Summary: Should plastic surgeons advertise on social media? As a marketer specializing in plastic surgery, I’m asked this question quite often. The answer is subjective, to a large degree. Although, one thing’s for sure: if a plastic surgeon does advertise on social media, it’s up to that surgeon to do so in an ethical and honest way.
When and How Should Plastic Surgeons Advertise on Social Media?
Social media is omnipresent. It’s a good bet that this article will be shared quite prolifically on social media, in point of fact. But should plastic surgeons advertise on social media? That’s a question that raises some interesting ethical discussions (one could even ask whether plastic surgeons should advertise at all).
There are some unique ethical challenges that plastic surgeons grapple with on social media. First and foremost is the inherent unreliability of social media itself. Recent news reports, for example, illustrated how easy it was for surgeons on Instagram to mislead users. Now, the vast majority of plastic surgeons didn’t do this, but the systemic failure created an atmosphere of mistrust.
Each and every social media platform has its own challenges. And when plastic surgeons or cosmetic surgeons advertise on those social media platforms, those challenges must be met head on. Should plastic surgeons advertise on social media? In general, I think the answer is yes. But there are some extra steps that surgeons have to take in order to ensure their advertisements are ethical and effective.
Why Advertise on Social Media?
Social media is a fantastic way to get your message out to the world, in large part because there are just so many people currently active and engaged on all the different platforms. There are currently millions and millions of users on social media, and they’re all in the mood for some more content.
Plastic and cosmetic surgeons can take two basic approaches to advertising on social media:
- Advertise to those who already like plastic surgery: These types of advertisements might talk about your skill as a surgeon or how many satisfied patients you’ve treated over the years. You’ll be able to talk about surgical procedures in a little more depth because you’re talking to people who are already interested in plastic surgery.
- Reach out to those who might not know about plastic surgery: Sometimes good candidates for plastic surgery are unfamiliar with the field. Or, at the very least, they’re unfamiliar with a given procedure. These types of strategies tend to be more educational in nature, raising awareness about a certain technique or groups of procedures. You have to be careful, though, because you’re reaching out to groups who are not quite as familiar with plastic surgery, what it can do, what it can cost, and how long recovery might take.
Social Targeting With Your Advertising
Plastic surgeons (or those specializing in plastic surgery marketing) are able to take advantage of these different strategies because most social media platforms have robust and sophisticated ad creation software. This means that you can selective target audiences by age, gender, interests, and so on. That may sound a little creepy (and it is, but that’s the world we live in). But this ad creation software means the right eyes can see your posts, and that’s incredibly helpful when trying to calibrate your plastic surgery ads on social media.
The Ethics of Advertising Plastic Surgery
The link between social media and plastic surgery seems obvious, though perhaps not scientifically established. It’s possible selfies might encourage one to seek out plastic or cosmetic surgery in the future, for example.
So what are the ethics of advertising on social media if you’re a plastic surgeon? I’m not entirely sure these have been fully explored, though there are guidelines for surgeons who wish to post on social media. I’m not entirely sure those guidelines offer much to say on advertisements.
In my experience as a marketer of plastic surgery, however, there are some loose rules I follow to help ensure all of my advertisements are as ethical as possible:
- Be clear and transparent about what the surgical procedure actually does
- Do not promise results, much less unrealistic results
- Ensure that the advertisement does not pressure anyone into plastic surgery they don’t want
- Adhere to the terms and conditions of the social media platform
- Refrain from using any misleading photos or language
- Be upfront and transparent about the qualifications of the surgeon
- Always give the last word to the plastic surgeon
Essentially, your job as a marketer is to be as honest as possible. Sure, you can espouse the benefits of a given procedure, but it’s important not to overpromise.
The Power of Social Media
Ultimately, surgeons are going to advertise on social media. So it’s best, perhaps, to have guidelines in place to ensure those ads are as ethical as can be. In most cases, a good surgeon will create a transparent ad. Should plastic surgeons advertise on social media? Maybe, maybe not. But they’re going to because it’s such a great way to connect with their audience. It’s the advertising of the future.
- Gould, Daniel J., et al. “A Primer on Social Media for Plastic Surgeons: What Do I Need to Know About Social Media and How Can It Help My Practice?” Aesthetic Surgery Journal, vol. 37, no. 5, 2017, pp. 614–619., doi:10.1093/asj/sjw246.
- Dorfman, Robert G., et al. “The Ethics of Sharing Plastic Surgery Videos on Social Media.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 140, no. 4, 2017, pp. 825–836., doi:10.1097/prs.0000000000003695.
- “Social Media and Plastic Surgery | Aesthetic Surgery Journal | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, academic.oup.com/asj/pages/the_marriage_of_social_media_and_plastic_surgery.
About the Author: Dan Voltz has been writing about plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures for nearly five years. This article was written in conjunction with the offices of Dr. Charles Polsen, a Clear Lake, TX, plastic surgeon and hand surgeon.