A detour today... I used Google to help me learn why my 6 y/o has a white spot on her first grown-up tooth that is just beginning to emerge. The second result in Google for "white spots on teeth" was EXACTLY what I was hoping to find. And exemplifies why I recommend that professionals blog.
Dr Dean Brandon, a pediatric dentist in Huntsville, Alabama, has an outstanding blog www.cyberdentist.blogspot.com.
Dr. Brandon's "white spots" post was informative. He seems knowledgeable and because he shared, makes me think he cares--I wish he were in St Louis! But my point in blogging about him is to extract (no pun intended) some lessons from him.
A testament to the quality of his blog, the page I wanted came up VERY high in Google search results.
Interestingly, Dr. Brandon's post on white spots, written in 2006, has elicited 82 comments to date--though many of these are Dr. Brandon's replies to reader questions. After skimming the comments, I am absolutely certain he cares because he has personally responded to people, especially in the early years of his blog.
Accountants, lawyers, and other professionals might look at this and assert the following:
- If I got 40 comments on a post, I wouldn't have time to answer everybody!
- I'm not sure I want to, or should, give away all that "free advice"!
- How does this blog help his local practice when readers are all over the world?? I'm in [insert city] like he's in Huntsville, so why should I care about a question from a reader in Toledo?
Fair enough. My thoughts below.
Comment volume. My first reassurance is to suggest that you aren't likely to get the same level of inquiry as he does. Frankly, his readers are mommies and daddies worried about their kids and people don't tend to obsess about their accounting or legal issues the way they do about their kids' medical needs or appearance!
Second, by reading a bit deeper on his blog, I learned that Dr. Brandon has subsequently expressed an inability to personally respond to all comments. In October, 2007, he posted this graph of his readership growth wrote:
By the way, many people ask questions of me. I have been generally happy to give my opinion, but have also tried to get across that I cannot give dental advice that is specific to any one patient (see disclaimer). Over the past few months I have gotten very busy and cannot devote too much time to answering questions. Therefore, I will be posting most of your comments, but will not likely be able to answer any questions.
So, like him, you can manage expectations about how you will behave with readers.
Especically when you start out with a blog, it is just smart, as well as common courtesy, to reply to readers who read you and are moved enough about your content to post a comment. But, yes, at some point, it might become unmanageable. When you hit that point, as our good Dr. did, just say so! People will understand.
By the way, in Dec, 2008, Dr. Brandon added a comment to this Blog Stat post that his stats have again doubled those shown above. This is in light of the fact that he only made SIX postings in 2008!
(NOTE: This few postings in a year isn't optimal, but his blog was so well established since its launch in Sep. 2005, when there was little other similar content out there, that he could pull it off. It's a little tougher to "stand out in the crowd" if you're just starting now. But it is NOT too late.)
Free advice. Yeah, this is a tough one. But it boils down to common sense.
I think there are two kinds of professional service providers when it comes to marketing: those who share information liberally and realize it more than pays for itself, and those who feel the need to bill every minute they help someone.
In my years in marketing accountants and lawyers, I have seen that the former approach is much more fruitful, long-term. Look at the greatest rainmakers you know, and you too may observe that they probably follow the "share liberally" policy when it comes to helping people out, whether the recipient of the help will ever become a client or not.
This is how to develop a reputation as a caring, helpful person. <--what most people want in their professional service providers! And it is also how people witness, first hand, and are reassured, that you are a "pro" at what you do.
If you are worried about liability in advice provided, don't. That is what disclaimers are for. See Dr. Brandon's excellent disclaimer and look at the legal lingo of other blogs for ideas on how to CYA.
Local practice, global readership. I'll share a few rhetorical questions to address this concern.
As a local practitioner in [insert your city], does it enhance your credibility at all to be viewed as a national or international expert?
If you spoke to a national audience of peers, or wrote for a national journal or professional association publication, would that be something you would include on your biography?
Did you notice that as Dr. Brandon's blog stats soared, that his time to blog rapidly diminished?
And did you notice that among the six posts he made in 2008, two were about significant expansion--major equipment and the construction of a major new facility?
I rest my case.
Summary. I do want to say that, IMHO, a large part of Dr. Brandon's success is due to the excellent quality of his posts AND his participation in his readers' experience through comments. If you scroll down his right-hand sidebar, you'll see his entire list of posts. Note the following three points:
The posts are about things that patients care about.
Titles are short and pointed.
And the content of each post is very thorough, a result of which is the high odds that he uses phrases that will come up in searches like mine.
Congrats Dr. Brandon and, if you read this, thanks for answering my questions about my daughter's spot!