In social media’s heyday, few doctors showed up consistently on the now popular platforms. But all of that has changed, and medical practices of every kind are now dialed into at least one form of social media, making it a primary marketing tactic. One of the first board-certified plastic surgeons to find success on social media is Dr. Miami (Dr. Michael Salzhauer). He built a persona and reputation across all platforms by tapping into strategic content and creating a rock-solid community of followers and fans. But what worked at the beginning of his social media career is now different. Today, he and his team highlight the surgeon’s day-to-day life and create informational content—they also place less weight on perfectly curated gallery photos. Currently, Dr. Miami boasts impressive social media followings with 1.5 million followers on Instagram and 1.7 million on TikTok, so he’s doing something right. We spoke with Dr. Miami about the ever-changing landscape of social media from a plastic surgeon’s perspective and the new social media platform he’s tapping into.
The Q&A with Dr. Miami
Build My Health: How has social media changed since you started on it? What were the first platforms you were on versus now?
Dr. Miami: The first social media platform I was on was YouTube. We were making silly, short videos back then—I don’t think I went by “Dr. Miami” yet. We also used Instagram to post gallery before-and-after pictures. It was and still is a great visual tool for prospective patients. Now, Instagram has strict nudity guidelines, and that poses a challenge.
Unfortunately, our first Instagram account was deleted. My daughter told me about Snapchat, an app all the kids used. That’s when “Dr. Miami” really took off. My team and I would post live surgeries, respond to messages, do shoutouts, and more. Snapchat is where we built our community. We are still loyal to it and love our audience there, but it has also become stricter with guidelines.
Now, the platform to be on is TikTok, which is quick, young, and funny. Younger users have shorter attention spans, so the content must be smart and snappy. The audiences on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat have gotten older with me.
BMH: ‘Dr. Miami’ was one of the first surgeons to pull back the curtain on what happens in the operating room during surgery. How do you think this approach propelled you to social media fame?
Dr. M: Well, the fact that I was the first and only surgeon posting live surgery is a big part of why I went viral. People couldn’t believe I showed BBLs step-by-step on a kids’ messaging app. We demystified and normalized plastic surgery to the point that teens watched me perform rhinoplasties at 9 am during school.
People imagine surgeons to be very cold and severe because we cut into people’s bodies. I’m the opposite of that. My social media accounts show me listening to my favorite Soundcloud rappers while operating, pranking my staff, and hanging out with my patients. I think that also contributed to my popularity.
BMH: Do you feel your fans are still on Snapchat? Or have they moved to other platforms?
Dr. M: Many of our fans are still on Snapchat, but they have moved on to other platforms like TikTok. I feel like there has been a general decline in Snapchat due to newer messaging and video apps. I don’t think it’s specific to my followers. But the followers on Snapchat are incredibly loyal—they are our ride or dies.
BMH: Years ago, it was thought to be wasteful and unprofessional for doctors to be on social media. How has that changed? And why is it essential for doctors to be active on social media today?
Dr. M: Doctors’ overall attitude towards social media has taken a huge turn. When I first got on Snapchat, I received so much criticism and scrutiny from the public and professional communities alike. These days, social media is basically a prerequisite to practice. I don’t think every doctor needs to have a social media presence, but I do believe it’s a great marketing strategy that can be extremely cost-effective.
BMH: At the beginning of the social media boom, everything was about getting likes and comments. Now, it’s expanded to community and beyond. How has your level of interaction with followers and patients changed? What conversations are you having now that you weren’t before and vice versa?
Dr. M: While we initially focused on growing our accounts via followers and likes, we always viewed social media as a means to build community. From the early days of Snapchat, we did ‘shoutouts,’ giveaways, and meet and greets. I love my patients and followers and don’t want them to view me as “just another doctor.” Their support and dedication are a large part of why I can live the life I live.
BMH: What types of content used to get a lot of traction? And what content works better today?
Dr. M: Surgery and before-and-after content used to get a lot of traction. But with social media platforms tightening up their guidelines, it’s hard to post that kind of content now. So now, we create content that allows our followers to get to know “Dr. Miami.”
BMH: How do you strategize and plan for the content you put out? What percentage is educational versus entertaining? And why are these elements important to incorporate?
Dr. M: In the beginning, I did a lot of content strategizing and producing myself. Now, I have a small social media team of Gen-Zers who have their fingers on the pulse of what people want to see. We try to have an even split of educational and funny content depending on the platform. Of course, everyone likes to laugh, but informational content shows people that I am a medical professional with years of expertise and knowledge. It also makes my viewers feel like they can trust me to be their doctor one day.
BMH: What kind of content do you put on Snapchat vs. Instagram vs. TikTok?
Dr. M: Snapchat is the only platform where we can post live surgery, so we post that content there. TikTok is for shorter 10 to 30-second videos. We try to make our TikTok content funny, informative, and relevant to current trends. On Instagram, we post before-and-after photos and important updates regarding our practice. Sometimes we repost our TikToks on Instagram, which seems to do well.
BMH: Is the next big thing Telegram and YouTube Shorts? How are you using those platforms?
Dr. M: I love Telegram and have been trying to convince my Gen-Z staff that it’s the next big thing. The interface is a little tricky at first, but it has virtually zero guidelines and is perfect for posting live surgery. I think with a few updates, it could be the next Snapchat!
BMH: There’s a lot of plastic surgery content on Instagram and TikTok, which can be overwhelming. How can patients best find qualified providers and accurate information amongst so much misinformation?
Dr. M: It’s all about doing your research. Social media gives potential patients many options to choose from when it comes to plastic surgery. The downside to that is everything is a highlight reel. No doctor posts their botched procedures or death rates. Plastic surgery is elective, but it can be very dangerous if you go to the wrong person. So, make sure you do your homework.
BMH: What are the most valuable lessons to share with other medical practices about making social media a significant part of your marketing strategy?
Dr. M: The greatest part of social media as a marketing strategy is that it’s inexpensive and cuts out the middleman. You don’t need to pay a company to run ads when you can make a TikTok account and directly engage with consumers.
Written by Elise Minton Tabin