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Five Facebook Blunders

Think about the last time you were at a party, and you were talking to someone,  and all you could think about was how quickly you could extricate yourself from that conversation.  Why? Because that person was not interesting!  Well, the same applies to your Facebook page. Which is why the biggest Facebook blunder you can make is:


Your posts should be engaging, fun, playful, humorous, friendly and sometimes informative. They should have photos 99% of the time. Or video. And the way you know that they are interesting is that your patients share them, or comment on them, or at least click “like” on them.  If you are wondering what to post, read this blog.

There is another reason to make sure that your Facebook posts are engaging. Many people think that if you post something, it shows up on all your friends or followers walls.  That is not how Facebook works.  Facebook calculates something called “affinity”, which measures how often people read, share, comment and like a post from someone, and the more often that happens, the more frequently they show up on that person’s wall.  And if it is very infrequent, then your posts won’t show up at all.  Which is also why it’s a mistake to:


If someone has posted something or commented on your post, you must ALWAYS reply.  To ignore it is the equivalent of someone telling you how great you look today and you just nod. Actually, it’s worse than that.  You can lose patients over it. Across all industries it’s estimated that 15% of customers are lost because the business did not respond to a comment or question. Basically, it’s rude.

As a side note, make sure that anyone can post on your Facebook page. You don’t want to block it in any way in your set-up.  Don’t worry, you can delete any post you don’t like. The next blunder would be:


I believe it’s a huge mistake to do a lot of posts about dentistry.  Dentistry is mostly not fascinating to people. They are looking to Facebook to find out what the experience is of being in your practice. If you look at online reviews, very few of them relate to a clinical treatment. The majority are about what it was like to be in that practice and interact with the dentist and team members. This applies to Facebook as well. Show them how fun and friendly and caring you are, not how to floss and why they would like implants.

But even if your posts are good, it doesn’t matter if you’re:


The number of likes you have matters. As a pure number, it makes an impression, but also it relates to your exponential reach online.  The average person has 130 friends on Facebook, so every time you add ten likes you’ve potentially reached 1,300 people. Marketing is a numbers game, and this is how to win it.

Check-ins matter also. Many dentists don’t think people do this, but the fact is that when a practice first signs up for ReputationMonitor, we find that more than 8% of their patients have checked in to their practice on Facebook, on their own, without any encouragement.

The other reason you want to be doing this is because Facebook is now searchable, and the more of these you have the more you will appear in search results. Read about Facebook’s Graph Search here for more detail on that.

And lastly, because of everything else I’ve mentioned so far, this last blunder should be obvious:


Nothing bothers readers more than posts written by posers. It’s nearly impossible to create a genuine, authentic feel to posts when you don’t work at the practice.  Some of these companies are creating the posts with automated programs, or they’re cramming a lot of dental content in to make you think it’s what should be there.

That said, I believe you should assign social media to someone as part of their job in the office. Not the dentists, because there are better uses of their time (drilling!) They can participate occasionally, and should certainly read what’s posted, but let the Facebook geeks in the office handle social media.

You can also use a resource like, a great service by my Internet pal Jack Hadley, where they will give you daily suggestions on what to post on Facebook–as opposed to writing them for you. They also offer valuable guidance on social media, and even provide interesting office displays encouraging patients to like your practice.

And now, get social!

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Love the Dentist? Depends Where You Live

We do a lot of consumer research at 1-800-DENTIST, and recently we did a nationwide survey on attitudes towards dentists and dentistry. This wasn’t done just with people who called our service, but was a random sampling across the country.  We learned some interesting things.

First, more than 65% of Californians have a regular dentist.  This is higher than the national average, and almost the reverse of certain southern states, namely Mississippi and Alabama, where nearly 70% of the population do not have a regular dentist, and only seek one in an emergency situation.Girl at dds shtrstck

On another note, more than half of dental patients in New York that we surveyed were unhappy with their dentist. Are people just crankier in New York?  Because over 65% were happy with their current dentists in California.  It’s not like they don’t have a choice to change dentists in New York.  They certainly don’t have to go all the way to California to find a dentist they like.

