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I can still remember the day in the early 90”s when my office manager pulled me out of an operatory to tell me that she had received 8 calls this morning asking if Dr. Abernathy had HIV. Imagine what you would do if there were a rumor going around that you had HIV. Ultimately, through a full page newspaper ad and multiple TV and radio interviews, it went away and my practice actually grew through the experience. We even found out that a dentist we had fired started the rumor. Now imagine that happening today, when everything good or bad travels at the speed of a Tweet. The scariest thing I see is doctors and practices that have no idea what patients are saying about them. Reputation management is the single most important form of marketing that you need to understand. Most dentists don’t fully grasp the implications of the transparent world of social media. What people say, good or bad, lives on forever in the world of social digital media.

Back just 10 years ago, reputation management was in its infancy. Today it’s the cornerstone of business strategies for any company or practice, large or small. If you haven’t thought about how to improve, police, and protect what people are saying about you on social media, you are at risk of being blindsided. Just one negative comment by a patient can affect dozens of other potential client’s decision to not frequent your office. Social media is becoming “how you are seen in the community”. We as business owners need a reputation protocol as a necessary part of growth and business. Having a system to prevent problems before they happen is great, but perhaps even more important is a procedure for handling bad reviews, comments, or posts as soon as they arise. It comes down to content development through an ongoing program to create and distribute enough positive comments to push the negative comments to the bottom of the search rankings.

Research by Harvard Business School shows that “each star rating added on a review site can increase revenue by up to 9 percent”. They also said: “74% of consumers shy away from companies and/or people that have negative information online”. We need to come up with a way to rectify any valid issues brought up by patients and, in the case of aggressively negative reviews, we should probably ignore them altogether. We should see online revue sites as a great way to understand and communicate with current and potential patients. Bottom line: We should set a goal to garner as many reviews as possible to paint an accurate picture of our practices, not to try and delete any negative feedback.

So where do you start? I would start with actually typing in an organic search of “reviews for Dr._____________ DDS/DMD in ________________________” (put your name and location in the blanks for the search) and see what pops up. The sequences in which the sites pop up organically are the most important ones based on the utilization of people posting in your area. You likely will see: Health Grades, Vitals, Yelp, Dr.Oogle, RateMds, etc. Secondly, I would use the web sites listed below to check out your practice and name. Actionable analytics on the Web. Gives ranking, backlinks for you and your competitors, click stream data, keyword data, trends, Google alerts on your business name, etc. Search tool that searches the Internet for any conversation being posted about you. Searches forums mentioning you and your practice. Monitor any topic, plus your email address will forward it to you.

If handled correctly, a crisis/bad comment can actually have a positive outcome for a practice. Reassurances can endear a practice to your potential clients. It can be an opportunity to really address problems, and that can be great for your practice. The crux is that it has to be proactive because negative news moves so quickly. We have to improve our practices and protocols thus preventing problems before they arise. This is how you Summit.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
972-523-4660 cell
[email protected]