I’m in the vast minority of dentists when it comes to Twitter. Most of my colleagues (and for quite a long time I agreed with them) consider Twitter nonsensical.

Awhile back I was speaking in front of an audience of dentists and asked for a raise of hands. How many of you are on Facebook? Out of 50 dentists probably six hands went up.

How many of you are on LinkedIn? About four hands.

And how many on Twitter? I and one young lady way in the back were the only ones.

After the presentation a few friends came up and chided me about my questions. Essentially they wanted to know why I was wasting my time on Twitter. Permit me to explain some of my reasons in this post.

If you are a dentist, a physician, an attorney, an accountant, or in any sort of small business, I think you need to take a serious look at Twitter.

But before we go too far about Twitter, let me first be very clear.

This element of social networking, like all other aspects of Internet interactivity, does not work in a vacuum and is not the best or sole solution to generating new patients or customers. In fact, if you get only one thing out of this whole post let it be the following. If you do not have a quality personal website, that should be your first order of business.

The problem with most dentist websites is they are cookie-cutter. They give out some information, but do not explain who you are, what you think and why you are unique. That’s because you turned control over to others who are not dentists. They can help, but they cannot be you – and that is what someone who is seeking a dentist is really looking for.

Here is another problem with most dentist information on the Internet, especially those with no websites. Most of their information is provided by search engine websites that will direct traffic away from some dentists and toward others who are paying them to do just this. How ironic that someone might type in your name to search for you and that they will find websites working to influence them to go to someone else. Therefore, if you are passive about your presence on the Internet, let this be a wake up call. Your passivity could be costing you thousands of dollars a year. I suggest you type in your name on Google and see what pops up. If you have a website and it is buried on page two, you have a big problem.

Now Back to Twitter. What is it?

Think of Twitter as brief transmissions that have the potential to carry important content.

The power of Twitter is immediacy. It can tell you in real time what people are doing and thinking. Its challenge, because of the transmission traffic is to be able to filter through the noise. Fortunately, it is built into Twitter to help you not only find what you are looking for, but also show you information you might not know exists. In this way it has the potential of putting you ahead of the news cycle.

How we normally get information (without Twitter).

Method #1: We are Informed Passively.

All passive information (stuff we are not specifically searching for) comes to us pre-filtered. People are usually deciding what to tell us based upon time, size and cost limitations.  For example, on television nightly news, all news stories are competing with other news stories based upon educated guesses having to do with audience interest. If it turns out a lot of people were interested in the topics the TV station decided to play, then they will see their ratings grow — which then reflects how much they will be able to charge advertisers. And as for the advertisers (also in the business of broadcasting passive messages to a wide mostly uninterested audience), their content will compete with other advertiser content based on potential product revenue and what each one is willing to pay for the time slot.

Print media, whether published magazines and journals or web-based operate by similar rules.  When your next magazine or journal arrives, you will scan it to see if there is anything you think worth your time to read. And if you are like me you are way behind looking at every magazine and journal that crosses your desk. For the most part, as dentists looking for cutting edge dental information, we have to primarily use the next method.

Method #2: We Search for the Information We Need.

If you find a valuable article in that journal you were passively scanning, your next step might be to study its listed citations for other articles on the same subject. Also you may do a word or author search in a search engine like Google or Medline in order to dig even deeper. All of this takes a great deal of time and effort (and I’m not knocking it).

But what if you have an ongoing interest in a particular subject – and let’s make it broad and say it is dentistry itself. This is where Twitter comes in.

Twitter Connects You with Experts.

Instead of searching for information, what if you searched for experts? Rather than doing all the digging yourself, what if you could ask these experts what you should do or where you should go for the best information about your area of interest? And what if you could discover interesting information simply coming to you from or through these experts with little effort on your part?

With this in mind let’s think through how Twitter works. First you sign on and give some description of who you are and what your interests are. Next you can search around those topics of interest using the hash mark (#) or just typing words into the search box. What will come back to you are tweets (small transmissions that include that word or topic) either from people nearby or all over the world. From there you look at some of these transmissions which then take you to the people sending them.

As you study the Twitter information about these individuals, you are able to consider whether or not they would be worth hearing from again in the future (should you follow them or not?).  To help you decide whether or not to follow, you can click on their tweets and see what they generally write about. You can also look at who follows them and who they are following. By going through this process you will discover some true experts on your topic of interest. (A good hint will be that more people are following them than they are following). At this point you might decide to follow them. This will mean that in a loose sense you will have access to what they are doing daily – and part of what they will be doing will likely be thinking about the same subjects of your interest. Following them also means you can find them easily any time you feel like it and see all of their transmissions at one time.  The good news is that none of this takes a great deal of your time.

But this is only the beginning. After you are following people, you will discover people who wish to follow you. Don’t get too carried away with this. Some will want to follow you in order to sell you something or with the hope you will follow them back. When you follow them back they look bigger to others, etc. In general, to you a dentist in private practice, the audience you most want to attract will be those who could potentially become your patients. If you make it a point to provide them good content in time many will follow you. This is not to say you can’t comment on a great movie you just saw or where someone can find great bananas, but in general I think you will want to stick to your area of expertise.

Also, as I said above, those who find you on Twitter who live nearby will most likely next visit your website. When you signed up for Twitter, one of the things could do was put your website address. When people click on your name they will be taken to your bio page and there they will find your website link.

The Next Level of Twitter

Once you have a handle on following and tweeting your own information, consider responding directly to the tweets of others. Now you are engaging with experts and followers in a way that opens the conversation up for others to follow and interact with you. In this way Twitter can become a conversation around information that is interesting to you and the small community that will form around you.

Which leads me to the following observation – dentists who are only interested in themselves or dentistry will not get that far in Twitter or other social media sites. At some level you have to be interested in what your community is interested in.

So that, in my opinion, is how Twitter can work for dentists.

One final thought.

Twitter should be fun so lighten up. If you generally take yourself seriously my guess is you will not go through the initial confusion that necessarily comes with learning the crazy world of Twitter. Some of this really is about learning to enjoy the journey. So now, doctor, you know why I waste (a little of) my time on Twitter. BTW: My Twitter name is benyoungdds.

3 Responses

  1. You make some excellent points. As you mentioned, most dentists who are involved in social media are using Facebook. What most don’t realize is that from a search engine optimization standpoint (getting your website to rank higher in Google, Bing, etc), Twitter is significantly more valuable than Facebook. The reason for this is that the majority of the content on Facebook is not visible/crawlable to the search engines because it is hidden behind logins. However, the major search engines have recently said that they are placing more weight on social signals & Twitter has formed alliances with Google & Bing to feed 100% of their content to them, therefore making Twitter much more search engine friendly than Facebook.

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