As plastic surgeons across the nation gather in Boston this weekend for The Aesthetic Meeting, hosted by The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), many new plastic surgery techniques will be discussed as well as Practice Management and Online Marketing sessions. The ASAPS twitter account ensures doctors have the most up to date information and any updates made by attendees can be followed by searching Meeting Hashtag #ASAPS11. Obviously, many physicians are now recognizing the importance of technology, internet and social media and the roles they play in disseminating information, drawing in, and retaining new patients.
And while technology has made communication amongst friends and family much easier, social media has made keeping in contact with even the slightest acquaintance as easy as well, a tweet or post. Social media include sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and these websites act as loose networks where a vast number of contacts, friends, followers can share thoughts, photos and ideas. Savvy businesses and practices use social media to promote and contact their patients but how are they most effectively doing so?
According to board certified Denver plastic surgeon and author of BEAUTY and the BUSINESS Dr. Gregory Buford, "Social media outlets are not necessarily marketing agents. Practices have to be careful that they do not appear to be using it as such." Even if a practice is trying to use social media to connect with their patients, it has to be very careful about how to do it or they risk alienating or losing their patients' interest.
Here are 5 important things to keep in mind when engaging with patients through social media outlets:
- Content Is Key
Dr. Buford says, "In the social media sphere, educate - don't sell. We create consumers and great loyalty by providing advice, by providing education that's actually helpful to them. Identify your target consumer and write to them." The importance of content cannot be stressed enough. Most plastic surgeons may not be writers so Dr. Buford recommends hiring either a firm or an individual to be responsible for creating content. "Social media is not about providing content - it's about providing useful and worthwhile content to the consumer," states Dr. Buford
- How Timely Are You?
According to Paula Young, co-owner of Young Medical Spa and external social media set-up consultant, "We recommend posting something to Facebook at least twice a week; most people get inundated if they get too much content so we tell our clients to limit their Facebook postings." Young says, "We'll typically post events on Facebook - whether it's BOTOX or dermal filler days, an open house, or a new procedure that we're performing - those are things we want to inform patients on."
Another important point about posting frequency on social media is as a doctor, you do not want to appear as if you have a lot of time on your hands. "You want to look like you only have a limited amount of time and you just took enough time out of your schedule to write this article because you thought it was really important for patients to know," states Dr. Buford, "But if you're spitting out absolute nonsense and often, patients are going to think that doctor has a lot of time on his hands."
- It's All About Consistency
"The biggest complaint that I hear from doctors that I've assisted with Facebook accounts is how time consuming it is," Young says, "And yes, it is time consuming but in reality, it can be just one message that you want released on social media every 2 or 3 days. Just one consistent message that can go out on all platforms." She also recommends designating this job to one of the staff members; to take ownership of coming up with topics to send out to patients.
Dr. Buford stresses the importance of having a consistent tone that is authoritative but at the same time, make sure it's customized, "Identify your target consumer and write to them. Write in the language that they use and in the tone of voice you think would attract them. You wouldn't speak to a 30 year old breast augmentation patient the same way you would speak to a 65 year old male about a facelift. It's completely different."
- Get Personal
According to Young, "The whole idea of social media is to engage with potential customers. The worst thing a practice can do is provide inconsistent, bad or untimely information. You want to elicit some sort of conversation or interest to engage a potential customer." At Young Medical Spa, she attributes that from social media sites, 60-70% of those patients will at least come in for a consultation.
- Use The Right Social Media Outlet For The Right Purpose
Facebook and Twitter are completely different outlets - as such, practices must treat each differently when it comes to messages. "On Twitter, you're limited to 140 characters so usually, our tweets are teasers to get patients to either go to a blog, website or our Facebook page," says Young, "Another nice thing about Twitter is twitpics. For example, we could twitpic a Before and After and it drives readers to Facebook or our website for more information. It's weaving a web and catching your potential customers and patients one way or another."
To sum up the most successful way to connect with a potential patient via social media, Dr. Buford says, "Consumers are intelligent people and after a while if all you're putting up is sound bites, they're going to tune you out. They're not going to follow you on Facebook or any social media site so it is imperative that you post information that's effective, timely and most importantly, that is interesting to them and they actually want to read."
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