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Want to Grow Your Practice with Social Media? Start with Your Why

 By: Dr. Brian Baliwas
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Throughout our lives, we are conditioned to believe numbers and rankings are the only significant indicators of success. In school, we focused on getting good grades and carefully monitored our GPAs every semester. At the gym, we count our reps and time our cardiovascular activities. We continue this trend as dentists, evaluating our hourly/daily production, our new patients marketing sources, and overhead expense percentages. We live in a society obsessed with numeric scores and point systems; however, we often forget the essence behind these metrics.

Stop worrying about numbers

Do high test scores and 4.0 GPAs equate to true comprehension and application of the subject matter? Does our ability to run fast or lift heavy weights indicate how healthy we are? Does having high production numbers and low overhead mean you are a great dentist? It is easy to lose focus and drown in data, only to realize we have lost sight of our initial intent or purpose. Interestingly enough, the same can be said about our social media accounts.

I was recently at a dental meeting when I overheard a dentist boasting about the number of followers he had on his Instagram page. After a quick audit1 of his account, I discovered a follower list full of bots2. His posts were filled with inflated likes and nonsensical comments unrelated to the content. With a follower count that staggering, I can only imagine how much money was spent to boost his numbers. I asked myself, “What purpose does this serve? Does he value genuine engagement, or flashy statistics?”

In complete transparency, I was once an Instagram user whose main mission was to collect as many followers, likes and comments as possible. Instagram is an amazing tool I’ve used to build and market my practice, and in my early days, I thought it was all about the numbers. I would post content and then incessantly monitor how well it would “perform,” constantly refreshing my page to see how my numbers fluctuated. #FeltCute #MightDeleteLater #AmIRight?

I took a step back one day and questioned everything. What draws us to social media and is it worth our time in the first place? Does follower count, or the amount of likes and comments on a post, actually reflect anything meaningful? Simply put, what is our “WHY?”

Find your why

For anyone looking to grow an audience on a social media platform, I encourage you to spend less time scrutinizing (or even worse, buying) meaningless numeric benchmarks. Instead, as Simon Sinek, who wrote Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, would suggest, determine the purpose of your platform. What are your goals? Who are you targeting with your posts? Patients? Other dental professionals? Everyone? No one? Yourself? What do you want from them when you get their attention?

Social media has the potential to have a great impact on the dental profession. We can choose to be genuine, educate and participate in sharing our knowledge and positivity with friends and colleagues on these platforms, or we can choose to ignore our hyper-connectedness and selfishly focus on vanity metrics, follower counts and double-taps4.

In the long run, there are no shortcuts. Rather than focusing on how many followers you have, focus on how many people you have truly connected with via thoughtful responses and direct messages. Engage in meaningful dialogue rather than paying for auto-generated, nonsensical drivel. Develop your social media platform’s core by creating content that is in-tune with your “why” and resonates with your target audience.

Look at the long-term

Once again referencing Simon Sinek, we can grow our audience through manipulation, or we can do it through inspiration. Buying followers and engagement may yield quick, short-term results, but if you are interested in something more worthwhile and sustainable, use your social media account to inspire others through genuine “social” interactions. In the end you’ll be glad you did.

1 Social media accounts can be audited to check the authenticity of followers and engagement. Many free audit programs can be found through a simple Google search.

2 Instagram bots are random users, or fake accounts, that are paid to follow pages and like/comment on posts.

3Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, is a New York Times Best Selling book by Simon Sinek. I suggest you read it if you haven’t already.

4 Double-tapping a post on Instagram is one way to “like” the post.

Dr. Baliwas maintains a private practice in San Francisco, with two locations near Downtown Union Square and the famous Marina district of the City. His practice philosophy is centered on conservative, highly esthetic, comprehensive dentistry that uses modern technology and techniques. He received his DDS from the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, where he graduated with high honors and was elected to join both Omicron Kappa Upsilon and Tau Kappa Omega dental honor societies. He also received several awards for his outstanding clinical work in the areas of esthetic dentistry, oral implantology, restorative dentistry and endodontics.

He is an active member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry, and several study clubs throughout the Bay Area, and also teaches part-time at the University of the Pacific Dental School in the Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences.

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