There are wide variations in dental behavior all across the country, and we have learned from answering millions of calls from people looking for a dentist that their expectations are also quite varied.  In some parts of the country the majority of people expect someone else to pay for their dental care, and in other cities and neighborhoods the primary concern is the level of care and expertise of the dentist and practice, regardless of cost.

How can there be so much variation around the country?  We all watch the same TV shows and movies, with actors with great smiles, why is it so acceptable in so many places to neglect yourself until it’s an emergency, and even then an extraction is the requested treatment?

My only conclusion is that it’s cultural, and that culture can be very localized. And I do see the consciousness shifting in the consumer mindset, but it’s gradual, and was certainly set back in 2008 when many people in the middle and lower classes lost a good portion of their discretionary income, and paying for their dental care became a financial impossibility.

It seems unlikely that the Affordable Care Act, which is already a Frankenstein of various conflicting solutions, as it mutates and is either gutted, revised or replaced, will ever encompass much in terms of dental care.  It does currently require that most children be covered by 2018 (after another presidential election).

And therein lies the solution, I believe. It starts with children, as most cultural shifts do.  We need as an industry, as a nation, to do our level best to help children to, first, not be afraid of seeing a dentist (that usually means keeping the parent out of the operatory) and to be much more concerned about neglecting and damaging their teeth.  We are making valiant stabs at this, by eliminating sugared drinks in schools, and in California, for example, a child cannot begin the first grade without having seen a dentist, but much more needs to be done.

Our goal should be a complete shift within a generation, so that 99% of American children brush, floss and see a dentist regularly, and like the dentist they go to.  And that they know what damages their teeth, and what protects them.  It’s probably going to be done practice by practice, since I don’t expect there will be a national awareness campaign anytime soon. (Maybe the next First Lady will take it on!)

Our company is going to keep promoting dentistry, and expanding our ad budget, but I think it will take an increased focus by individual practices all across the country to make this tectonic shift occur.  I hope you’re with me, and I welcome your thoughts and comments on this.


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Dentistry Is Subjective Health Care

What exactly do I mean by that?  Isn’t it a health science? Not in the consumer’s mind, unfortunately.

First, appearance is a very subjective issue for people.  Some care to an intense level about their teeth–how straight, how white, how much gum recession–and others can be comfortably missing number 9 and don’t even wonder what people are staring at.  Those are the extremes, but we know that patients are all over the map when it comes to their dental care, most leaning toward neglect and procrastination.Hand over mouth

And what’s worse is that since people mostly have to pay for their own dentistry, they often make very serious oral health care decisions based almost entirely on cost. This is in contrast to the rest of their bodies, where someone is going to fix whatever’s wrong at whatever cost, as long as they pay the co-payment.  So they rationalize their irrational, short-term thinking.

And lastly, enamel is tough. It takes a lot of abuse, and the damage is so gradual that most often it goes un-noticed for decades.

So the burden is on the dentist and the team to amplify the value of good dentistry in the patient’s mind.  And you also have to help them take a long-term view of their body.  Every six months we hear of some new connection between oral and overall health, the latest linking perio disease and Alzheimer’s.  But people smoke, eat low-nutrition food and don’t save money simply because they don’t consider the long-term effects of their actions.

So how do you do change this?  Education? I’m going to take a radical view on this, and say “no”.  At least not at the outset.  People already know they should eat right and save money. But we are 40% obese and only 3% of the population retires financially secure.  I suggest that education comes second. Remember your favorite teacher in high school? Didn’t you learn the most in that class?  Same concept.

Which brings me back to the idea that dentistry is subjective. I think it starts with the experience of being in your dental practice. And I don’t mean the clinical experience, for the most part. I mean the atmosphere, the attitude of your team, the design of your office.  My previous blog talks about having a remarkable team, and this is the cornerstone of that patient experience.  I believe that having a great dental practice is what opens people’s mind to a long-term view of their oral health.

