We live in a media-fueled world and no one industry is exempt any more than another from sharing the ins and outs of that sector on social media—beauty and plastic surgery included. In fact, more and more plastic surgeons are setting up Instagram and Snapchat accounts as a way to give potential patients an up close and personal explanation of the procedure itself and the results expected.
As New York plastic surgeon Matthew Schulman, MD, explains, the number of plastic surgeons using social media has been increasing, with the vast majority utilizing Instagram. “Regarding Snapchat, the number of plastic surgeons is growing but remains much lower. Plastic surgeons are realizing that social media is the ‘new media,’” he says. “Social media use spans all socio-economic groups, all ages, and all geographic regions. By using social media, surgeons are able to bring attention to their practice, and do so in a positive way since they control the message.”
Las Vegas plastic surgeon Christopher Khorsandi, MD, says that because the aesthetics industry is generally more involved in professional marketing, it is natural that providers take part in the conversation. “Snapchat is one of many mediums that surgeons are turning to. It speaks to a new generation of patients and allows patients to not only learn about procedures, but also learn about the surgeons themselves,” he adds. Cutting down on the amount of research and homework that needs to be done on the patients part (although it’s still necessary and can’t be glossed over), getting an inside view for how a surgeon operates, the results garnered and their overall demeanor are all pluses for surgeons being active on social media.
While some doctors see this as a marketing tool, others find it unnecessary to post live surgeries and images of their work on these forums. In fact, at the recent annual ASAPS Aesthetic Meeting, one doctor took to the stage to share her findings on how patients responded to doctors sharing one picture in particular of a surgeon performing a procedure and documenting it on social media (mind you, the post showed a patient straddled on a chair, which made for great fodder. But nonetheless, the panel quickly turned into a sounding board about doctors using social media).
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Just like your favorite beauty brand or celebrity, it’s now almost expected for plastic surgeons to be regularly active on Instagram and Snapchat—and this is especially important for prospective patients and those that have pending procedures. “We have become a digital, constantly connected society. It follows that plastic surgery would end up largely embracing social media,” says Dr. Khorsandi. “While the medium cannot be criticized, the message contained within is where many surgeons differ. Some feel that posts should remain strictly informational while there are those that feel entertainment can, and should, be part of the message—it’s this latter notion that causes so much fuss.”
While it’s still important for surgeons to maintain an educational website with answers to the most frequently asked questions, information about popular procedures and a photo gallery, patients now want to see their prospective doctor on social media, too. “If the surgeon is absent from social media it is viewed that they are hiding something. Or, that his or her results are not worth showing off to the public,” explains Dr. Schulman. “While we all know that there are may excellent surgeons who don’t have a social media presence, the reality is that it is perceived negatively and perception becomes reality.”
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Another reason why doctors are jumping on the Instagram bandwagon: it helps to grow their practice tremendously. “With my practice, social media has helped grow it to a level that many can’t achieve. My consults are booked four to six months out in advance and there is a nine month wait for surgery,” says Dr. Schulman. “My prices are among the highest in the nation and patients continue to book at a high rate and I know that this is due to my social media presence.” With more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, Dr. Schulman’s social media accounts (he has a Snapchat account, too, that garners more than 4.5 million views per day) give the world an inside look at before and after results and an idea of what really happens before, during and after surgery. He goes on to say that when he analyzed his surgical consultation date for a 12-month period (over 1,000 consecutive consultations), the surgical booking rate for those patients who were actively following him on Snapchat before the consultation was 73 percent compared to 43 percent for those not following him on Snapchat. “This just shows that I was already preselected by prospective patients before the consultation and they were coming to book surgery.”
But this still begs to answer the question of what the consumer feels about seeing these doctors put everything out there for the world to view. Sure, some may see it as unprofessional but for the large majority of patients and potential patients who want to make sure that they are selecting the right surgeon and the right procedure—and want to actually see what they themselves will experience—this is by far the best way to do it. “The vast majority of patients I have encountered have a positive impression of social media when it comes to plastic surgery,” says Dr. Khorsandi. “While there are those who shy away from watching live procedures, I am constantly amazed by how many people actually enjoy watching the process. In terms of my social media posts, it’s the before-and-after photos that garner the most impressions, the most likes, and the most interaction.”
“All of my patients are given the opportunity to have their surgery shown on Snapchat. Everyone who agrees, signs an extensive consent form,” says Dr. Schulman. “The entire point of my account is to give a realistic experience so if my patient wants something shown, I will show it.” Besides featuring surgical procedures, he also features consultations, follow-ups and nonsurgical procedures like toxins, fillers, lasers and aesthetician services. Chicago plastic surgeon Otto Placik, MD, adds that featuring actual patients on Snapchat reveals a willingness to show results in real time (and not necessarily long-term results) and the efforts the surgeon makes to achieve those outcomes. “Potential patients of my practice comment on the educational approach. They seem to have a better appreciation for the sincere efforts taken to achieve the final outcomes and they understand why they “hurt” after surgery as opposed to conventional plastic surgery TV shows that show the patient going in and out of surgery, but not the actual incisions or surgical trauma required to accomplish the procedure,” he says.
And, for those who use Snapchat and other social media platforms to their advantage, it’s definitely worth the investment and walking on the fine line. Dr. Khorsandi says he had one patient fly halfway across the world to have lip filler that required just a single syringe. “She liked my work on social media,” he says. “After I injected her with filler, she got on the plane and headed back home. I don’t think anything like that would have happened in the days before social media.”
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