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Online social networking isn't just for kids anymore. For instance, Facebook, originally conceived by a Harvard student as a student network, showed a 276% increase in its 35- to 54-year-old demographic for the second half of 2008; the 55+ demographic was not far behind, with a 194% growth rate.
Tapping into this trend, 15% of respondents to LMT's Marketing Survey are participating in social networking opportunities. By posting blogs, using Twitter and being on Facebook, LinkedIn, mySpace, Plaxo and industry bulletin boards, they're finding yet another way to connect with clients.
"Social networking is a simple, inexpensive way to disseminate information on upcoming courses, promotions and new materials at the click of a mouse. While we don't expect to be able to quantify detailed results from these efforts, our expectation is that our website, blog and Facebook page build our brand and get our name out there. We want to be the first lab anyone thinks of when a dentist is ready for a new relationship," says Jim Thacker, vice president, Utah Valley Dental Lab, in Provo, Utah, who notes that many of his dentists check their Facebook pages more often than their regular e-mail. "It's been an effective tool with time-sensitive case communication." (http://www.uvdl.com or Utah Valley Dental Lab on Facebook)
Pride Dental Studio in Conway, Arkansas also has a page on Facebook, which has proven to be an effective networking tool. "I have one client who uses Facebook and I've been able to get a foot in the door with some of her dentist-friends who are also on the site. They can see what our laboratory is doing and share in the general banter back and forth with our client, which give them a sense of security about us being a face and a person rather than just a business," says James Jarrett, co-owner. (http://www.pridedentalstudio.com or Pride Dental on Facebook.)
Taking advantage of another method of online broadcasting, Saylors Dental Laboratory added a blog to its website (http://www.saylorsdentallab.com) three months ago to run commentary on what President/Owner Jeff Saylors has learned through research, attendance at industry seminars, experimenting with CAD systems, etc. "I think it gives us an opportunity to provide kinetic marketing--it's not static in that the content is different every time a client or prospect visits our site," says Saylors. Initially receiving positive feedback, he's hopeful that after an official launch--complete with usable downloads and a monthly web special--traffic will increase substantially. "The key question is will that traffic turn into new business?"
The Online Watercooler
Twitter--known for relaying short messages, aka "Tweets" of 140 characters or less, across the internet and mobile devices--is appealing because of its immediacy and the brevity of exchanges. In social networking terms, it's often compared to cocktail party or watercooler conversations.
Eight months ago, Marty York, CDT, manager of Legacy Dental Lab in Rochester, New York, put up a Twitter page (http://www.twitter.com/legacydental) and now has 180 dentists who are followers. He offers coupons and sends tweets such as "Been doing a lot of implants and lithium disilicate (e.Max) lately. Are PFMs going the way of the dinosaur or is it the cost of gold?" to start conversations. "We're continuing to get followers. Now, has any of the web stuff paid off? Not directly but, still, it creates a greater awareness among doctors who might be looking for a laboratory," says York. (http://www.legacydentallab.com)
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