A Werner HS SIZEDLet’s be honest. Word-of-mouth referrals aren’t what they used to be. Yes, the parents of your future patients are still asking neighbors or coworkers to recommend a great orthodontist. But those parents no longer go home and call your office to make an appointment, trusting what one or two people have said to them. Instead, they go home, turn on the computer, and Google your practice. And if they can’t wait until they get home—well, then they start looking you up on their smartphone as they wait for their child’s basketball game to finish. Either way, in seconds, they can not only check out your website and form an impression of you by how you chose to represent yourself, but they can also get the impressions of all the patients, past and present, who have taken the time to rate you online.

In this month’s issue, Mary Kay Miller, an Internet marketing consultant specializing in orthodontic marketing, talks about the strategies needed to make the cut when parents and patients want more than just word of mouth to decide if you are the right orthodontist for them. She explains how it’s your digital footprint that often makes the difference in whether a new patient will be walking through your doors.

And if you haven’t really thought about your digital footprint before, I hope you will take a moment to do so now; because it’s only going to become more important in the years ahead as today’s young people grow up to become parents and patients.

Why is it so important to think about this generation in relation to your digital footprint? Because, unlike the adults today who bring their children to you for treatment or who seek treatment for themselves, this younger generation has never known a world without the Internet and the technology associated with it.

In this month’s cover story, Daniel A. Bills, DMD, MS, talks about how understanding this “Net-Generation”—those born after 1982—has changed the way he does business. As Bills points out, this generation uses technology “instinctively” to learn about and connect to the world. And they will use it instinctively to learn about and connect with you in the future.

So what does that mean? Well, it means that you have to cultivate and care for your digital footprint constantly. You can’t put up a website and start a Facebook page and call it a day. You have to think about how an audience of potential and current patients is going to engage not only with your website and the content on it, but the social media platforms you use and the technology you incorporate into your practice. Each of these components is going to play into your digital footprint and how your future patients come to decide that you are the orthodontist for them, and how your current patients remain engaged during treatment. OP

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Alison Werner is the chief editor of Orthodontic Products. She can be contacted at [email protected].