Aoife O’Neill is in her final year of study at Cork University College. She has written this article because she feels that it is such a relevant important topic in today’s world. The article is about Dentistry in a social media world and the impact it has on us as dental professionals.
The world we live in today is more defined by social media than ever before. Social media influences every part of our lives - where we eat, what we talk about with friends and which health care providers we visit. Public opinion and patients' expectations can be influenced by a single tweet or post. This can have both positive and negative effects on the world of dentistry.
The positive effects are numerous. Businesses can advertise to a wide audience instantaneously. Online competitions can increase awareness of a practices brand. With the introduction of target advertising e.g. on Facebook, dentists can tailor their offers. For example, offering bleaching for those whose relationship status is engaged or dentures to an older age group. A twitter or Facebook feed can be a place for interaction with potential or existing consumers. For example, it could be used as a point for questions and answers such as "what does a root canal involve?" It is a quick and easy way to address patients' concerns or queries. An online feed can also offer real time updates for a practice. A free slot because of a cancellation can be advertised or if a schedule is running late due to an emergency it can let patients know in advance. Another benefit would be the possibility of giving people the option of booking appointments online through an app or on Facebook.
While the benefits of living in a social media world are clear, there can also be negative consequences for the dentistry profession. A good reputation could be ruined in a minute with a slanderous tweet or post. A bad review online, whether warranted or not, can reach a large audience very quickly and affect people's opinion of you and the practice you work in. It is very easy for someone to post something negative online and once it's out on the internet it is there forever. Sharing statuses and retweeting are commonplace and a post can reach a large audience instantaneously.
Another negative impact of this social media frenzy is the blurring of boundaries between professional life and personal life. A dentist can see a patient out on a Saturday night and a photo of them together drinking could hit Facebook the same night. Dentists and their staff can often find themselves in an uncomfortable position and be 'friended' by their patients on Facebook. Another issue is that twitter and some Facebook and Instagram feeds are a public platform. A picture of a dentist drinking the night before work could not only impact patient opinion but could be brought to the attention of the General Dental Council.
All in all, this social media involved world we live in can be both a blessing and a curse. It is important to utilise such outlets but at the same time be wary that what you say or what patients say can reach a large number of people very quickly and cannot be taken back once it's out there. Social media is not going anywhere so to be successful as a dentist today we should embrace it to its full potential.
University College Cork
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