Influencing the future of dentistry | American Dental Association – American Dental Association

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by Olivia Anderson
November 30, 2023
by Olivia Anderson
November 30, 2023
Alisha and Natasha Nanji have a long list of titles to their name. They’re twins, dental students, entrepreneurs, and more recently, social media influencers. 
Because the sisters grew up with a father who is a dentist, the family had countless dinner-table conversations about the dental field. As they got older, it gradually became clear to both Alisha and Natasha that a career in dentistry would become their path, too. 
After earning their undergraduate degree from Cornell University, the twins took a gap year while attending the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where they’re currently in their last year. During the gap year, they created a startup called AppBuddy. The app, a mentorship platform that aimed to combat educational inequity, was selected as one of 120 companies out of 7,900 applicants to receive $125,000 in funding. 
“The reason we started that is because we see technology as making a scalable impact,” Natasha said, noting that there is also a personal component at play – the Nanjis’ father immigrated to the United States from Uganda and their mother from Tanzania. “Throughout our entire life, the one thing that kept coming up was how an education from our parents was their passports out of poverty, so for us education has been ingrained from such a young age, and we’re very interested in the technology impact to make that scalable impact and tackle those inequities.”
They’ve also partnered with the ADA to highlight the Association’s Member App, which assists users in finding dental mentors, career pathways and tracking CE progress. The twins posted two reels on their joint Instagram account featuring the app, in hopes of helping their followers – many of whom are dental students – find community and resources.  
Through their venture into technology, the twins became very social media savvy. They initially began a joint Instagram account in August 2019 to document their journey in dental school and offer tips they’ve picked up along the way. Gradually, the account grew; it currently boasts about 96,000 followers as of press time, and has led them to speak at more than 50 high school and college clubs to date. Alisha and Natasha often receive messages from followers either requesting networking recommendations, asking questions about their dentistry journey, or simply thanking them for their tips and openness in sharing their own experiences. 
“It makes us so happy, because you’re putting content out there and you don’t really know how it will resonate with people. Just to get that positive feedback and positive response – it’s super cool to be able to actually see the impact it’s having,” Alisha said, smiling. 
For anyone in the dental space interested in expanding an online presence, the Nanji sisters have compiled six tips and tricks to help jumpstart the endeavor.  
1. Understand your goals. There are a variety of reasons to use social media as a dental professional, from wanting to mentor the younger generation to increasing your patient base. The twins suggested cementing one to two main purposes for joining social media, and then holding to them. 
2. Choose the right platform. Oftentimes, different social media platforms best cater to different demographics. TikTok, for instance, is a video-sharing social media app that allows users to create short-form content about any subject and is particularly popular among young generations. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a platform geared toward business, employment and networking opportunities. According to the Nanji sisters, it’s important to learn about the unique offerings of each platform in order to choose which channel is the best fit. 
3. Be consistent. The dental field can be overwhelming and busy, the sisters acknowledged, as patient care is always the first priority. But understanding that “consistency is key” when it comes to posting online will help grow an internet presence, they said. There are apps to help schedule posts, as well as to curate social media feeds. 
4. Engage with your audience. The twins stressed the significance of interacting with your audience, whether by liking comments or responding to direct messages. Creating a sense of real community will likely make people feel valued, and as a result, want to stick around.  
“At the end of the day, remember that even though it shows a number, every person following you is a person in real life, so it’s so important to engage with them,” Natasha said. 
5. Keep pushing. Although low follower counts at the beginning might prove to be discouraging, it’s helpful to remember that growth usually happens gradually. Try not to compare your online presence to other content creators, focus on your own platform, and celebrate the little wins – because they might not be so little after all. 
6. Be authentic. Social media doesn’t always accurately reflect reality, with glamorized and heavily edited photos often taking centerstage. But the Nanji twins have found that showing the more raw, messy and real aspects of their life have actually created a stronger connection with their followers. 
“It just reassures people. If you’ve failed, if you’ve gotten rejected, if your room is messy, that is okay,” Alisha said. “To be relatable, be authentic, just be yourself and don’t worry about acting like someone you’re not on social media.”
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