Zuckerberg teaches dentists social media strategy at CDA Presents

In the 80s and 90s, Edward Zuckerberg, DDS, always disliked the fact that the Yellow Pages was in alphabetical order, for obvious reason – his last name prevented his practice from showing up at the front.

Outside of purchasing an advertisement on a page, it was difficult for him to get noticed in the big yellow book. Instead of print advertising, Zuckerberg utilized word of mouth to get new patients into his Dobbs Ferry, N. Y. practice, providing premium service to build a buzz about him. For example, a patient called him in the middle of the night several years ago, complaining of tooth pain. He threw on some clothes went downstairs to his practice and helped relieve the patient’s pain. Over the course of the next 10 years, this patient referred around 50 patients to his practice, he said.

“Those type of referral patients don’t happen every day,” Zuckerberg told the attendees of his CDA Presents lecture in San Francisco on Sept. 6. “The patients who come in regularly know you and will always be repeat patients. The new ones, they are skeptical and you have to earn their confidence.”

Fast forward to 2014 and Zuckerberg is practicing dentistry on a very limited basis, but he is providing tips on how to harness the power of the modern era Yellow Pages and word of mouth: social media.

“Facebook allows you to harness this power of word–of-mouth recommendations and target your audience,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg knows a thing or two about social media and technology trends. If not for his time spent at the NYU College of Dentistry in the 70s and during his practicing years researching new technology and purchasing one of the first Atari and IBM computers, but also his family ties – he is the father of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. In fact, Mark created his first social network at age 12 in his dad’s dental office, long before Facebook.

“When most kids were lucky to have partial Internet access with one computer shared with all members of the family, Mark did have his own computer and he was not only on the Internet all the time, but he also had network access to other computers and learned how computers could actually be social,” Zuckerberg recalled. “One of the first things he built for us was an inter-operatory communications system called ZuckNet, which allowed the different operatories and the front desk to communicate through the office.”

His son, of course, went on to create Facebook, the social network that now has more than 1 billion monthly active users. Zuckerberg Sr. continued to practice dentistry in Dobbs Ferry from 1981 to 2013. Last year, he moved to California where he now helps dentists take advantage of the marketing aspects of social media, especially Facebook. At CDA Presents, he covered basic and advanced social media marketing and online reputation management.

“Social media affords us an opportunity to portray not only ourselves, but our staff members as real people that our patients can relate with better and enhance the relationship of patients with our office into more of a community,” Zuckerberg said.

According to Zuckerberg, 71 percent of all adults with Internet access in America are on Facebook, while Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn or Instagram grab about 20 percent each. And 63 percent of those on Facbebook are using the platform every day, he said. Zuckerberg showed attendees of his lecture the difference between creating a personal Facebook page and a business page, how to create the right cover photo for a business Facebook page and how to have a practice’s page show up in the Facebook newsfeed, among other topics.

“The newsfeed is our opportunity to provide them with information in their personal newspaper. They can look at it and say, ‘That is good to know, I’m glad my dentist shared that.’ Or they will say, ‘That is funny,’” Zuckerberg said. “Unlike a newspaper that will have all kinds of news, some of which you aren’t interested in, Facebook gives you news you are interested in.”

The average Facebook user has 300 friends and likes 50 pages, which is a lot of competition for a dental office. Zuckerberg discussed Facebook’s algorithm, which gives points to certain features of a post, placing some higher than others in people’s newsfeeds. This is Facebook’s attempt to personalize newsfeeds for its users.

“Facebook knows which individuals or businesses you have engaged with most, so posts from those people and companies carry more weight on someone’s newsfeed,” he said.

Posts that are engaged with the most are the ones that get a lot of likes, comments and shares, Zuckerberg said. A share caries the biggest weight in the algorithm.

“If a patient shares your post, 30 to 50 people who are not fans of your page and not patients are going to see this post from their friend who they trust, which could lead to a patient in your door,” Zuckerberg said. “There is that implied word-of-mouth referral that I had to get up at 3 in the morning for so many years ago.”

So how do dentists make their posts more engaging and “crack” Facebook’s algorithm? Zuckerberg offered these tips:

  1. Keep them short. If you want to write a long post, link to your blog.
  2. The best days to post are Thursdays and Fridays as engagement rates are 18 percent higher on those days.
  3. Use Facebook analytics to find out what time of day to post.
  4. Question posts get more comments, but fewer likes and shares.
  5. 35 percent of Facebook fans like a page so they can participate in contests.
  6. Use attention-grabbing quotes (but make sure to give credit to who said it).
  7. Share some recommended reading.
  8. Share interviews with staff members.
  9. Post company milestones.
  10. Share dates that are fun celebrations.

“Don’t saturate them with non-dental topics, but occasional non-dental topics can be effective,” he said.

If a dentist is involved in the community, they could talk about that as well, Zuckerberg said.

“Dentists are very philanthropic. I have found that there is an incredible amount of dentists who do pro bono work and dentists who participate in Missions of Mercy events and just generally do great stuff that they should be telling patients about,” Zuckerberg said. “Facebook is a chance to get the word out and portray yourself as more than just a driller and filler.”

CDA Resources

CDA Practice Support’s Guide for the New Dentist has a chapter dedicated to social media. It is important to consider copyright laws that protect photos, videos, graphics, music and text published on the Internet. Dentists should remember that citing or crediting the original copyright owner does not grant freedom to use content without obtaining documented permission to do so. Even “shareware” or “royalty-free” media such as clip art requires users to read and accept the terms of use agreement. Dentists should review the provisions of any user agreement to ensure they do not use material in a way that violates the contract.

The Guide for the New Dentist recommends dentists ensure any official social media account is created under their name, email and security settings. Otherwise, the control of their online presence may not stay with their practice if an employee leaves.

Dentists should also be aware that it is important not to respond to any reviews online due to potential HIPAA violations. By responding to a patient in an online forum, the dentist is disclosing that he or she is a patient. Dentists can instead try to resolve any issues privately with a patient and see what can be done to remedy the issue he or she has with the practice.

Members also can call the TDIC Risk Management Advice Line at 800.733.0634 for personal support from risk management experts.