Creating Content for Your Orthodontic Practice’s Social Media Channels

social-media-bannersCreating a social media presence for your orthodontic practice from scratch may initially sound like a daunting task, but the reality is it’s easier than most first think. There’s simply no reason not to get started if you haven’t done so already. A social media presence for your practice is the perfect way to tell your story, build your brand, and enhance your overall online presence.

If you or your staff needs assistance or advice setting up a social media presence, please know that the AAO is here to assist. Simply contact, Burt Bollinger, Sr. Manager of Marketing/Communications at (314) 292-6556 or via email. As someone who works with the AAO’s social media sites, I am more than happy to walk you or your chosen social media staff member(s) thru the basic steps necessary to start a Facebook page or other social media site.

Having assisted many of our members in setting up their fan pages, the question I hear more than any other is: “Now what? What kind of content should my staff and I be posting?”

Now What?
Just as important as having an online presence is making sure you are keeping it up-to-date. There are several ways to ensure that your practice’s social media output remains vibrant and timely by publishing meaningful content a few times each week.
Your goal should be quality over quantity. Aim for approximately 2-3 posts per week. Remember, each post works to increase your online visibility. But be careful not to overload your followers with too many postings. You don’t want to be added to their block list, which is a lot like a social media “death sentence” for your page.

So…what exactly should you post?
The obvious first step is to use and repurpose your existing content. For example, if your practice has a traditional newsletter or blog, plenty of ideas for postings can be cultivated from these pre-existing resources. Remember, on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you’re not in the “sales” business. You’re in the “relationship-building” business, so remember the 80-20 rule. So pluck from existing content, but don’t focus solely on trying to “sell” your services.

Other posts you’ll want to make will be links to different areas of your practice’s existing web site. If your site needs a bit of updating to get into shape before sharing, now is the perfect time to do so. For example, make your “About Us” section something worth sharing. Consider doing bios of different staff. Also consider sharing photos of your office.

Another ideal resource for postings is using video captured by you and your staff.

Don’t forget that if you’re going to use video and photos of your patients online, you’ll want to be sure you have had them sign a photo release form.

Finally, in the world of social media, there is no shame in researching what other orthodontists are up to online, and incorporating some of their better ideas into your own efforts. There are plenty of practices out there with active Facebook fan pages, so start searching, exploring, and using their postings to your fans’ benefit. Examples of content include contest ideas you may not have thought of, or new ways to feature successful treatments. Always keep moving forward, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Promoting Yourself Using Practice Marketing Solutions
Another way to find fresh content is via the AAO. The AAO has also complied many different materials that are ideal for sharing. These materials are contained in an area of the AAO member website called “Practice Marketing Solutions.”This is an area of the web site only available once AAO members are logged in. (Access Practice Marketing Solutions via the My Practice / Marketing section of AAOinfo.org. Or log in, and then click the small banner on the left side of the home page.)The AAO has prepared a video that walks the viewer through AAO Practice Marketing Solutions and addresses how tools offered by the AAO can be used by individual members or groups of members. View the Practice Marketing Solutions Video @ 1:20 for a featurette on Practice Marketing Solutions.In short, you’ll find a wealth of information, much of it perfect for sharing on your sites. The information includes a series of sharable videos from the My Life. My Smile. My Orthodontist.SM series, including numerous patient testimonial videos, a brand new series of instructional videos, a series of AAO webisodes, and the latest television commercials.

So that you can easily share the videos, the AAO is permanently hosting them on both YouTube and Vimeo.

Alternately, you may also download and keep permanent copies of the videos to use where applicable, including hosting them on your own servers.In addition to the great video content, why not select a single AAO brochure

to share each week? Simply download a brochure, re-host it on your own web site, and link to it. It’s a great way to spread helpful information to your patients while also driving traffic back to your practice web site.These are just a few of the ways you can keep your social media sites up-to-date with meaningful content. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them. Please contact me so that I can share them in future postings.

 

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?



