Which Social Media Channel is Best for Plastic Surgeons? By Kristen Colwell on March 11, 2016

The promise of social media derived business has attracted many plastic surgeons to social networking channels. However, the "secrets" to social media success are complicated and have caused many plastic surgeons to abandon the channels, leaving old posts, outdated profiles, and unanswered requests in their wake.

So you may be wondering: which social media channel is the best and how do I leverage my social media activity in a meaningful way?

There are many definitions of  "meaningful" social media activity, including:

  • Attracting new patients
  • Building a consistent brand across various channels
  • Keeping up with news in the industry
  • Developing relationships with colleagues
  • Engaging with current and former patients

There are many definitions of "meaningful" social media activity and all are relative to the goals of the surgeon. 

Given that plastic surgeons have different definitions of meaningful social media activity, it is impossible to make a blanket social media channel recommendation. Instead, we analyzed the most popular social media channels among plastic surgeons and rated them based on use and time commitment.

This post walks you through the social media channel selection process, but here are our top-level recommendations:

  • No time for social media but want to attract new patients? Paid digital ads on Facebook, Instagram, and/or YouTube are your best bet.
  • Brand new to social media and trying to build your follower base? Paid digital ads on Facebook and Instagram can give you a boost.
  • Looking to connect with colleagues? LinkedIn is your platform.
  • Searching for industry news? Twitter is the place for you.
  • No time for social media but want to reinforce your website's SEO? Make sure you have a complete Google+ local page for your practice.

Step 1: How Do You Define Social Media Success?

Followers, likes, shares, link clicks, retweets, post impressions, profile views...  there are many measures of social media activity. However, activity does not necessarily mean that your social media efforts are delivering results for your practice.

There are four primary ways plastic surgeons use social media:

  1. Professional Networking
  2. Academic News & Continued Education
  3. Patient Education
  4. Patient Marketing

Each of these uses comes with a different set of strategies and performance indicators:

Professional Networking

David H. Song, MD, MBA, FACS drives home an important social media point in the Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery article "#SocialMedia for the Academic Plastic Surgeon - Elevating the Brand:"

As an academic plastic surgeon, you want to establish yourself as an engaged community member and a thought leader.

Wide adoption of social media has reduced many traditional barriers to professional networking success. Geographic, language, and even financial barriers can be circumvented thanks to social media networks. This means that a young plastic surgeon starting a practice in Florida can connect with a seasoned academic plastic surgeon practicing in London... in near real-time and at no monetary cost beyond Internet connection and connected device investments.

Olivier Branford MD, MBBS, PHD, MRCS, FRCS(PLAST) and others from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons have taken up the challenge of populating the Twitter hashtag #plasticsurgery with evidence-based news and articles. This effort essentially stakes claim to a "home base" on Twitter for plastic surgeons to post academic pieces and have high-level discussion about patient outcomes.

In the American Society of Plastic Surgeons article "Twitter for Plastic Surgeons Who are Too Busy to Tweet"  Dr. Branford explains, "social media is essential to modern marketing strategy... In the competition for service provision and patients the emerging leaders will be those with an awareness of their public image and that of their institution."

Dr. Branford emphasizes that:

It is not sufficient to have good outcomes  - those results must be publicly available.

Academic News & Continued Education

Many plastic surgery associations and groups are active on social media, making it easier for plastic surgeons to tap into real-time industry news than ever before.

The trick here is to create a filtering system to wade through the vast amount of news distributed through social media channels. The filtering system is unique to each social media channel, but a general rule is to subscribe to or follow the social media profile for professional industry groups and thought leaders as a starting point. Once connected with these reputable sources, you can begin to isolate the users who produce the content that is most valuable to you.

When properly filtered, social media networks will help keep you up-to-date on technological and scientific advances in the industry as well as opportunities for earning continued education credits.

Unable to attend the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Meeting coming up in Las Vegas, but want to be in-the-loop? No problem. ASAPS is very active on social media.

See the association's Twitter page (below) for updates and see the hashtag #ASAPS for a newsfeed related to the conference.

Patient Education

Social media is like the Wild West of news networks. Legitimate news stories from reputable sources may appear in the same news feeds as fabricated news stories from questionable sources. As bad as this sounds, it presents an opportunity for plastic surgeons who want to carve out their brand in the digital world.

