I know, it's a poor play on a lyric by The Who, but you get the point: You'd better blog. Why? Because if you're not doing it, you're behind the curve. Don't take my word for it; read it online at Web Pro News.
So, What's a Blog?
If you already know what a blog is, skip ahead.
If not -- blog is short for "weblog," a collection of personal writings organized by date. It's a Web site that services like Blogger make easy to use, including fancy professional templates that make it look like you hired a Web designer. It's totally free, and you can have one up and running in less than an hour.
Did you hear the free part? Hello? Just checking.
If you've read my earlier columns on Web marketing, you understand that blogging can have a great results-to-cost ratio. More than that, it builds your credibility. Regular advertising creates a credibility gap, because it makes you look like a salesperson, and you end up having to prove your value, whereas the Web - properly used - makes you an expert. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - people who list in my directory, because of the power of the profitable keyword, consistently get calls from local prospects - anywhere from a few a month, to a few a week.
With blogs, cheap and powerful Web marketing is only slightly more difficult than sitting on your couch. If you can read and send e-mail, you already have all the skills you need. Here's the takeaway message: Web marketing has leveled the playing field for the time being, but it may not stay that way. It may become harder and harder for newbies to get good search rankings as the pillars of the online world solidify.
Why Should Acupuncturists Blog?
The reason businesspeople use blogs is that they're more personal than corporate Web sites. Prospects can get to know them better from a safe distance, which creates the kind of trust that inspires purchases and customer loyalty.
The kind of healing and prevention work we're capable of requires long-term relationships with our patients. This is a major concern of mine - many patients stick to treatment until they're out of the woods of the current complaint, but as costs mount and quality of life increases, they trail off. Usually they say something like, "I really like you, but I can't afford this anymore." As my wife, Lynda Harvey-Carter says, if you don't end the relationship or redefine it (how will we proceed in the long term, what is maintenance and tune up, how do you prevent, etc.), they'll end it for you, and then you've lost them.
Blogging, or being personally present and available online 24-7, makes it possible for your future, current, and former patients to find you and keep up with you. It makes longer-term relationships and return visits more likely.
The more of you that blog, the better the public will get to know our medicine. I believe this is crucial to the success of our medicine in the West. We must mainstream acupuncture. We must prove to regular folks that we're not aliens, wackos or cultists. You don't think they think we're weird? Remember, most people hang around people who are like them, and so we think that what's normal to us is more popular and more common than it actually is.
If you don't practice in California or New York, assume your prospects know nothing about acupuncture. Even here in San Diego, some people don't know the basics. It's amazing. It means we have a long way to go, and I think blogging is one of the ways to get there.
I'm not the first acupuncturist to do this. Al Stone, founder and former owner of Acupuncture.com, has for years been writing a blog on the news and research on acupuncture. You can visit it at http://gancao.net/weblogs/acublog/.
Getting Started Just go to Blogger.com, and you'll find out how easy it is. Get an account, choose the layout and colors that communicate your unique style, and you can create your first page. (Don't get stuck. My first page was ... well, dumb. It said I was new to blogging and listed my Web sites. I deleted it later when I had better stuff.)
I realized I could put some of my orphan pieces on there - I'm talking about things I've written that I didn't think belonged on pulsemed.org or in Acupuncture Today. Most of these are my attempts at humorous writing ...I've written some top 10 lists for my Toastmasters club, and some short satires inspired by Dave Barry, the funniest writer in the solar system. Check out my blog at http://americas-acupuncturist.blogspot.com/.
So, Get Started!
I know, not everyone is a writer, not everyone likes to write, yadda yadda yadda. Writers write; the only way to improve your writing is just to write.
If you really don't want to sit down at the keyboard and you have some money, you can get a voice recorder and have your computer turn it into text, or you can hire someone to type it in for you. That way, you can just 'journal' random thoughts into your recorder while driving or while you're between patients. Just make sure that if you do it while driving, that you're also on the cell phone, drinking coffee, and steering with your knee. That proves how cool you are - not that you need to prove anything, though.
Regardless of how you write, just jump in. If later on you find that you don't like some of your old posts, you can delete them. The big secret to writing is to sit down and write creatively, and don't edit until later. Spill it all, without judgment, and go back and edit it later. Editing is a critical process. Writing is a creative process, and can be quashed by criticism, so leave the editing for later. Creativity is like pregnancy: the baby (your writing) needs a protective womb in which to form before facing the big bad world.
Write your first copy in Microsoft Word, and leave it until the next day. Then, change whatever you like, and check the grammar and spelling. Then, since it's a blog, just post it. For other types of writing, five to 10 edits can make a huge difference. However, blogs are more personal, so idiosyncrasies are OK. Spelling and grammar errors are never OK, though; they make people think you're dumb. If you want to edit more, read your piece aloud, and you'll find more things to improve.
Here's some further advice. I'd suggest writing no more than 500-1,000 words per piece. Little nuggets. We're a soundbyte culture, and you don't want to bore your readers. Web readers tend to skim and scan more than book readers, so give every paragraph a title in bold. Then they'll read in detail whatever interests them.
What Should You Write About?
It's all up to you. You might be too hung up on your professional image to write about your dog or your obsession with 70s rock music, but I think that's a mistake. It's my style to be revealing, but maybe it wouldn't work for you. Let's say you're a Metal type, and you tend to attract patients who are methodical, thorough, and serious. You'll want your blog to be in the same style. I suppose you could be revealing in a Metal way, but whatever and whoever you are, be yourself.
A fundamental way to create intimacy is to become vulnerable and disclose personal information. For professionals, being personable and real requires tact. Fortunately, people tend to like us more when we don't seem perfect. I used to let fear lead me to try to appear perfect, but that created more distance between myself and others, and aggravated their self-doubt. It's better when you're confident and comfortable with yourself.
Just be yourself, and have fun. Blog away!
If you start a blog, let me know. I'd be happy to link to acupuncturists' blogs from pulsemed.org, which is sure to get you some readers.
Click here for previous articles by Brian Carter, MSCi, LAc.