In the age of being constantly connected, social media makes the world go around. A staggering 3.5 billion of us are active social media users (about 45% of the global population), and from news to shopping, the role it plays in our lives is showing no signs of stopping (and this goes far beyond double tapping the latest meme, of course).
Whether it’s one of the ‘big three’ (Facebook, Instagram and YouTube) or others, such as Twitter, Tik Tok and LinkedIn, social media platforms are a powerful tool for self-promotion – when used in the right way.
For people starting their careers in dentistry a good social media presence and honing of a personal brand can play a vital role in career progression.
By its very nature, social media is about being connected. Social media is the perfect platform to explore new areas and disciplines in our ever-evolving profession. For dental professionals (both new and experienced) it’s an invaluable way to engage and connect not just with peers, but also with leading clinicians and mentors whose work is respected, aspirational and pushing boundaries.
We caught up with Foundation Dentist Dr Pippa Khan, a KCL graduate, to discuss her use of social media – her go-to platform is Instagram (@drpippa.k):
“Using Instagram, I‘ve been able to work with dentists of many specialties such as paediatrics, general dentists, and Reena Wadia, an amazing periodontist. Social media is one of the great ways to communicate and really widens opportunities for others, as well as myself.”
Being an active member of the dentist community online helps to build a presence and reputation – and harness what happens in practice offline.
Content is king, but the right content is royally important. Sharing content is imperative, but more so sharing well and sharing smart is key, particularly when you’re building a profile that should be consistent, professional and interesting. For example, that could mean before-and-after shots of clinical work, uploading opinion pieces, or reposting interesting content from other people in the community.
Pippa highlights her watch-outs for sharing and engaging: “To those young professionals who are looking to use social media as a means of engagement with others in dentistry, I encourage you to be: purposeful, always check credibility, and actively interact with creators on the platform to gain and create value.”
But sharing doesn’t just mean content. These platforms are perfect for reaching out and sharing opinions, problems, challenges, and giving and getting advice, particularly when you are just starting out.
Pippa continues: “I’ve been able to have direct contact with dental students who are able to ask me questions or for advice freely, as someone who has recently graduated.”
Dentistry can be a stressful, isolated profession and it’s refreshing to know there’s an engaged community of professionals who understand and empathise, either because they’ve been there themselves or are going through the same. Closed Facebook groups are a popular open forum to discuss cases, treatments, ups and downs, and seek advice from peers.
Authenticity and integrity
When curating and creating an engaging content strategy remember that authenticity and integrity are your biggest assets and strongest differentiating factors. That’s because authenticity creates a connection and integrity builds trust. In fact, integrity should always be the foundation of every personal brand. A good example of this is Pippa’s Instagram profile where her consistent, unique tone allows her own personal brand to shine through.
Pippa says: “Art has always been a love of mine from a young age , during foundation year I decided it was time to go back to what I love which is to draw and to create visual work. It became a great outlet for stress and I had a long time to commute at least during the beginning of the year so this was great to do before and after work. I really enjoy being able to translate traditional anatomical and dentally related images into something beyond reality and relatable to dentists all over the world. I make a great effort to show that we as professionals have a duty to share knowledge with each other, and to be approachable. I also use the platform to produce artwork showing a plethora of diversity, as well as backgrounds.”
Social media, for all its obvious benefits, can also have its drawbacks. Trolling is nothing new, and sadly, the dentistry community isn’t always immune. If it does happen (and for the most part, thankfully, it doesn’t), reach out to people you trust and consider a digital detox.
It’s worth considering setting up two profiles: one personal and one professional. The GDC expects everyone in the profession to stick to the guidelines on conduct and patient confidentiality, and social media is no exception. It’s definitely wise to keep the party pics on the personal account.
Remember, too, that the majority of people who are using social media platforms well, are incredibly savvy about curating their content. Their feeds may be flooded with amazing cosmetic work, however the grit of reality may not always be reflected, particularly in the early stages of their careers.
It’s important to contribute to and feel part of the community, rather than chasing likes and seeking validation, though this is sometimes easier said than done. But, when used in the right way, harnessing social media can make a huge difference, personally and professionally. Pippa states: “With these standards in mind, your interactions within the online dental world will flourish, and keep in mind that what you see is only a small percentage of someone’s day and life. The more you seek to add value to what is there, the more you will gain from it.”
As Pippa says: “Building connections and searching for inspiration has never been easier than today, and lockdown and the COVID pandemic have highlighted just how important that is.”