- Social media is quickly becoming one of the main avenues for direct to consumer marketing.
- Patients use social media to find surgeons and to communicate about procedures, outcomes, and their experiences.
- A surgeon’s social media presence can dramatically increase their perception of being an expert and showcase to patients their style and approach.
- There is no single best social network, instead various networks exist with unique characteristics that each have the potential to drive traffic to a practice.
- Social media can be potentially hazardous for patients and surgeons if misused.
As patients incorporate social media into their daily routine, physicians are increasingly investigating ways of harnessing this burgeoning market of interactive media. Plastic surgeons are apt to embrace innovation and emerging technologies, and they are now helping to define the interaction between social media and medicine. Social media is a powerful tool that needs to be used wisely to avoid pitfalls.
Social media is an opportunity for people to connect electronically and informally. It is designed to make introductions, share experiences, build community, and overall link people with common interests.1 Social media platforms represent a dynamic and powerful tool to educate, engage, market to, and directly communicate with patients and professional colleagues.2 It can include chat rooms, blogs, networks, or channels. In the very intimate world of plastic surgery, it offers an opportunity to interact and learn more in greater dimension than traditional media, yet social media still allows patients to remain anonymous, if they so choose.1 Most forms of social media function as a freemium business model, whereby the use of basic services is free but certain promotional features come with a price tag.
There are several different kinds of social media (discussed below).
Social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, include services whereby personal or business accounts are created and “friends” or “followers” connect. Instagram and Snapchat are primarily used on mobile devices and consist mainly of photographs and video content. Other networks, such as LinkedIn, are for professional networking as a way to connect with business contacts.
The original chat room forums such as AOL have been replaced by more sophisticated Web sites such as Reddit, which has many “subreddits” that unite individuals with similar, targeted interests and create a framework for discussion and promotion of interesting content.
YouTube and Vimeo offer robust video sharing capability with potential to handle longer educational content and store it in a more permanent fashion. Instagram and Snapchat also offer video content sharing with shorter videos that are often only temporarily available to the user’s network.
Historically, review sites were meant more for restaurants and movies, but now physicians have a lot to gain or lose based on their reviews. Sites such as Healthgrades offer little conversation between the patient and physician, and are primarily a 1-way exchange for patients to post about their experience. Other review sites such as RealSelf, Yelp, and Google allow for practices to at least respond to patient reviews, although in a limited capacity because of HIPAA regulations.
HOW WE USE IT
Several studies in the plastic surgery literature have sought to investigate how we currently use social media. The first study, in 2013, found that the reasons for using social media, namely Facebook, included the beliefs that incorporation of social media into medical practice is inevitable (56.7%), that they are an effective marketing tool (52.1%), and that they provide a forum for patient education (49%). Surgeons with a primarily esthetic surgery practice were more likely to use social media.
Chang and colleagues3 found that plastic surgeons using Facebook are younger compared with nonusers. They also found that users and nonusers believe the greatest benefits of Facebook are increased practice exposure and lowcost advertising; however, seldom are objective outcomes tracked. Facebook users were therefore encouraged to monitor its direct effects on quantifiable outcomes, such as professional Web site traffic, number of new patient referrals, conversion-to-surgery rates, and operative volume, to clarify whether or not its continued use is worth the effort.
AUTHORS’ IMPRESSIONS OF MAJOR PLATFORMS AS THEY APPLY TO FACIAL PLASTIC SURGERY
Facebook’s demographic tends to encompass adults from their mid to late 20s through to senior citizens. This platform also allows for multiple pictures per post, videos over an hour long, and detailed text descriptions. For these reasons, education-heavy, explanatory posts, or posts about surgical and nonsurgical antiaging interventions, may be fit more naturally on Facebook than other current platforms.