Dr. Branford explained that, "when surgeons tweet it helps to combat the dominance of tabloid newspapers on social media covering plastic surgery news. Perhaps then we can help move the focus away from media obsession with celebrities to feature more interesting plastic surgical scientific achievements."

Here is a live example of Dr. Branford's patient education Twitter activity. In this case, he is reporting back on a recent public Twitter poll he created:

Patient Marketing

Yes, social media marketing can be incredible. However, we encourage plastic surgeons to take a holistic approach to their patient attraction & conversion efforts. It is highly unlikely that social media activity will result in new patients on a consistent basis if the plastic surgeon's website is not optimized to convert visitors into patients. 

Social media marketing is just one component of a larger ecosystem built upon user-centric web design, search engine optimization, quality content, and online reputation management.  

Social Media's Place in Your Online Marketing Ecosystem

Before getting too excited about the promise of growing your practice through social media success, make sure you understand that social media is just one piece of your online marketing ecosystem. 

Social media channels rely on your practice's online marketing foundation to convert activity into patients. Unfortunately, many plastic surgeons who prematurely leap into social media in the absence of a solid brand strategy and corresponding online marketing foundation become frustrated and disinterested in social media as a whole. 

Popular social platforms such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube provide three core marketing benefits: paid digital advertising, content amplification, and high-touch public relations. Each of these marketing activities is enhanced by social media's always-on nature and ability to target messages to defined demographic groups.

Social Media Channels Rated by Use

We analyzed the most popular social media channels among plastic surgeons and rated their value for these different uses.

Rating ranges from one to five, with five representing the best fit. We found that LinkedIn and Twitter have significant professional networking and academic news value. Alternatively, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube have the best value for patient education and marketing activities.

Step 2: How Much Time Can You Commit to Social Media Activity?

When you first engage in social media activity, it may feel a bit like drinking from a firehose. However, despite the high volume of users and posts on social media, many plastic surgeons find themselves speaking to an empty room.

Time investment is required to move beyond the initial "I'm on social media" phase to the "I leverage social media activity to achieve my goals" phase. 

There are four primary social media activities to consider: 

  1. Profile Set-Up
  2. Monitoring Frequency
  3. Posting Frequency
  4. Content Creation

Tasks such as profile set-up and content creation can be outsourced or managed by someone on your staff. However, monitoring and posting require your depth of industry knowledge applied in real-time. These tasks will require your time even if done in tandem with an outsourced team or in-house staff member.

Be honest with yourself before starting social media channels. If you don't intend to commit to daily social media activity, don't invest in social media networks such as Twitter that require daily maintenance.

Social Media Channels Rated by Time Investment

We analyzed the most popular social media channels among plastic surgeons and rated the time investment required to properly manage the different channels. 

Rating ranges from one to five, with five representing the largest time investment. We found that Google+ requires the least time investment, whereas LinkedIn and Twitter require more significant time investments. Note that YouTube requires little set-up time, but optimized video creation is complex and likely requires professional assistance. 

Step 3: Which Two Social Media Channels Best Suit Your Needs?

Once you have defined how you plan to use social media and the amount of time you will commit to your social media activities, you can narrow down the field to one or two channels. 

See these slides for top-level analysis of specific social media channels to help guide your decision:

Step 4: Where Do You Stand?

Now that you have a plan for selecting the best social media channel or channels based on your goals, it is essential to evaluate your brand strategy and existing patient-conversion infrastructure.

If your desire is to gather industry news and catch up with colleagues, you can do this with relatively low commitment. However, if your goal is to generate new business from social media activity, you absolutely need a solid online marketing foundation that converts this activity into new surgeries.

Without a solid foundation you will quickly find that your social media time investment is not paying off.

The wonderful thing about social media is that plastic surgeons can utilize the networks even if unable to commit significant time.

Highly committed plastic surgeons have one or more branded social media channels and actively post content, interact with followers and proactively build their follower base(s). Those without the ability to commit significant time can utilize paid digital advertising to tap into the community. 

Where do you stand on the social media time commitment continuum?

Contact the team at Einstein Medical for a better understanding of your ideal online marketing foundation. There are many online marketing tools at your disposal and we are happy to discuss the strategic and timely use of these tools to maximize your results while honing in on those activities that truly matter to your bottom line.

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