Online Health, Part II: Mixed Signals from Social Media

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that your practice website is among the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. It is, in essence, your online storefront, a digital portal for potential patients to find out more about you, your services and your commitment to their care. And, as we’ve seen, a well-designed practice website can be instrumental in transforming aesthetic researchers into new business.

But in these socially driven times, effective marketing requires more than a great-looking practice website. Used appropriately, social media can serve as a complementary outlet that expands your online presence, generates brand familiarity and lets you connect with consumers where they “live.” As RealSelf CEO Tom Seery recently noted in Modern Aesthetics:

[Aesthetic consumers] overwhelmingly expect doctors and practices to be active and available in social media (with caveats); they have serious doubts about those who aren’t, and they know which sites and social networks provide the information they seek and which ones don’t.

In fact, according to the results of a survey of 700 consumers who requested a consultation via the RealSelf platform, online engagement is increasingly viewed, not as an option, but as a requirement. Among the findings:

Aesthetic Consumers Expect Doctors To Be Active In Social Media

While some doctors still eschew social media for its perceived risks, more than 90% of survey respondents said they expect doctors to be present and active. (Even more — 96% — said they expect practices to be involved.) And while a few respondents expressed concerns that doctors who were too active might be neglecting their skills and patients’ care, the majority shared insights like these:

  • “You need to be able to do some research independently. If [they’re] not engaged, how do you know they exist/are an option?”
  • “They should have a way to showcase their work; it will help the patients view their work and also make them comfortable with the doctor.”
  • “Social media is a great way to detail all the options available at a particular practice for any issue. It’s nice to know a patient has many options.”

Aesthetic Consumers Are Suspicious About Doctors Who Don’t Engage In Social

The flipside to the above findings is that doctors who don’t maintain an online presence run the risk of damaging their reputations. Simply put, today’s consumers have come to expect companies of all stripes to be available and those that aren’t definitely raise red flags.

In the RealSelf survey, for example, 38% of respondents said they considered doctors with limited information online “outdated” or “not current.” (Another 16% believed they were hiding something!) As one respondent put it: “If they don’t see the purpose of investing in updated information to future clients, I don’t feel the need to invest my time or money in them, either.”

Availability is Expected; Engagement, not so Much

All of which underscores the mixed messages that aesthetic consumers send about doctors’ participation in social media. On the one hand, they expect doctors to be active; on the other, they’re exceedingly unlikely to acknowledge that activity by “liking” a Facebook post or forwarding a tweet. Likewise, they may look at your social profiles to get a sense of who you are but very few use the major social networks to research their aesthetic options.

So what’s an aesthetic professional to do? As previously discussed, having an informative, well-designed practice website is a must. So, too, is maintaining a presence in social media (while remaining cognizant of what social networks can and can’t do). Together, your website and social profiles provide a two-pronged approach that allows you to tell your story to the millions of people who go online to research their aesthetic options.

It’s a good start toward maintaining the online health of your practice. Still, it never hurts to get a second opinion. That’s what online reviews do — they provide context and/or a counterpoint to the claims you make yourself — which makes them an ideal subject for the next post in this series.

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 NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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