I’m getting ready for the big move to San Francisco, to join Dr. Donald Brown, a plastic surgeon in practice for 30 years. So luckily I’m not starting from scratch but there are important tasks to address, such as updating Dr. Brown’s website and social media/online marketing accounts to include my name. The fact that this was such a priority got me thinking about what it must’ve been like for my father, Bernard L Kaplan (portrait to the right), starting a practice in the early 60’s. He too joined an existing practice but it’s crazy to think of how priorities have changed in “setting up shop” then vs now. Let’s leave out all of the regulatory, legal and insurance changes and just focus on the marketing efforts that a physician entering into practice must address.
Back then, most surgeons/physicians weren’t considering any type of marketing, much less online marketing. Physician advertising, commonplace now, was unheard of back then. A physician, particularly a plastic surgeon that gets their cosmetic patients via word-of-mouth or other marketing efforts, has to put a lot of time and effort into Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc! A plastic surgeon these days wouldn’t consider going into practice without a marketing plan.
If you have specials or other promotions, you want Facebook or Twitter to spread the word. Patients can also contact their doctor through these social media sites. Pinterest and Instagram can be used to upload interesting pictures, such as pre and postop photos but you have to be careful here. As I wrote about in a previous blog post, you have to be sure you have your patient’s permission to post their photos but also be sure you conceal their identity if it’s a photo other than that of a patient who received a facelift.
In an effort to not appear as though you’re always giving the hard sell to patients, you have to be a “part of the conversation”. What this means is that, in addition to letting patients know of specials you may be running, you also post stories on your social media to highlight new developments in the world of plastic surgery. That way, you keep your practice’s Facebook page current and your posts appear on the wall of your followers. Just look at that last sentence – not only has the need for marketing and the way we market changed drastically but it’s produced a new lexicon of terminology (Facebook page, posts, wall, followers!). In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest posts, the blog you’re reading right now all contributes to that conversation and in turn, your “credibility” and “authority” increase, thus taking full advantage of Google’s algorithm and the rise of your ranking on Google searches when someone is looking for a plastic surgeon.
One benefit, at least at first glance, is that all of this social media is less expensive that print advertising. Unfortunately that’s ultimately not true. While it costs nothing to have a Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest account, the internet marketing companies, some fly-by-night, that help research and post stories to your social media accounts and keep you in the conversation, are decidedly not free! Depending on your needs and the company you use, your initial website can be upwards of $30,000 and your monthly bill for those companies to help with social media can be $2000 to $3000 per month. I bet most physicians weren’t spending that much on print ads before this social media revolution.
I think the human interaction that grows out of this revolution and the ability of patients to more easily contact their doctors is a positive development. As long as patients are nice and doctors are responsive, I think everyone can benefit from the give and take process that is part of the collective plastic surgery practice of the 21st century!