I HAVE just returned from a family trip to the Big City. As if to emphasise the dangers of such places, a death occurred that night in a fight outside a pub we had walked past earlier in the day.
The hotel staff were all discussing it and a comment I heard that I found slightly disturbing was: “It’s [the murder] all over Facebook.” I have not used Facebook as I don’t feel the need to spend any longer staring at a computer screen than I already do, and prefer my social contacts to be real life rather than second life.
However, I recently attended a marketing seminar where we were lectured on the necessity of using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, etc., to market our practice and to make sure we had an active presence on them.
Whilst I could see the benefits in theory, my gut feeling was, “Do we really have to?” Rejection of such things may be seen as a luddite approach but I also think that there is a point at which, as a profession, we should just stop our marketing and PR – of course the phrase “as a profession” has no real meaning.
New technology has, of course, had huge benefits to the profession, most notably the mobile phone. The person chairing the meeting happened to be my first boss and it was a small study in progress to hear him discussing the benefits of “tweeting” when I could also remember him telling me that for his first job he was told: “When you are on call, your wife takes the phone.”
Technology has also brought us the wonders of internet pharmacies and the like. So progress has been a mixed blessing but none of us would be without t’internet. I just wonder how much we have to be enslaved by serving it!
Things like Facebook take a lot of time to update and keep current. None of us, or at least few of us, are experts in the new media. If we have to be then that takes away time we should be spending on clinical matters and running a good business.
If we are not, we will be asked to pay someone who is to provide the service. It could be an ideal thing for a younger member of staff to run, but then anything sent out into the ether is public and so needs to be carefully scrutinised.
I also think we will struggle to keep up. It’s bad enough keeping up with clinical progress, but keeping up with new media is a full-time job. For instance, you can download an application for a mobile phone that will find your nearest supermarket-we-shallnot-name, direct you to it by GPS, then work out the most efficient route round the store for your shopping list you have uploaded to the phone. Wow. And all that for free.
Just as you get your Facebook page set up there will be something else you should be doing as well or instead of. A few years ago it was Friends Re-united, now its Facebook. AOL bought Bebo, a rival to Facebook, for $850 million a few years ago and has just closed it down!
The cigarette industry has been saved millions by the government in this field. By banning all advertising, it has created a level playing field for all the companies, so none has to spend out on advertising against the others. It would be like all the nuclear weapons-holding countries deciding to disarm: the end of the arms race.
How far down the marketing race are we going to get sucked? As well as time, it’s expensive. As well as the Yellow Pages advert fee, they now want more than £300 from me for the practice to be in “Yell.com”, then there are all the other directories and their websites.
The RCVS could take us back to the old days of a brass plaque and a single line Yellow Pages entry and save us all a fortune – end of the marketing arms race.
It is pleasing, however, to see that some things don’t progress, or do so in a suitably British dysfunctional way. I am, of course, talking about our beloved railway system.
In a time when you can book online airline or ferry tickets and print them off from home, I was informed by a member of railway staff today that you still have to wait for train tickets ordered online to arrive in the post. Mind you, she “…wasn’t sure because I don’t use the website”.
I asked for a one-way Birmingham to a town-in-Devon ticket, to get me home from BSAVA.
I wasn’t sure what time lectures ended or how long I would be in the pub afterwards so I asked for an openended one-way ticket: £79 for a twoand-a-half hour journey. I could drive there and back and have dinner on the way for less.
I was then advised that cheaper tickets were available if you specified a time and train in advance, I guessed between 6pm and 7pm. So I now have a ticket for just £38 at 7.12pm, and you know what, the cheapest ticket on that train was a first class one!
Just when you thought that the internet and computers had revolutionised, standardised and applied some degree of logic to the world, you can be sure that the British rail network will prove you wrong.
Mind you, at least they cancelled the strike, which was due in the middle of BSAVA congress. The union was taken to court over polling irregularities, one of which was that a signal box that had been closed down for many years had retuned votes from its staff in the poll!