The British Dental Association Gets Its Teeth into Social Media

The British Dental Association (BDA) is the professional association and trade union for dentists in the UK. Membership, which is voluntary, stands at around 23,000, the majority of which are in general practice, or ‘High Street’ operations.

Last year it decided to transform its existing website to become more of an interactive online resource for its members, including a social media element to allow professionals to exchange ideas and advice. The site also allows dentists to shop online, view copies of the BDJ (British Dental Journal), download advice sheets on practice management, education and policy, update their profile and make contact with other members via blogs, forums, local branches as well as access the personalised ‘MyBDA’ sections of the site.

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Brushing Up on Digital

The BDA’s new site was based on SDL Tridion’s BluePrinting Web content management system which helped the BDA to ‘localise’ information according to where its members were.

“We have three to four thousand pages of both static and dynamic content across five sites. We have regional office sites for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as a unified one for the whole UK,” said Barry Rutter, Web Services Manager at the BDA. “Each site is more or less identical but there are home page variants and localisation. These take into account different health care legislation because there are four national health services and three devolved assemblies or governments. For now we have no immediate plans to translate into Welsh but with BluePrinting we know the facility is there.”

The BDA’s customer relationship management (CRM) system records all its members’ information and transactions, things they have bought and events they have attended. On the website members can go to their personal area – MyBDA – and select what their interest groups are, create a series of shortcuts via the ‘my bookmarks’ area of the website and under ‘my local events’ see what local or national events are going on in their branch region. ‘My communities’ is the social media area of the site which is only available to fully paid-up members to access forums, blogs and member collaboration.

Members can also order up to eight books from the online library and have them sent via post.

Shiny Future

Rutter expects the BDA to add new functionality over the coming months, such as newsletters, but says that more than half the BDA’s members have already registered on the site.

“Changing to a new content management system gave us the perfect opportunity to look at the structure of the site as well and introduce best practices for accessibility and search engine optimisation,” Rutter added. “We now have at least a third of all shop purchases and a third of all membership applications transacted via the website and I expect this ratio to grow. It’s still a little early to evaluate but we are already encouraged that at least half our membership has now registered to use the site.”

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