Dr. Edward Zuckerberg graduated from the NYU College of
Dentistry in 1978 and became a fellow of the Academy of
General Dentistry in 1984. He has been in private practice
for 31 years, the last 29 years in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
He and his wife, Karen, a psychiatrist, have four children,
including son Mark, the founder and CEO of Facebook, Inc.
Dr. Zuckerberg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/painlessdrz.
An early technology adopter, Dr. Zuckerberg's vision and
commitment to technology provided the perfect environment
in which to nurture his children, Randi, Mark, Donna, and
Arielle, all of whom are high-technology adepts. Dr.
Zuckerberg computerized his dental practice in 1984,
introduced digital radiography in 1997, and went paperless
in 2005, which, among other things, enables patients to
fill out medical histories online, receive appointment
confirmations and reminders electronically, and access
secure patient portals to view their records and request
Dr. Zuckerberg's practice slogan is "We cater to
cowards." He has been aided in this approach by his wife,
Karen, who formerly managed his office and used her
psychiatric training to counsel dentally phobic
Meeting Ed Zuckerberg, it's impossible not to be struck
by the thought that "flow" is an apt metaphor for both his
personal and professional life. An openness to all the
possibilities of technology and of using technology to
improve the way he practices dentistry is combined with a
love of deep-sea diving, of photographing seas and oceans,
and of all things aquatic, which dominate his office
décor. Also contributing to the sense of flow is the
fact that his office is located in an annex to his home,
allowing easy access between family and practice life.
Recently, Global Health Nexus spoke with Dr. Zuckerberg
about his commitment to social media as the chief means of
marketing and managing his practice.
Global Health Nexus (GHN): When did you start using
social media in your practice?
Dr. Zuckerberg: Because I'm related to the Facebook
founder, I was an early user of Facebook. But I didn't
begin to utilize its full potential until about two years
ago, when I got a message from Dave Kerpen, whose company,
Likeable Media (Likeable.com) specializes in helping
businesses develop and grow their Facebook presence. He
facilitated setting up my Facebook page and uses it to show
prospective clients that Facebook can provide what he calls
"word-of-mouth marketing on steroids."
GHN: How does Facebook help you to market your
Dr. Zuckerberg: The best way to build a practice is by
referrals from satisfied patients. With Facebook, you have
the opportunity to build referrals by first getting people
to like your practice and then letting their Facebook
friends know that they like it. My practice is proof
positive that, with Facebook, one person with 100 friends
can have as much influence as an entire institution.
GHN: What makes Facebook so attractive for advertising a
Dr. Zuckerberg: The heart of Facebook's social network
is the free page each person or business can set up, which
can include photos, interests, personal information, and
anything else they wish to include in their online persona.
They link to other friends and acquaintances by inviting
each other and accepting invitations to be linked online as
friends, thus developing their own network. In addition to
personal pages, Facebook allows creation of business pages,
which are open to the public, any of whom can subscribe to
your business page by "liking" it, thus becoming a "fan" of
Your page may include everything a regular Web page
has-articles, biographies of staff members, listing of
hours, maps and directions, photos and videos. More
important, the page is interactive. There is a "wall" on
each page where fans can post comments, ask questions,
review your practice, and start discussions. With a little
computer know-how, you can easily set up the page yourself,
or for a more professional look, you can use an outside
company, such as Likeable Media.
Facebook lets you target your advertising in ways that
no other form of advertising can, and delivers the power of
your fans' social networking connections to create the
online version of word-of-mouth referrals. In Facebook's ad
setup page, you can select from a variety of demographics
to target your market, including but not limited to age
groups, geographic locations, gender, academic levels
achieved and any interest or job title listed on an
individual's profile. Of course, the more specific you are
in selecting demographics, the more the target market will
decrease, but you will get more bang for your advertising
dollar as you assure that your message is only getting out
to those you want to receive it.
GHN: What challenges does Facebook pose in marketing a
Dr. Zuckerberg: The hardest part about developing your
Facebook presence is getting existing patients and their
acquaintances to "like" your page. According to Dave
Kerpen, getting fans for your page starts by listing your
Facebook Web address on your business cards, stationery,
invoices, Web page, newsletter, office signage, and just
about everywhere you have office information listed. Also,
offer incentives for your patients and other contacts to
"like" your page. The incentive may be in the form of free
merchandise, discounts on services, or special offers. For
example, people who check in three times at my office are
eligible to receive a free tooth bleaching.
