Social Networking – the future of Dental Practice

Social Networking for Dentists – Made Easy!!
By Dan Marut, DMD

By now you’ve probably heard of Facebook and/or MySpace. If you are
really techno savvy you may have written a blog and heard of Twitter.
You may even have heard of NewDocs. As a dentist you are a practitioner
taking care of patients and enhancing your clinical skills. As a manager
you oversee a team of health care providers. As a business owner you
are charting the course of your business and leading it into the future.
The reality is most dentists don’t have the time to learn what all the
hoopla about social networking means and what the implication is for
them personally, other dentists, and dentistry as a profession.
I wrote this to shed light on the social networking phenomenon and to be
used as a guide for dentists navigating the current social networking
What is a social network?
Social networking has been around for ages. For as long as humans have
walked the earth we have been social creatures. We pride ourselves on
family and form groups in order to survive. These groups not only allow
us to survive but also thrive leading to new ideas and innovations.
Social groups, which used to be mostly physical and local in nature,
encompass everything from Rotary clubs to bowling leagues. With the
advent of the internet, people all of the sudden had the world at their
finger tips. My dad, who is 72, said to me, “The internet is amazing!
This little box on my desk can show me the world.” That about sums it
up; the internet gives you information at your finger tips and on
Well, the internet, and some other factors,led to the diminishment of
local groups and group activities. People became free to roam the world
from their own house whenever they wanted to,but they still yearned for
connection. We need it. It has become hotwired into our development as
humans. The internet fragmented us. However, human needs will not be
denied. Just as the internet diminished human grouping, it is now
bringing us together like never before. Explore how online social
networking is making a difference in all facets of human life.
Components of Online Social Networking
Online social networking has begun to garner much press in the past few
years. However, it has been around in various forms for nearly a decade.
There are many reasons online social networks are formed and they all
exhibit a common set of characteristics.
Profiles– Each member of a social network has the opportunity to
create an online profile. These profiles serve as your identity on the
network. In short, they are your online CV. Some social networks are
strictly professional with only business information listed such as
education and training. Others have more of a personal approach with
information about personal experiences such as trips and activities.
Some social networks are a blend of business and personal. Most sites
give you the ability to share this information, keep it private for
“friends” only, or skip filling it in altogether. I would encourage you
to fill in what you are comfortable with. Social networks are about
sharing and your experience will be enhanced when completing your
Friends– “Friends” are the foundation of any social network. Just
like in real life, your online friends become part of your social
fabric. Online friends are able to keep up to date on your actions on
the social network. For example, if you write a blog or comment on a
picture, your friends are updated on your activity. Likewise, if your
friends comment in a forum or post a picture, you are notified of these
activities. This is called an “activity feed.” So, the more friends you
have the more opportunities you have to connect, collaborate, share, and
learn. Online social networks have features that enable you to ask
people to be your “friends” and start building relationships and social
networks easily.
Groups– Online groups represent like-minded individuals coming
together for collaboration, connections, sharing, and learning about a
specific topic. Dentistry has been called a cottage profession because
the predominant model of practice is solo practice. Organizations
representing dentists are challenged by this fact because of the lack of
connectivity within the profession. Online groups or online study clubs
provide a way to share knowledge, meet other dentists with similar
interests, access a calendar of events, share files, and upload pictures
and videos. Examples of groups/study clubs would be “extractions made
simple” or “group practice brainstorm.” For dentists, this means we can
now practice solo but have the benefit of knowledge sharing and
connectivity to a specific group that is of interest to us.
Online social networks are powerful tools. They have taken the Web from
static Web pages and Q&A forums to a dynamic, ever developing
connected network of individuals who willingly share knowledge,
interests, and professional goals.
Examples of Online Social Networks

Mostly for the corporate and business-minded crowd, LinkedIn has a
mature user type which is interested in business networking. The profile
reads almost like a resume so users can quickly grasp the talents of
other members. When you join LinkedIn you invite your business contacts
to join. Once your business contacts join, you then have access to their
professional contacts and they have access to yours. It’s a great way
to find people your contacts have worked with who possess certain skills
or talents whom you may be interested in working with as well. I’ve
joined LinkedIn but do not use it much.
Facebook started as a way for college students to stay connected and
share class notes. It has since grown from the college scene to over 150
million members and 5 million new members a week. It’s clearly
organized, for everyone, and about everything. The amount of information
on Facebook is staggering: 600 million searches and 30 billion page
views a month. Facebook has leaped to the forefront of the social
networking revolution. I’ve had childhood friends find me and have
reconnected with high school buddies. Facebook is a great way to stay
connected and reconnect with the people throughout your life. It has
features like photo sharing, online chat, groups, and, of course, the
ever growing friends list. Once you are on Facebook, it is inevitable
you will be contacted by someone from your past. Once your “friend” list
grows you’ll be kept up to date of their activities on the site, and
this can sometimes be overwhelming due to the shear amount of updates
and information shared. I enjoy using facebook to keep in contact with
my personal friend and it can be used in a professional sense like
LinkedIn. However, I find it difficult to sift through all of the
non-dental chatter to find what I am looking for professionally.

