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a blog by Chris Barrow

Is providing free treatment for "influencers" a good idea?

Since the new year began, I've been asked my opinion three times on the issue of offering low cost/no cost treatment to individuals who have approached practices and described themselves as "influencers".

An influencer is someone who has: the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience. a following in a distinct niche, with whom he or she actively engages.

On checking Google for a little more information on just who these lucky people are, I discovered a definition that suggested any person with between 1,000 and 5,000 followers on a social media platform can be described as a nano-influencer.

Which means I am one!

I'll be telling my dentist Bob McLelland that I want my next course of treatment free of charge (and I know where he will tell me to shove that).

So if I were a dentist, how would I feel about offering free treatment to "real" influencers?

I have a number of questions to ask:

  • Size matters - followed by how many? Just exactly how many followers are we talking about here?

  • Reputation - followed for what? Make-up, handbags, partying, looking handsome? Famous for being famous?

  • Demographic - followed by whom? Is it consistent with my overall business strategy that I have potential hordes of this particular individual's followers arriving on my doorstep?

  • Treatment modality - and do I want to be delivering to lots of people what I delivered to my "influencer"?

  • Family & friends - in one of the three examples I mentioned, the "influencer" has pointedly requested that family are provided with free treatment (that sounds crazy to me).

  • Satisfaction guaranteed - given that an "influencer" must, by definition, be self-conscious, how are we going to determine what constitutes a happy patient at the end of the treatment - the bar is likely to be set very high.

  • Conflict resolution - given that dentistry (health) has a degree of unpredictability, what are we going to do if something goes wrong. Does my "influencer" become a curse and not a blessing?

  • The long term - depending on the type of treatment, is the "influencer" going to be turning up on my doorstep in 10 years from now, asking what I'm going to do to keep them looking as beautiful as they once did? (Followed by all of their followers)

If I'm being unduly cautious here, I'll take the feedback, but it seems to be a scenario that carries considerable risk.

I've heard stories about free treatment provided for celebrity endorsement. For people with real talent; stars from the world of sport or the arts who have a global or national reputation.

Is there are difference between a celebrity and an "influencer"?

Having thought about this for a couple of weeks, my inclination is to politely decline if my business isn't focused on that market - and point my "influencer" towards the dentists who are using the same social channels to promote themselves.

I'm sure there are plenty of TikTok dentists who will be delighted to see them FOC.

Caveat emptor.

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