Social media is in a perpetual state of flux. Much like Google frequently tweaks their algorithm with little to no notice driving all of us into panic mode, Facebook and other major digital players follow suit. These fluctuations can greatly affect your methods and strategies. If you are tracking your progress closely as you should be, you may see engagement tank unexpectedly through no fault of your own. It takes an army just to keep up with it all!

Driving traffic to your website has always presented a conundrum for plastic surgeons, especially in these volatile times. The two primary ways to generate visitors is through search and social. Although more people still tend to look for businesses via search, social search is undeniably picking up steam.

So, how do aesthetic practices and medspas allocate their limited resources to social media and how much is enough? Social media channels continually strive to outperform each of the others and fine tune their increasingly sophisticated ad platforms. Design a strategy and track results to figure out what is working well and deserves your attention. Reaching your target audiences is key to generating leads that convert into real patients.

Instagram has emerged as the most effective social platform for aesthetic practices due to the smart tools that have been added and the fact that it integrates seamlessly with your Facebook business page in terms of sharing content and doubling up on ads and promoted/sponsored posts. Instagram stories has now surpassed Snapchat stories by a wide margin. Instagram Stories is considered to be the real sweet spot of the app that has only recently become supported by dashboard tools such as Hootsuite. Another new addition is Instagram Shopping which allows users to make instant purchases right on the app.

Social media has tremendous potential to disseminate information and forge meaningful relationships with prospective patients. But for healthcare practitioners, different rules apply. These exchanges must be explored while maintaining the same professional and ethical standards used for any other form of communications. Anything you post on a social network may be disseminated (whether you intend it or not) to a larger audience and may be taken out of context. Everything you post can remain available forever, even if you delete it, by virtue of a screenshot, forward or share.

So, what are the best ways to navigate this delicate balance in a medium that constantly pushes the envelope?

Creating content that will resonate with your target audiences will help build a robust following. But healthcare practitioners must be mindful to stay within ethical guidelines poses challenges for time-strapped plastic surgeons. In 2018, it’s all about memorable images and live streaming video as these types of posts tend to perform well across all channels, from blogs to LinkedIn to draw the viewer in. But how much transparency is too much, and how do you know where to draw the line?

Facebook Messages and WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) are arising as new ways to communicate with patients. WhatsApp is now encrypted, but Facebook Messages can be hacked if someone gets hold of your mobile device or cracks your password. Customized chatbots are popping up on every website and social network and are becoming an essential tool for customer engagement. Consumers are also increasingly calling out businesses on social platforms and expect a response in real time, which is changing the need for plastic surgery practices to staff up to meet their 24/7 demands.

A recent New York Times article entitled ‘The Follower Factory,’ highlighted concerns about the hordes of fake followers on social channels and the threat of bots and hackers. Buying follower is never a good idea. It is better to invest in boosted or promoted posts and a digital advertising budget to grow a real and loyal fan base.