Author: Dr. William D. Engilman



Mobile computing promises to change everything for consumers, from the way we pay our bills to the way we shop, plan, and commute. The wide array of mobile communications devices and the latest new mobile applications mean that it’s imperative for orthodontists to make sure their websites are ready for mobile devices.
Making Your Way on the Mobile Web
The mobile Web is here to stay. In the same way you look to the Web for valuable services, you also need to provide value for your potential customers.  Do you know how your existing website displays a mobile browser?  If not, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise! 
The mobile-friendliness of your Web page can either move you up or down in the mobile search engine rankings when people look for your services (but not necessarily you specifically) using a mobile browser.  Mobile browsers don’t always handle JavaScript, Flash or even cascaded style sheets (CSS) correctly. Sometimes they don’t handle them at all.

If your website has a lot of Flash animations, or makes heavy use of CSS, understand that the mobile user won’t find these helpful or attractive. In fact, these elements could actually drive mobile users away from your business.

You don’t have to redesign your website completely to accommodate mobile users, but rest assured, some changes are in order! Your web server can deliver information to your visitors based on how they view your site. Make a simple modification that allows your Web server to detect a mobile or traditional browser, and the server can issue one layout for visitors with desktop computers, and another layout for users with smartphones.

If you manage your own Web site, and you’re good with HTML and basic computer programming, you can modify your existing site relatively painlessly by setting up a “mirror” domain for mobile users, and adding a little bit of code on your main site that detects and responds to the type of browser a request for information is coming from.

If you have someone else design your website, let them know that you want to make your site mobile-friendly. These modifications are simple, and can even be tailored to deliver content to specific mobile devices if you want to add that level of detail. If this sounds complicated and/or expensive, here’s the best part: it’s not.

This small change will both improve your mobile search engine rankings and your customer service deliver at the same time.

Don’t dismiss your search engine position as unimportant. When someone is looking for a local orthodontist, you have a much better chance of making contact with the searcher if your practice is listed on the first page of the search engine results. Only dedicated searchers reach the second page of search results, and virtually no one at all sees Page 3.  If you’re listed on Page 4 of the local search results, new patients who are actively looking for your services will only see your competitors.

A mobile friendly website will be a big help to the mother who’s looking for your office phone number while she’s driving, or the new patient who’s not sure how to find your office.  It also preserves the function of your Web site for the user whose browser is prepared to take it all in.

What goes into making a mobile friendly page?  Mobile browsers are big on simplicity, so standard HTML and plain text are king. Forget long URLs, JavaScript, Flash animations, anchored images, scripts and all of the other things you may have added to your site to make it eye-catching.  Smartphones have decent data rates – 1 Mb/s or better, but a graphics-intensive Web site will deliver a quick beatdown to a mobile browser.

So, is your page mobile-friendly? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s mobileOK Checker will assess your website and tell you just how mobile-friendly your Web site really is (or isn’t). Visit:

Enter your website’s URL and the mobileOK Checker will rate your site in terms of critical, severe, medium and low failures in specific categories. The mobileOK Checker looks for standard HTML, page size, how much network support a visitor needs to view your page, and mobile-friendly page design.

If you’re worried that your site won’t look good after making these changes, think about this: mobile users (who use very small display screens) prefer fast, accurate information over aesthetics every time. Simple sites decrease the mobile browser’s download time and improve the mobile user’s experience.  In the end, meeting the user’s needs is what it’s all about.

 

Implementing VoIP In The Modern Practice

Author: Dr. William D. Engilman
VOIP from the AAO
Voice over IP (VoIP) merges traditional telephone services with modern computer networking.  What can VoIP bring to your practice? How do cost reductions, improved customer service functions, and getting more out of your office network sound?The cost-saving potential of VoIP is just half of the story.  VoIP allows your office telephone system to use your computer network to send and receive phone calls.  In a way, this makes a lot of sense.  The phone company already takes your voice signals and turns them into digital data when they switch your phone calls.  By handling this step yourself, you can also introduce a lot of great functions to your phone system.