The most successful dentists I know have high treatment acceptance not because they educate their patients extremely well.  Many times the patient doesn’t know much at all about the treatment itself (or doesn’t even want to know).  But they like their dentist.  They like going to her office. They like the people who work there.

And here’s something else: they get the sense that everyone in the practice genuinely cares about them.  As human beings, not just as patients. And not just as a source of income.

So if we really want to help patients, we have to understand their psychology, and accept that to persuade them that their teeth are important, we can’t come at the problem directly.  And realize that by creating an environment that is fun, comfortable, convenient and filled with compassionate people we open their minds, and their hearts, to taking care of their teeth.  And that lays the foundation for the second step, educating them.

And let’s not forget that social media has become an excellent way for you to demonstrate what the experience of your dental practice is like, and for your patients to do it as well.  Comments on Facebook, photos of happy patients, video testimonials and online reviews are all essentially revolutionary ways that people can discover what it’s like to be a patient of yours.

The general population sees dentistry as something that can easily be avoided or ignored, and that their teeth don’t have to be straight, their gums can bleed (“That’s normal, right?”), and their breath can be disgusting.  But we know better.  And knowing better hasn’t done us much good. We’re a lot like life insurance salesmen, trying to get people to think long-term and about something unpleasant at the same time. Tough combination.

So let’s try a different approach.  Outsmart people for their own good, and offer them a dental practice they can’t resist.  Hey, it might be kind of fun to work at a place like that, too!


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Two Reasons to Love (and not Hate) Online Reviews

I’ve written about the value of online reviews from an SEO standpoint, and how that will help increase your new patient flow.  But the second aspect is equally valuable: patient feedback.

I recently showed a dentist friend of mine how to use the Patient Activator mobile app, and one of the features is it allows you to see reviews from your patients.  He was surprised to see a comment that a patient made about him touching her head during treatment.  He does this almost reflexively to relax patients.  He told me no one has ever complained about this in 20 years.

The PatientActivator mobile app also lets you see your schedule and patient callback numbers.

The PatientActivator mobile app also lets you see your schedule and patient callback numbers.

That last point is the hidden value of online reviews—valuable feedback that a patient would normally not give you face to face.  Information that will tell you why patients left, why they didn’t accept treatment, how they feel about the dentists and the team members.  This is all incredibly useful, however painful it may be to hear.

My friend contacted the patient in question (who, by the way, insists on hugging my friend at the beginning an end of each appointment, and will even wait outside an operatory until he can come out and do so—further proof that dental patients are crrrraaaazy!) and they resolved the issue.  And now he is more conscious of people’s reactions.

We know that the search engines, i.e., Google, Bing and Yahoo, like reviews. A lot.  They like them on their own websites, and they like to find them elsewhere. A steady stream of reviews increases your relevance as a search result.  This means that when people are searching for a dentist, they can discover what people think about you and the experience of being in your practice.

This of course leads to more new patients.  Those patients may also find you by directly going to review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and  And very often, if they don’t find any reviews for you, they will simply move on and look at another practice.  And, if your reviews are not recent, they will also put that in the negative column.  Remember that even word-of-mouth patients are often checking your reviews (and their friend’s recommendations!) along with your website before deciding to see you.  It’s a new world.

But this second value of candid patient critique is often overlooked.  And it also wasn’t previously available to you.  When a patient left unsatisfied or disgruntled, most likely you just never heard from them again.  Now, if you’re lucky, they write a review.  “Lucky?” you say. “They’re ruining my reputation!”  Not really, not if you follow my strategy for dealing with negative online reviews.

Besides, wouldn’t you want to know if everyone thinks the your front desk person is a witch?  Or that you always seem to be running late?

