Don’t “friend” your patients on Facebook!

I went to a local dental meeting last night, and one of my dentist friends said to me, “Dude, you have some balls posting what you post on Facebook!”  My initial thought was that he was referring to my outspoken views on a number of things.  I don’t hold back much, as many of you will probably agree.  He then went on to say that he’d NEVER post what I post.  I chuckled and said, “I’m sure I’ve pissed off a few of my friends and family.  But, if you don’t make a few enemies along the way, you’re probably not trying hard enough… and probably not being yourself.”

Then my friend commented he wouldn’t want his patients to see that kind of stuff.

OH!  Wait a minute!!  Hell no!  Me neither!

I started laughing, as I figured out what he was really saying and thinking.  He thought that my Facebook profile was for my dental practice and open to be potentially seen by my patients.  Absolutely not!  But, I do use Facebook for my practice.  (Read on about how to keep them separate.)

And, it reminded me of messages I had posted on the subject of social media, specifically Facebook, in discussions on Dentaltown.  And, while I don’t consider myself an expert on social media, I know a few things.  One of those things is that you want to keep “business and pleasure” SEPARATE, and that includes Facebook.  That doesn’t mean you can’t use Facebook for both.  You just have to know how to set it up properly so it’s all “Kosher.”

Profiles vs. Pages, Friends vs. Fans

When you create an account with Facebook, you start off by creating a PROFILE.  This is where you put in your personal information (as much as you feel comfortable).  On your PROFILE you can add FRIENDS.  Friends can be anyone mutually agreeable to connecting on Facebook.  But, for most of us, it’s our actual friends, family, and maybe even colleagues.  For me, it’s friends, family, and other dentists.

I see London.  I see France.  I can see your underpants.

A Facebook FRIEND can see everything on your PROFILE.  That includes your photos, “status updates,” birthday, employer, education, relationships, and other information you post there.  It’s also important to note that you can establish privacy parameters on your Facebook account.  You can make your information viewable by:

  • Public – anyone on Facebook… ANYONE… can see your stuff.  All they have to do is search for you by name, and they’re in.  I don’t recommend this setting.
  • Friends of friends – This means that your Facebook FRIENDS… AND THEIR friends can see your stuff.  I generally don’t recommend this setting, either.
  • Friends only -  This means that ONLY your Facebook FRIENDS can see your stuff.  This is my preferred setting.  I prefer to keep my “stuff” somewhat private among my approved Facebook friends.

In your account settings, you can specify the privacy level for the various sections and tidbits on your profile.  I prefer to have them ALL set to FRIENDS ONLY.  I prefer a maximum level of privacy.  But, you may decide differently.

Why can’t we be friends? (with a nod to the 70s group, War)

Again… this is about your Facebook PROFILE.  I would recommend you NOT make patients your Facebook FRIENDS.  Why?  Hopefully it’s somewhat self-evident.  But, just in case it’s not…  You may not want your patients to:

  • See your political views.
  • See photos of you drunk or half-naked.
  • Know who you’re related to!
  • You just bought a new Rolex or a new car.
  • Learn about your personal issues.
  • Read your online spat with ___________.
  • Realize that you’re a 40 year old man who digs Justin Bieber songs.

But, wait!  I thought social media, like Facebook, was a great place to connect with current and future patients.  It can be!  But, you don’t want to do it via your Facebook PROFILE for the reasons we’ve already discussed.

I’m making records, my fans they can’t wait! (Joe Walsh)

This is the KEY thing you need to know about Facebook and your patients:  FAN PAGE.  You want to set up a FAN PAGE for your dental practice.  This is where you can keep your business separate from your private life.  A fan page is designed to be “public.”  Rather than “friends,” you accumulate FANS.  And, they choose you.  You don’t have to approve them like a friend request.  They click on the “Like” button, and they become your FANS.  Fans can see your fan page.  And, they’ll get notifications when something new is posted on your Fan Page.  But, they cannot see your PROFILE, unless you approve them as “friends.”  Again… I’d be very careful about “friending” patients or potential patients.  If they ask to be “friends” on Facebook, just direct them to your fan page.  You might even fib and say you only do the fan page and don’t use your profile.