GHN: Once you have developed a nucleus of fans of your
page, how do you attract new patients to your practice?
Dr. Zuckerberg: What happens on Facebook is that people
have "friends," and you can target your marketing to people
who are "friends" of those who already "like" your page. As
a result, Facebook-the ultimate social network marketing
tool-allows you to do many of the things you are already
doing to market your practice, but much more effectively
and at significantly lower cost.
An important key to the success of a Facebook marketing
program is utilizing a selectable category in the ad
selection process on Facebook, called "friends of fans."
For example, John Smith is a fan of your practice. Most
people on Facebook have at least 100 friends, some upward
of several hundred. Using demographic limitations, assume
that 25 of John's friends fit into your parameters. When
your ad appears before John's friends on their Facebook
page, there will also be a thumbs-up graphic along with
"John Smith likes your practice!" This is the online
equivalent of a word-of-mouth referral. Can you imagine if
your direct mail could include references to the
recipient's friends liking your practice? If that person is
looking for a new dentist and they value John's
recommendation, you have successfully harnessed a referral
without having to ask John to be a missionary for you. This
is what is known as the concept of "social search," which
is a type of Web search method that determines the
relevance of search results by considering the interactions
or contributions of users.
GHN: Was the adoption of Facebook a natural fit for you,
or was there a learning curve?
Dr. Zuckerberg: It was a natural fit because I've always
been a technology enthusiast. For example, I recognized
early that digital X-rays reduce radiation exposure for my
patients by up to 80 percent. The instantaneous nature of
digital won me over very quickly. I pride myself on my
ability to evaluate technology. It improves my ability to
help my patients understand my treatment recommendations
and also allows me to raise the level of care I provide. In
short, technology allows me to reinforce my practice
vision, which is priceless. This vision is what led me to
adopt CAD/CAM, which allows me to dramatically improve
restoration quality and efficiency.
GHN: How do patients react to your emphasis on
Dr. Zuckerberg: My patients are used to me being
state-of-the-art; they're used to technology. We've been
collecting e-mail addresses in the practice since e-mail
was in its infancy. We use e-mail to send appointment
reminders, recall reminders, statements, quarterly
newsletters. I'm Inspector Gadget-my patients always expect
to see something new in my office. And this includes
providing patients with Internet access and iPods to make
their time in my office even more efficient and rewarding
GHN: Given the prevalence and the power of social media
in today's world, can you envision the inclusion of social
media in continuing education courses for practicing
dentists and in practice management courses for dental
Dr. Zuckerberg: Absolutely. But every type of business,
not only dentistry, can benefit from marketing on Facebook.
More than 600 million people are using Facebook worldwide.
With more than 150 million in the US alone, chances are
good that nearly 50 percent of a dentist's current patient
base is not only using Facebook, but is logging on several
times a week, if not daily. This is a tremendous
opportunity to project your message and reinforce
relationships with current patients, as well as tap into a
market of new patients.
GHN: Have you ever taught or been interested in
Dr. Zuckerberg: I actually teach a lot-but not
dentistry. I teach bridge; bridge is one of my passions.
I've been playing bridge actively for over 20 years and I'm
on the board of the organization that oversees bridge
activities in Westchester County. I run their Web site and
their Facebook page, and I became a certified bridge
teacher about 15 years ago. In fact, I've been teaching one
course a semester for the past five years in the adult
continuing education program at Westchester Community
College. My life is full of bridges-the Brooklyn Bridge,
which was the link from my childhood home to study at
NYUCD; playing bridge; bridges in a dental sense. And of
course, the ultimate bridge: technology as the bridge to
GHN: Your son Mark recently announced the formation of a
$100 million foundation to improve education among
underserved students in Newark, New Jersey's, struggling
school system. What are your thoughts about his
Dr. Zuckerberg: I'm extremely proud of him for starting
the philanthropic part of his career so early in life.