Let’s face it–you’re not perfect. Why not find out what you’re doing wrong, or what you could be better at?  If several patients comment that you are only interested in making money, then it seems pretty clear that you are not creating value for your dentistry in the patient’s mind before you hit them with the cost.

I know it’s painful to hear negative feedback. Nobody likes it.  But the wise person swallows their pride and reflects on what is being said.  Think of the value of hearing comments like this:

“I found a dentist with much newer technology.”

“Their hours were just too inconvenient for my schedule. I found someone with early morning appointments.”

“The dentist recommended one treatment, but then the hygienist told me it wasn’t necessary. Too confusing!”

“They fixed my crown and then they told me how much it was going to cost. It was way more than I expected!”

Couldn’t you learn from each one of these comments?  As much as I believe reviews are of ever-increasing value when attracting new patients, I think the feedback is of equal or even greater value.

The rule of thumb is that for every complaint you hear, there are at least ten people who won’t speak up but feel the same way.

This is one more reason why you need a systematic process of eliciting reviews from your patients. It is much easier if you have PatientActivator, DemandForce, or Revenue Well, those applications that work within your PMS.  They automatically survey your patients and bring back a steady stream of reviews that you can learn from, and you can control where they post. (As opposed to Yelp reviews, for example, which are beyond your control.)  And if you are using a program like PatientActivator, then you are giving the patient a chance to send you comments before they go out and do it somewhere else online.

I recently created a video explaining how PatientActivator works. Take 3 minutes and check it out here!

If you would like to receive my blog by email, simply fill in the box up on the right and then confirm the email subscription when it is sent to you, and you’ll never miss a post! And relax, I’ll never spam you or sell your email.

Graph Search Makes Facebook Critical for Dentists

When people are searching for a new dentist online, they typically go to three different places to check you out: your website, review sites like Yelp, and social media, mostly Facebook.  A big change to Facebook now makes this third part significantly easier. Last week, the long anticipated Graph Search on Facebook was officially launched.

For those of you who don’t know what this is, I’ll explain.Graph search main info Facebook used to be very hard to search. For example, if you wanted to know if any of your friends knew a good Polish restaurant in Manhattan, you essentially had to go to each friend’s profile and look through their “likes”. Or you posted a request on your wall and hoped people answered.

Now Facebook works just like Google, with some interesting variations. You can search for anything: photos of the Grand Canyon, restaurants in Duluth, or videos of narwhals, and it will show you what your friends have posted. And, as you enter your search request, it offers suggestions.

See all the choices it offers?

See all the choices it offers?

So now, anyone can find anything any friend ever posted (unless they block Graph Search). That’s a big deal. If you don’t think so, keep in mind that 70% of the US population now uses social media, and with 18-34 year-olds, 48% of them check Facebook when they wake up!

This also shifts your Facebook strategy (if you have one) from posting on a regular basis to a different type of engagement with your patients. Now it’s what they post that matters.

This is what the results will look like, depending on the search criteria.

Graph Search dentists visited
Now they can click on your page and see everything patients and you have put on your wall, and how many patients like your practice.

This should be your new Facebook strategy:

  1. Ask patients to “check in” on Facebook when they come to your office. They can do this on their smartphones. Many of them already do this everywhere they go.
  2. It’s more critical than ever to have patients “like” your Facebook practice page.
  3. Ask patients to post on Facebook while they are in the office, and if they want, post a photo or make a video recommending you.
  4. Your own posts are still very important to show the personal side of your practice. Click here for my blog on what to post.

Sound like a lot?  You’re only asking them to do what many Facebook users already do on a regular basis with all the businesses they use.  You’re just reminding them.  This will also, in time, make advertising on Facebook much more effective for dental practices. I’ll let you know when I think that’s a viable option, and how to best go about it.  But for now, get social!


If you would like to receive my blog by email, simply fill in the box up on the right and then confirm the email subscription when it is sent to you, and you’ll never miss a post! And relax, I’ll never spam you or sell your email.