One more thing about fan pages…  You can have as many as you want.  If you have multiple businesses, you can create a fan page for each.  If you have a cause you want to promote, you can create a page for that.  If you want a place to showcase a hobby, “there’s a page for that.”

How do I get a fan page?

I will assume (we know what happens with that, eh?) that you have a Facebook PROFILE, already.  Think of a FAN PAGE (Facebook just calls them PAGES) as a mini-website within Facebook.  It is created under your existing account or profile.  If you go to this link, https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php, just follow the instructions, and you’ll be on your way to creating your own fan page.

Create a fan page on Facebook

And, like a website, a fan page is a perpetual work in progress.

You can use your fan page to promote your practice in a number of ways.  A sampling of suggestions:

  • Before & after photos.
  • Special offers or contests.
  • Surveys.
  • Staff news.
  • Announce new services.
  • Reminders about end of year insurance benefits.
  • Oral health articles.

My practice fan page on Facebook. Click image to visit!

A fan page is a simple way to “reach out and touch” your dental practice audience.  And, it’s a way for your patients to reach out and stay in touch with your dental practice without also seeing photos of you in your drunken glory, reading posts on your “wall” from your bawdy friends, or that you think the President is a pinko-commie.  :)

Both of my Facebook fan pages use the bland Facebook template.  However, you can dress them up to look like a custom web page.  There are a number of services available to do that.

The Dental Warrior fan page on Facebook. Click on image to link!

In review:  You have a Facebook PROFILE, which is where you can run free and post whatever suits your fancy without fear of offending patients or potential patients or giving them inappropriate insight to your personal life.  Pissing off your relatives with your political views can be loads of fun!  However, it’s probably best to keep personal views, pursuits, relationships, and activities separate from your dental practice.  I recommend you decline any friend requests by patients and instead send them to your practice fan page.

(Editing to add this tidbit)  When you create a fan page, the url (web address) will look something like www.facebook.com/djhgd732ld8u3.  Of course that’s not convenient to use if you want to tell someone how to find your Facebook fan page.  You can create a “vanity url,” or as Facebook calls it, a “username.”  So, you can have your page address be something like:  www.facebook.com/TheDentalWarrior.  That’s much easier to use.  To set up your own page vanity url, go to:  https://www.facebook.com/username/.

Of course, you’re invited to “Like” The Dental Warrior Facebook fan page.  :)  Click the badge below!

The Dental Warrior |

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9 Responses to Don’t “friend” your patients on Facebook!

  1. Alan Mead says:

    So you’re saying I shouldn’t list my various Justin Bieber playlists?

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Sure! If you don’t mind your friends knowing. But, you may want to keep your “alternative lifestyle” a secret from your patients. So, don’t “friend” your patients. Keep them on your fan page. ;)

  2. Good post.

    I’ve noticed in the uk, many dental practices have set up a Facebook sight as a profile and not a page.

    A big no no I believe!

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      As far as I know, you are correct. Facebook frowns on creating multiple accounts. But, here’s another reason to not do it. It’s MUCH easier to work with a single account / profile. You log on ONCE. And, you can easily manage your personal profile and multiple pages all from one place. Easy-peasy.

  3. DrDan says:

    Mike,
    Don’t forget that with the latest FB update you can also create “LISTS”….FB’s answer to Google’s “circle of friends”. You can create lists of your DentalTown friends….or church friends…..or as I’ve done….create a “political discussion” list of friends. When creating a post….you can select Friends, Friend of Friends, Public, etc. and all that stuff you mentioned….and ALSO these lists you’ve created. ONLY the people on the list will be able to see/read your post. That’s why you can see those political posts Mike….and most everyone else can’t. It’s a great new feature that allows you to post stuff that ONLY your family can see….or any of your other groupings of friends.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      FB had “lists” a long time ago. I’ve been categorizing my friends since I started with FB. But, now they’re promoting it (in response to Google+, which still hasn’t really gotten off the ground).

  4. DrDan says:

    Yes…they had “lists”…..but up until recently you could not limit your postings to be seen ONLY by specific groups/lists. THAT’s the difference.

  5. Pingback: "Don’t “friend” your patients on Facebook!" by Dr. Michael Barr | Get Results for Dentists Get Results For Dentists

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