Social marketing and the Great Flossing Scare

Posted on August 29, 2016 POSTED UNDER:



1. The top 5 examples of social marketing versus anti-social marketing

2. What percentage of your patients research health stuff on the Internet before they ever get to your surgery

3. A guide to best practices in social media for dentists



Were you a part of the response to the GREAT FLOSSING SCARE? The GREAT FLOSSING SCARE (sorry about the shouty capital letters, but I wanted it to sound dramatic) was a great example of the difference between social marketing and anti-social marketing, and the opportunities created by new technology.


At the start of August this year, the US Health Department decided to not include flossing as one of its daily recommendations on its website. Loads of journalists who (I suspect) felt guilty about never flossing wrote all these stories about how we didn’t have to floss anymore, because it wasn’t scientific!


A few websites were quick to point out that just because you can’t double-blind test the effectiveness of flossing doesn’t mean you should stop it. I know my Facebook feed was filled with friends either celebrating the end of flossing-guilt, or pointing out the silliness of the original article.


But none of those articles I read were from dentists. Which surprised me. Surely this is exactly what digital and social marketing for dentists is all about.


Why social marketing is important

Some statistics came out last week which underlined the importance of social marketing for health professionals. The stats came from a survey conducted by NPS MedicineWise, and they reinforced the idea that the first medical professional your patients consult is Dr Google.


The 2016 survey of 1,007 Australian respondents aged 18 and over was conducted online by Galaxy Research in July and August 2016. Three out of five people (58 per cent) admitted they will sometimes or always look up information about health conditions on the internet to avoid going to see a health professional—with this number increasing to almost four in five people (79 per cent) in the younger age category of 18-34 year olds.


A few years ago, in another survey conducted for the organisation, that number was only about 33 per cent.


The survey also showed that one in five Australians (20 per cent) said they would use Facebook to try to find answers to questions they have about medicines.


When anti-social behaviour is actually social

It’s not just that we’ve all become slaves to our smartphones. I think those numbers reflect the fact that we tend to use our smartphones and Facebook accounts to keep in touch with a wider group of friends than ever before.


I know I do. I can dimly remember the ancient days at the beginning of the 21st century when we just accepted that we sometimes fell out of touch with people. Now we don’t have to.


And there’s a lot of good in that.


But the price we pay for that is having it all mediated through the screen.

And you can lament that … or you can join in.


Who is your community?

We all use social media to connect with each other online for organising parties, sport and social events for ourselves and our families.


We’ll also use it to connect with brands we like, magazines and newspapers we enjoy reading, and music and films that move us.


As has always been the case, no two people have exactly the same ‘community’—when I say that, I mean the exact same combination of friends, interests, and local concerns. Social media and the web make it possible, however, to have some kind of connection across any number of areas rather than focusing on just one.


Dental connections

I’ve spoken to many dentists who say to us, ‘why should I bother having a social media presence? Why would anyone want to read an article from a dentist on their Facebook page?’


I tell them they’re partly right—no-one is going on to Facebook to learn about your practice. However, many people in a community of parents are interested in oral health for children. And they will share information on that topic from someone they trust.


There are also many people in the community of single twenty-something professionals who are interested in teeth whitening. And many people in other groups interested in other things that happen to line up with services you offer.


So to make it easier, I thought I’d compile this list of what social marketing is, and what anti-social marketing is, so you can use it as a ready reckoner.

And how many things you do on social media are in the anti-social marketing list?


SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Using your blog to give readers (and search engines) the benefit of your knowledge

ANTI-SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Ignoring all media entirely


SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Using Facebook to draw people to your website

ANTI-SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Using Facebook just to sell stuff, and advertise your practice.


SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Having something useful to contribute to the conversation

ANTI-SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Having nothing to say about your areas of expertise


SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Being connected to your community

ANTI-SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Having no likes or friends on your page beyond people employed by your practice


SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Welcoming people back to your website (where you can establish and deeper and more meaningful connection with them)

ANTI-SOCIAL MARKETING IS: Only interacting on the social media platform.


Where to go next?

If you want to know more about the correct way to use Facebook for social marketing, download our free eBook on How to Attract Patients with Facebook. Or if you’ve already done that, sign-up for our regular newsletter by filling in the box that’s popped up down in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.


100 keywords for dentists

Rob Johnson

Rob is the co-founder of Bite magazine and Vet Practice magazine. He writes and gives talks about content marketing, and leads a team of good-looking and stylish content folk from their Sydney HQ.

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