by Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS
SOCNET (social networks) are online communities, new ways for people to communicate and share information. These people usually share interests or activities, such as dental hygiene, fitness, or evidence–based care, or they are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, such as friends, celebrities, politicians, and more. Most social network services are Web based and provide a variety of ways for people to connect and interact through e–mail, blogs, and instant messaging.
Of the 1.1 billion people over age 15 worldwide who accessed the Internet from home or work in May 2009, 734.2 million visited at least one social networking site, according to comScore World Matrix service. This means that 65% of Internet users are part of the SOCNET phenomenon.
Depending on which statistics one reads, the following sites constantly jockey for the top–dog spot, yet consistently round out the most popular choices:
- Facebook, widely used worldwide
- MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn, used most widely in North America
- Nexopia, used mostly in Canada
- Bebo, Hi5, MySpace, dol2day are mostly in Germany, and Decayenne, Tagged, XING, Badoo, and Skyrock, used in parts of Europe
- Orkut and Hi5, used in South America and Central America
- Friendster, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, Xiaonei, and Cyworld, used in Asia and the Pacific Islands
The basis of social networks is connection, and the call for change and action in oral care delivery modalities moves beyond our country's borders. It's interesting to note that according to comScore, the U.S. ranked No. 9 in terms of social network engagement. Russia has the world's most engaged social networking audience; Brazil ranked a close second, followed by Canada, Puerto Rico, and Spain.
Oral health view
Not only are oral health professionals and patients flocking to social networks, many dental manufacturers, associations, and companies are building social networks to engage clinicians and further build brand loyalty.
Two examples are the RDH eVillage site and the Oral Healthcare Can't Wait™ site. RDH eVillage (http://www.omeda.com/cgi–win/de.cgi?newsletter) is an online monthly newsletter that can open your Internet pathways to many dental and dental hygiene outlets, the newest being DentistryIQ. (www.dentistryiq.com). In July, the Dental Trade Alliance (www.dentaltradealliance.org) launched Oral Healthcare Can't Wait™ to promote awareness marketing materials to professionals who promote the message of the risk of postponing regular oral health visits and treatment. (www.oralhealthcarecantwait.com)
Additional companies with a presence on social network sites or who are beginning their own social engagement groups include 3M ESPE, ADHA, Colgate, CariFree, EagleSoft/CAESY, Henry Schein Dental, Hu–Friedy, Jameson Management, MI Prevention, ORALCDx, Parkell, Inc., PDT–Paradise Dental, Ultradent, and VIOlight.
For a local view, social networks and blogging are being leveraged by dental practices as another way to build patient interactions and business. By establishing a presence on social networks, a dental practice can extend invitations to patients. Plus, potential patients may join a network because they value the information shared by the office, which increases the possibility that they will call the office for a new patient appointment. Teams can post quality oral health updates or research, tips for a healthy smile, new clinical services, Invisalign, laser periodontal therapy, caries and periodontal assessments, topics and dates of continuing education programs, before–and–after cases, and activities or successes of team members. The potential is infinite.
Clinically speaking, social networks are affecting oral care. Though I'm not advocating becoming a SOCNET addict, being silent or ignoring the trends may leave you chained to your proverbial front porch vs. becoming engaged with the wireless.
About the Author
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS, is a practicing clinician, industry consultant, international speaker, and author. She is the director of the RDH eVillage, an online PennWell Corp. e–newsletter, and is involved in numerous professional organizations. She has authored the book, “Demystifying Smiles: Strategies for the Dental Team.”