March 25, 2009
SO, IS SOCIAL NETWORKING A PASSING FAD or worth your consideration? After all, the competition for your time and focus is fierce. Well, to help you gauge, a new Nielsen study shows that it has overtaken e-mail as the most popular Internet activity and is growing twice as fast as other Internet activities — including search engine usage. More data? About 60 percent of your medical peers are already using or interested in online physician communities, according to a January report by market research firm Manhattan Research.
THINK PEER POWER Yes, you look forward to exchanges with your colleagues at your yearly professional society meeting — maybe even have doctor e-mail chums with whom you're in regular e-mail correspondence and with whom you trade opinions and recommendations. Imagine expanding this potential peer pool a thousand-fold or more? Think other cosmetic surgeons are encountering similar challenges — from consult conversions to laser maintenance? Put the question out there on one of the physician sites or on Twitter (which is searchable by topic of conversation.) It or a related matter may already be being discussed. In fact, think Twitter in planning your next conference —it's the ultimate and immediate audience participation tool. At one recent New Media conference, a wayward panel was brought back on topic and keyed to the interests of the room by a "real-time" feed of the audience's "Tweets" displayed on the speakers' monitors and on a screen behind them for the crowd to follow along.
Also consider this. Perhaps as in no other medical specialty is your practice and aesthetic handiwork more of a personal reflection of you. It's likely that the tone of the greeting your front office team gives, the colors and lighting and music of your waiting room, your style and timing of consults — all could not be more "You." Social networking tools, like Twitter, give this personalization a sense of "real time." They make what you have established as the intimate reflection of your Self in your practice accessible to a wider audience than even the most robust advertising campaign could ever reach.
THERE'S NO OUTSOURCING 'SELF' But this intimacy and outreach comes at a cost: your time for your (further) investment of You-ness. Make no mistake. There is no delegating the creation of your social network self to others. Authenticity is requisite. But then, this, too, is in keeping with having your fine hand show in a seamless construct that weaves from waiting room to Web to the world beyond.
So, as part of your ongoing assessments and efforts to maximize your unique "brand," consider exploring some of the social media tools — Twitter especially. But remember: Twitter is about give and take. As the Nielsen study stressed: this is not a "push model." No multi-level marketing, friends-selling-to-friends vibe here. Twitter's not Amway.
MARKET, EDUCATE, COMMUNICATE & INFORM One of social networking expert Tom Smith's key rules for effective social networking is the requirement that you bring something of value. Then, he advises, get out of your Web site and go "hang out" with your patients — and prospective patients. The Web is a cocktail party. So circulate already! Doubtless you have no end of observations about the cultural aspects of cosmetic surgery alone. Twitter and blog about them regularly. The media all agog over the First Lady's buff biceps? How about a tutorial on lipoplasty or brachioplasty options? Are cheeks the new lips? Share your expertise on the latest noninvasive routes to a midface lift. Consumers will evaluate your expertise and approach to their treatment before they ever set eyes on you.
For good or ill, social networking —from consumer-penned book reviews on Amazon, to online rating of physicians — has democratized opinion and blurred the distinction between true experts and consumers with an opinion and a keyboard. Everyone's a publisher. Be your own. Live your "brand." At the cost of your time, you increase the odds of being "found" by myriad prospective patients. In how many other marketing venues has the cost of credible entry been zero? So, Doc...... "What are you doing?"
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