For Aesthetic Doctors, Earned Media is a Very Good Deal

earned mediaIf you’ve found yourself questioning the value of the ads you buy in local magazines, the Yellow Pages and other paid media outlets, you’re not alone. Turns out consumers’ trust in them is slipping as well.

Who do they trust instead? Their friends, family members and online reviews. In fact, according to a recent Nielsen study on consumer behavior, word of mouth, online reviews and other forms of “earned media” topped all other forms of advertising. Among the findings:

  • 92% of global consumers trusted recommendations from friends and family, up 18% since 2007
  • 70% trusted online reviews from other consumers, up 15% since 2008
  • 47% trusted paid advertising found in television, magazines and newspapers, down 24%, 20% and 25%, respectively since 2009

Consumers around the world continue to see recommendations from friends and online consumer opinions as by far the most credible, said Randall Beard, global head, Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen. As a result, successful brand advertisers will seek ways to better connect with consumers and leverage their goodwill in the form of consumer feedback and experiences.

For plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and facial plastic surgeons, the shift from paid to earned media may carry even more weight as consumers consider expensive, life-changing procedures and turn to others for information, emotional support and confirmation that they’re making the right decision. Last year, in fact, a survey by AAFPRS, showed that 63% of patients said they received most of their information from friends and family while 42% gave the nod to social media. The latter represented an increase of almost 45%.

Clearly, participating in social media is only going to get more important as more people spend more time online, researching procedures, seeking recommendations and reading reviews. It’s all about building trust — and for doctors hoping to turn consumers into clients, there’s nothing more important. As Tom Seery, CEO of puts it,

Trust is the currency by which a medical practice thrives or struggles in today’s socially-enabled world.

Doctor Takeaways

1. You’ve earned your expertise, use earned media to share it

Many doctors are leery of offering advice online because they worry about privacy, blurring of professional lines and bad reviews. But, as Seery notes, most people who post on RealSelf are looking for information and emotional support. Doctors who provide both by offering insights and advice (but not sales pitches) build trust, which, in turn, builds new business.

2. Paid media isn’t dead; it’s just evolving

While consumers increasingly tune out ads in magazines and on TV, they do pay attention to online ads. According to Nielsen, ads viewed in search engine results are trusted by 40% of viewers, up 34% from 2007. A targeted and well-thought-out pay-per-click campaign will help ensure that your ad is among the ones they see.

3. Owned media is where the magic happens

Whether you use earned and/or paid media, the goal is to drive consumers to your “owned media,” which simply refers to the online properties you control, e.g., your website. According to Nielsen, 58% of consumers trust owned media but it’s safe to say that if you provide a warm welcome, good design and well-crafted, consumer-friendly content, your numbers will likely be higher.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.