence (regardless of the type of business you run).

Look to your staff and decide who would be a perfect fit for championing your business. Let them represent the business. Teach them how to be the “voice” of your company. Delegate wisely. And, always keep your “voice” consistent and authentic. Never succumb to the temptation of letting a third party company be your “voice.” Always understand that your “voice” is what makes digital “word of mouth” marketing work.

Wrapping It Up

I am passionate about the potential of social media as a powerful tool in a business’ marketing strategy. I am also passionate about my business. It seems pretty intuitive then that, when I combine the powerful forces of my business with social media, awesome goodness is going to be the result.

I can’t imagine a new business in any industry not wanting to make sure that their internet presence is felt and that the business consistently nurtures its online presence. There are countless examples of success using the power of social media to build a business. I love to tell people that if I, as an owner of a dental practice, can grow my business utilizing the power of social media, then anyone can grow a business using social media!

How have you used social media to grow your online presence?  Has it worked?  Do you have any tips that might help others as they take their first steps into social media?


  • Jack Hadley

    Nicely written, relevant and useful. Thanks, Claudia. I agree that the very BEST scenario is the way you’ve done it—by being directly involved yourself with the writing, posting, engaging, etc. There’s no perfect substitute for that level of involvement. Also, your advice to be sure to teach another point person in the practice how to be the “voice” of your practice is great advice. Time is always the issue for all of us, isn’t it?!!

    • Claudia

      Thank you Jack! I am very passionate about the intrinsic value in being “real” and keeping your “voice” consistent and relevant. It should be that when new patients/clients/customers meet you for the first time, there is no mistaking you are the same person (voice) as is projected online! Thank you so much for your great comment!

  • Amber Avines

    I’m so glad you shared your story, Claudia. It’s such a good example of just plowing ahead and embracing the new way of doing business. You’ve done such a solid job of this on Social Media DDS and it’s a testament to the fact that any type of business can find a way to embrace and succeed in social media!

    • Claudia

      Amber, you have always been a source of sincere and loving support throughout much of this very interesting and fun journey. I am always grateful for you and your online friendship! Thank you so very much! And…yes, I completely agree….any type of business can, indeed, find a way to embrace social media that works for them!

  • Jody Padar

    I found my dentist Claudia on Twitter! Some might find it strange…I’m on twitter and I need to go to the dentist sometimes… Image that! Being in front of a person with a dental need creates business. Plus if she is tech savvy in social I would assume that she is open to learning new things. I want my dentist to be a learner and up to date with the latest dental things. Kudos to you Claudia! Love my Social Dentist!

    • Claudia

      Thank you Jody!! I can’t tell you how much your comment meant to me! It IS so awesome that we connected via Social Media and our connection is a perfect example of how engaging and sharing your “voice” as a business in Social Media really works! I’m so glad and honored that we have taken our Social Media connection to the next IRL level! Thank you for your kind and supportive comment Jody!!

  • Bill Dorman

    I put the Kung Fu grip on my competitors; that’ll show ’em……….

    I like what you have done and would like to do something similar for the insurance industry. However, here is my perceived challenge; we are NOT Geico or State Farm, we are not trying to appeal to the masses. We are very specific with the type of customers we want to do business with and I don’t know how much social appeals to the CEO’s of those companies.

    But I do see an opportunity to be a leader and go-source for what we do so you can be known as ‘that guy’ in a good way. Then you get those CEO’s talking to each other and they know who you are when you make the call.

    Can I borrow your website?

    Good to see you Claudia; hopefully Amber had some good wine left after Craig’s visit.

    • Claudia

      Hi Bill! Thank you for stopping by and for your great comment! I think you answered your own question! If you are out there in the social media arena and are a consistent and genuine (the word authentic is getting way overused) then, you WILL get recognized by the people you want to get in front of. YOU are a perfect example of that wonderful mix of what you see is what you get…so there is NO mistaking your “voice” and your potential customers will “get” that! YOU are one of my role models when it comes to the power of engaging on social media! And….Amber….there’s wine???

  • Hajra

    You are an inspiration Claudia!

    I have seen people make their professions so much better (not only for themselves) but also for the professional community as a whole using social media. I read a lot of blogs about psychology and it doesn’t only help them get clients but it makes them grow professionally and share their wisdom and learning to a much more wider audience through the power of internet.

    • Claudia

      Hajra…thank you for stopping by! You are SO right! Social Media is such a win/win for businesses…it’s not JUST about the new customers/clients/patients that you may attract…it is also (and equally important) about the relationships you make, both professional and personal, that can help you on your journey as a person and as an entrepreneur!
      Thank you for the lovely comment Hajra!!

  • Pinterest Marketing Pro

    Thanks for sharing! It’s so exciting to see how many other companies are jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon, thanks for sharing! I’ll admit that as a marketer I was a little bit hesitant at first about joining this latest social media sensation but after coming across so many resources about how awesome it is, it’s been a tremendous help to my biz. An excellent Pinterest Influencer Network I’ve come across that’s been really helpful worth mentioning is PinLeague. Hope this helps and thanks!