If you’ve used MySpace, perhaps you might think it is geared toward a
younger crowd. At least that is my perception. Grade school, middle
school, and high school are represented well here, as well as, many
musicians. MySpace allows for lots of customizations to your profile
page. There are many bells and whistles to choose from. It is like
having a blank slate on which you can create your own personalized look
to your profile. After all, your profile is your online identity, so why
not customize it to your liking?
I found I preferred Facebook’s organization over MySpace’s organized
chaos for my personal interactions. Perhaps it’s the dentist in me 😉

Professional social networks
People join social networks to find commonalty with others. After
sifting through grade school friends, high school friends, college
friends, musicians, and friends of friends on Facebook and/or MySpace
you may find some professional commonality or just get too tired of
sifting through all of the non professional chatter. What makes Facebook
and MySpace so great is also what hinders professional connection.
Facebook and MySpace are for everyone and about nothing in particular.
Enter professional social networks. In late 2007 and into 2008 these
networks came onto the Web scene to fill a very necessary niche –
provide a place where professionals and professional organizations can
connect, collaborate, share, form groups, make their own professional
“friends”, and become part of a professional online social network.
Professional social networks are focused on a particular profession and
only a particular profession. You won’t find any spam filled teenage
chatter on these. This is the way of the Web: At one time it was a big
deal to have a Web page, and now even a 2 year old can have his/her own
Web page. Momentum once reserved for large social networks without a
focus is now moving into niche social networks about specific interests.
Examples of Professional Social Networks
NewDocs– NewDocs is the professional social network for the
dental profession. I say it’s like Facebook but for dentists. NewDocs is
about dentistry and only about dentistry. You won’t find (or be found
by) high school classmates here. Like Facebook you’ll find a clean and
organized appearance. Your profile is a combination of your professional
life and some personal interests. You can join professional “groups” or
online study clubs on NewDocs. You also have the opportunity to create
your own group. This group study club feature is extremely powerful as
it serves as your very own online meeting place. Think of it as your own
“mini social network”. Share files, use the calendar of events,
collaborate, and discuss the topics of your choice. The “group” feature
can be open to anyone on NewDocs or you can keep it private and invite
only your “friends”. NewDocs also gives you the opportunity to blog. If
you have certain information about a particular subject matter, you are
able to post a blog. For those unfamiliar with blogs, they are basically
online articles/research you can post to a site that allows others to
comment on them. There is also a forum section for Q&A, open to all
members. The download section on NewDocs has many useful tools, forms,
sample contracts, business plans, etc.
Sermo– Sermo is the professional social network for medicine.
LawLink – Lawlink is for lawyers.

How do I get started in professional social networking?
Getting started in professional social networking is easy, and NewDocs
is the premier site. NewDocs was created by a dentist and exclusively
about dentistry and the dental profession. Visit ,
register (it’s free) and choose a profile image. Your profile image or
“avatar” is your online representation of yourself. Some people use self
portraits or other pictures. Feel free to get creative. I usually use
portraits or some picture with me in it. This all usually takes only a
Once registered, be sure to fill in your profile. Your profile is your
online identity and will allow others on the site to connect with you
and find common interests. Once you’ve established your profile, explore
the site. As they say in the Web world “click around” and have fun with
it. You won’t break anything. To see other user’s profiles click on
their “avatar”. You’ll be able to see their profile, mutual friends,
friends, photos, groups, and any blogs or forum posts they have written.
If you see something in common with other “docs” as you explore their
profiles, feel free to click “add a friend” under their picture on the
profile page. Making ‘friends’ is very important on social networks and
allows you to take full advantage of all a social network has to offer.
Once you’ve explored the site, join a group/study club or two or
three……. Groups/study clubs allow you to connect, collaborate, and share
with others over a common subject or cause. You can easily build your
“friend” list here and focus on what is important to you and others with
similar interests. If you don’t see a group/study club you are
interested in, feel free to create your own.
The tools on NewDocs make it very easy to create and manage your own
group or study club. NewDocs gives you the power and freedom to decide
what you want and how you want it. Manage a local study club or society
by keeping all of your members up to date on happenings, events,
discussions, etc. The best part is you don’t even need to know how to
create a Web page to do this!
After you’ve accomplished the above, you’re ready to move to the next
level and invite other professional friends and colleagues to join
NewDocs. The power of professional social networking lies in the users
and the activity of those on the site. The more people you can connect
with the more you will get out of NewDocs.
In short:
1. Register on and choose an “avatar” (profile picture)
2. Fill in your profile.
3. Explore the site by “clicking around.” Be sure to click on other
user’s’ avatars.
4. Make ‘Friends.”
5. Join a group/study club or create one yourself.
6. Invite your professional friends and colleagues to join NewDocs. This
will grow your network.

Social networking is here to stay and professional social networking is
the natural progression of this powerful Web based tool. Take the first
step and become part of a network and reap the rewards of professional
collaboration on a social network. You really have nothing to lose and
everything to gain. Professional social networks like NewDocs have made
it easier for dentists to connect, collaborate and share. It has made it
easier for associations to put their message in front of dentists on a
social network for dentistry and exclusively about dentistry. For those
dentists looking to manage a study club or a dental association, the
tools on NewDocs make it not only easy but fun for all of its members.
Start today and find out why professional social networking is changing
our professional world.
Dan Marut, DMD maintains a private practice in Ashland, OR. He is the
founder of NewDocs, the professional social network for dentistry. Dr.
Marut is available to answer any questions about the social networking
phenomenon. He can be reached at: or just find him on
NewDocs, he becomes your 1st friend!

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