An IP phone can “follow” you around the office or between offices. It can even follow you home. This means a caller only needs to know one phone number for you. If you work in multiple offices, you simply “log in” to an IP phone, and your calls will be routed to your phone, no matter where you are. This is great for on-call and after-hours coverage, too.  Log into your IP phone from home, and you can handle incoming calls to the office from there.  You can even log into a “soft phone” when you’re on the road and accept calls from users who dial your office number.  The IP phone will also let you make calls from wherever you are, and the CallerID information will display as though the call originated from your office number.

Is migrating to a VoIP solution complicated? Introducing VoIP to your practice can be a do-it-yourself project, or you can hire a professional firm to help you make the conversion. A VoIP server will take the place of a PBX, if you have one, and will help you reduce the number of telephone lines coming into your office(s).

If you have the time and interest in setting up your own VoIP server(s), one open-source implementation you should consider is called Asterisk.  If being your own telephone system support doesn’t appeal to you or doesn’t seem like a good use of your time, you can also reach out to a local IT firm for help. Asterisk is free to download, and you’ll find plenty of firms that can deliver full-service, product-certified support.

A common concern about open source products is the potential lack of product support. From a development and support perspective, the open source approach is fundamentally better than a proprietary approach, where you buy a specific company’s privately developed VoIP solution. In a proprietary approach, no one but the owner can look at the source code. Users have no way to know what the weaknesses are, and have no way to fix or customize an application for their use.  Not knowing how something works is one thing; not being allowed to look at it – especially when your business may depend on it, could be something different.

One very popular Asterisk-based implementation is called Trixbox Community Edition or Trixbox CE. New and prospective new users download this product at a rate of about 65,000 per month. The popularity of Trixbox is due to the ease of setting up and maintenance through a web-base graphical interface.

Additionally, the Trixbox distribution includes a number of add-ons that extend the base Asterisk platform.  Trixbox CE has been available since 2004.  Fonality, the company that supports the Trixbox CE distribution, offers other products and services to complement its Trixbox CE line.  You can find more information about Trixbox CE, including documentation and help, at http://fonality.com/trixbox/.

If having a VoIP server is appealing to you, but the prospect of managing and maintaining it isn’t, you can also find providers who are willing to host a VoIP solution for your business.  A hosted solution allows you to take advantage of VoIP without requiring you to spend additional time and effort on managing, maintaining and securing your VoIP server(s).  You’ll pay a regular monthly fee for the service, but you may find that a hosted VoIP solution offers a nice compromise between the cost-saving and the time expenditure that may be required to set up, manage and support your own phone system.

But I Thought I Was Backing Up My Stuff!

Author: Steve McEvoy, Technology Consultant

For 3 years Michelle had worried about the office backup.  Each day she would bring in the oldest off-site tape from home in a special case.  She would swap it for the one that backed up last night, and then carefully label it with the date and place it back in the case and carry home that night. She slept well knowing her backup was done.

I was hired to take over the network maintenance, and the first thing I did was ask about the backup.  She explained her process to me and I was impressed.  Standing at the server I asked “What software do you use?”  A quizzical look appeared on her face, and I knew there was trouble. Two minutes of checking revealed that there was NO backup software, and EVERY tape she ever changed, labeled and took home were completely blank.  She turned grey.