    • Claudia

      Thank you @Pinterest Marketing Pro! I appreciate your taking the time to read my post and your very thoughtful comment! Pinterest has become a very important social media platform for my business. It is a great way to make people aware of, not only your website, but of what you are trying to share with people in terms of information. As a dentist, if I want to write an article about the importance of flossing, I always make sure to include a relevant and sometimes fun photo to go with my post. I then make sure that I “pin” that photo so that this hopefully intriguing photo will stir up some curiosity and lead people to my article. Pinterest is not just about recipes and fashion….it offers SO much more than that and I am a huge fan! Thanks again for stopping by!!

  • Winchester based dentists

    Social media is a must these days… It seems every company has a FaceBook and Twitter profile, at least. If you don’t keep up it’s often you will get left behind.
    We have been trying various techniques regarding social media but it seems to be a bit hit and miss!

    • Claudia

      Hi @CBDentistry Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate that! You are right…social media IS a must…it isn’t going away and it is only going to get better and become an even more effective marketing tool. You are also right that so many companies create a Facebook Page and a Twitter account…sadly, what often happens is that these accounts get forgotten or, at the very least, under utilized. Maintaining your social media presence does take time and patience and consistency is a really important ingredient in it’s success. I am so glad to hear that you are trying various techniques…sometimes it takes a few misses to find the right combination for your office. Please let me know if I can help you in any way with your Social Media endeavors! Thanks again for your kind comment!

  • Ioannis

    It’s been a year I started my personal ‘dental’ website. I was so excited my patient to say they find my telephone number in my page on the ‘net’ and not from the ‘local’ phonebook directory. I ‘just’ found that I so ‘much’ agree with Claudia when I read this post.

    • Claudia

      Hello @i_odontiatros ! Thank you for stopping by to read my post and thank you also, for taking the time to comment! Congratulations on creating your dental website! It takes time and effort, but as you have found out, it can be so rewarding! How wonderful that patients are finding you via the web. You should be proud of yourself and your efforts! Thank you for the kind words! Good luck as you continue on your social media journey for your practice!

  • Out of This World Dentistry

    I love this post. I think dentists can benefit tremendously from social media. And another huge help would search engine optimization efforts, including SEO, local SEO, and Pay-Per-Click. These will get a dentistry skyrocketing on Google.

    • Jack Hadley

      I agree with your comment, Out of This World Dentistry (wish you would just use your real name, if you are really a person). However, it is really important that dental practices understand the difference between TRUE social media engagement with existing and prospective patients and SEO tactics. They are VERY different things. Mix the two at your peril. I just wrote a post about it. Would love to hear your take: http://mysocialpractice.com/2013/05/dental-social-media-website-vs-hub Thanks.

      • Claudia

        Hi Jack! Thank you for your compelling comment. I read your article and agree with you. There ARE those few dental businesses out there that can and do make that sometimes challenging integration of creative website content and social media presence. I’d like to think that my dental business is one of those ( we are in the process of remodeling our website, but here is the current version http://ParkRidgeDDS.com ) Doing both takes time, vision, creativity, and passion…and not all business owners want to be bothered. In those circumstances, I completely agree…guide your patients over to your social media platforms of choice…get them engaged and get them to spread the word. At the end of the day, in the world of social media, it is all about authentic engagement.
        Thanks again for your great input!

        • Jack Hadley

          Thanks for sharing the URL to your practice’s blog, Claudia. You’re right… Your practice is doing an AWESOME job creating original content and doing the work necessary to get traction. Congratulations. Looking forward to continuing to learn from you. Please stay in touch.

    • Claudia

      Thanks for the comment Out of This World Dentistry. Social media is still such a new kid on the block for most small businesses that, like Jack Hadley said, it is important to assure that businesses understand the difference between social media as a part of your marketing strategy and SEO enhancement. While content is the name of the game in both, with social media, the content is in the form of credible and authentic (over-used, I know) engagement.

  • Bao

    Very helpful tips. I am working hard to get quality content on my website as well. Social media is still tough for me because of time constraints. I will try to implement some of the tips that you suggest above.

    • Claudia

      Hi Bao! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comment! Being mindful and aware of the need for good and relevant content is really the most important thing…you are really on the right track! Time constraints are truly the most difficult challenge. If you can’t do all of the social media work yourself, take a look at the strengths of the people that you work with…maybe you have a social media star in your presence and you didn’t even know it! Let them shine so that you can do what you need to do to keep your business busy!!
      Thanks again for reading this post!!

  • Ethan Sophia

    Really social Media is the new way of promoting your Business and every business we think could’ grow with this.
    keep posting

    • Claudia Anderson, DDS

      Thanks for stopping by Ethan Sophia. You are so right…social media is definitely one of the fabulous ways that you can promote your business. By adding social media to your marketing strategy, a dental office or any business could potentially see growth and an increase in visibility!

      Thanks for your kind comment!!

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