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We’ve received a lot questions about our social media strategy since Loic Le Meur’s recent visit to our San Francisco dental office, which he followed up with his thought-provoking post, “Does my dentist really need a Facebook fan page, YouTube channel and a Twitter account?”.

Let me first introduce myself. I’m Robert Vaksman; Dr. Irena Vaksman’s husband. I assist with the office’s online presence, so I thought it appropriate to respond to the question posed by Loic. Sorry for not keeping it short and pithy, and for possibly restating some of the points already made by Loic and others, but I wanted to contribute our thoughts on this very cool subject; namely, medical professionals using social media to connect with patients.
Thanks to Loic for starting this interesting and definitely positive discussion, which poses a very relevant and timely question. It’s actually incredible to grasp that a small business can get insightful commentary on its strategies from so many voices! We’re also sincerely glad to hear that Loic had a great experience in the office, as that our top priority.
Ok – on to the question at hand: “Does my dentist really need a Facebook fan page, YouTube channel and a Twitter account”? In short, and in my humble opinion, YES! Even if they are not actively updating each and every online asset? In short, and still in my humble opinion, yes…perhaps. BUT, for us, being online and inactive is just a hypothetical question, because we completely intend to become more engaged.
Before going further, I think that a little background and context on our business is first required. Although Irena has many years of experience, she just moved her practice to San Francisco less than a year ago. The dental office is on the 23rd floor of medical-dental building located in the heart of downtown San Francisco, just blocks from Union Square. Essentially then, the office was opened during a tremendous economic slump, in an ultra-competitive area with no retail presence, and we’re literally surrounded by hundreds of other dentists who have years of existing patients (and referrals) to rely upon. A little bit of an uphill battle, one could suggest. We thought so too, but we also knew that with the right team – and vision – we could succeed despite the challenges.
Since opening, we have primarily focused on establishing a great team and perfecting the patient experience. As a starting point, we had to establish how we differ, which I believe we summarize with our tag line, “Modern Dentistry with a Caring Team”. In this respect, from a service and professional perspective, my hat goes off to my amazingly talented wife (non-biased opinion, I promise). Having worked in multiple states, within multiple practice types, Irena has seen it all, and thus has a clear vision of how to provide a quality patient experience, both clinically and personably. Her experiences set the tone for our office and staff (who are amazing as well), yet, who will know that Irena is a great San Francisco dentist unless we tell people about it, and unless we help those same people to continue talking about it to their acquaintances?
From a strategic business perspective, I hope that most of you will agree that any business, big or small, must maintain an online presence. So why wouldn’t we choose to be in as many places online as possible? We want to be part of, or at least provide our patrons access to an online conversation, wherever that patron may be (Facebook, Twitter, our website, etc.).
“But you’re not having the conversation!”, you might say. “And, not having a conversation, while maintaining multiple properties might actually be a hindrance”, one might add. Correct…perhaps.
On the one hand, I do believe that even if we continued our (relative) inactivity online, it would still be worth it to extend the brand as much as possible. Why? Among other good reasons: transparency. Open lines of direct communication through multiple channels will keep us on our toes and “shrink the emotional distance” between our patients and our team.
That said, and although we’ve so far only passively participated on Facebook (by pulling in a testimonial feed from our reputational site), we fully intend to be more vocal on Facebook – and our other venues. Perhaps we should have done so sooner, but we wanted to first focus on building a great looking, branded and conversion-friendly online presence (btw, thanks to Hugh Briss for our Facebook/Twitter/YouTube graphics). Indeed, we are still fine tuning the strategy and figuring out which social media venues make the most sense.  So far, we’ve seen that a combo of our website + Facebook + YouTube is worked well (based on initial feedback from patients, and site analytics), but we’re also playing with Twitter and LinkedIn to see how those platforms may fit into the equation.  I believe that any good business strategy should remain dynamic, and social media thus becomes a matter of trial and error, a stage we are in now.
Loic, Ustream up next?