I have seen this story repeat many times in all sorts of variations.  The result is still the same, a Practice without a backup of their precious data.
If you stop and think about it, do you have a nagging feeling about your backup?   Are you 100% certain it’s working?   Are you certain it contains ALL your Practices data?
Let me jump to my recommendation now:  Proceed on the assumption you have NO backup until proven otherwise.
Be sure All your Data is on the Backup
You probably have most of your data in one place – usually the ‘Server’.  Backup the Server and you have everything right?  Not usually.  Often your Practice Management database has special backup needs.  Users have terrible habits of saving documents to their Desktops or My Documents folders.  2D and 3D CBCT X-ray system save their data to the PC you use to run the machine unless you adjusted it otherwise.    Applications like Invisalign, OrthoCAD and Geodigm save their downloaded data to the local PC by default.
How are you supposed to know where the data is?  You aren’t expected to, but you should press your IT person to find out and know for sure.   Your job it to tell your person what programs you use, and ask them to specifically determine what needs to be backed up for each and how.  It might take them an hour or two to figure it all out, but that will be time well spent.  Push your IT person to really, really think about your data and make sure it’s all backed up.
Verify your Backup is working by doing a Routine Restore
So once you think you have it all backed up, you can’t trust the backups are working reliably.  Too many times I have gone to use a backup only to find it’s corrupt or incomplete.  The cure to this is to periodically test your backup by going through the process of actually restoring a few critical pieces of data each month.  This tests the software, backup media, and that someone knows the steps for recovery.   I’m not talking about using the ‘Verify’ function most backup software has built in, I am suggesting doing an actual restore of your data to an alternate location.  I don’t usually restore all the data, but a few of the most important pieces (maybe your Practice Management database and Quickbooks data file).
Ask your IT person to do this on a routine schedule, and then show you the restored data to prove to you the system is working.  It won’t take long and is well worth the trouble to know it’s working.
Monitor the Backup on a Daily Basis
Even with doing a test restore Monthly, what if the backup malfunctions the day after?  You could be surprised with losing 29 days of data should a disaster strike.
Most modern backup software programs have the ability to email you a status update each day.  They will tell you if they worked, were incomplete or failed.  Regardless of what they tell you, it’s good information to have.
I recommend that you assign the duty of checking this email to one of your responsible staff members and make it clear that it is a VERY important job responsibility and must be reviewed each day.  It will take 15 seconds on most days when things are working, and on days when it doesn’t they should be given the authority to contact the IT person to remedy the situation.   Usually this is the person also tasked with carrying out the off-site backup (you have an off-site backup right?).
Conclusion
You should be worried about your backup.  Without one, your Practice is at risk.  Imagine what it would be like to lose all your data.  Could you ever completely recover?
Assume you don’t have one and call your IT person now.  I bet they find something that needs improved.

Google Alerts: Are They Talking About Me?

Author: Dr. Greg Jogensen


googlealertsToday’s Internet is a vast network of uncensored, uncontrollable information. Anything goes! You can find anything online. You can say anything online. Whether or not you choose to participate, your practice is already online. People are talking about you. Would you like to know what they’re saying?Search engines are constantly sweeping the web trying to index any information they can find so that it can be accessed when someone is looking. Even if you don’t have a formal website, online directories are automatically including your practice in their database using information from public records, phone listings, memberships, and so on. Not only do they create listings for you without your permission or input, many ask viewers to rate you. These ratings are rarely verified (meaning anyone can write them including your competitors) and are very difficult to get rid of once they are posted.

How can you know when someone is “talking” about you online? Google is the biggest and most widely used search engine available online today. Seven out of ten Internet searches are conducted using Google. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ask Google to notify you every time someone mentions you or your business online? Google will do that for you, and they’ll do it for free. Their service is called Google Alerts.

Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for any search word that you choose. In other words, if you want to be notified every time someone online mentions Apple Orthodontics, you could create a Google Alert for the phase “Apple Orthodontics,” indicate where you want Google to look (i.e. blogs, news feeds, etc.), how often you want to be notified, the volume of alerts you want to receive, and to which email address you want the results sent. Then imagine that your practice then has a candy buy-back and the local newspaper mentions Apple Orthodontics in a story. When Google sees that reference, it will immediately send you an email with a link to the story in which you are mentioned. Nice!

It goes without saying that every orthodontist should have Google Alerts set up for his own name and the name of his business. You may also want to set up alerts for your colleagues too (just to see what they’re up to J ). Some other great uses of Google Alerts are monitoring developing news stories, keeping current on specific products or technologies, or keeping tabs on your favorite sports team. The ability to have Google keeps its eye on the web for you is amazing… besides being easy and free!

To set up your first Google Alert, just search for “Google Alerts” in where else… Google!