At one point or another, we've all been influenced to buy something we saw online. Whether it was a post by a celebrity, sponsored content from an influencer, or an advertisement, chances are great visuals and/or some well-executed targeting were enough to persuade you to part with your hard-earned money. For some, this extends beyond wellness tinctures and cute clothes to cosmetic treatments and procedures.
We use social media for so many aspects of our lives, and aesthetic medicine is no exception. On one hand, with conversations around plastic surgery normalizing, patients are more comfortable sharing their experiences (hi, Marc Jacobs). On the other hand, providers are finding their social media presence to be an increasingly important element of connecting with prospective patients — and this goes beyond sharing before and after photos.
Today, dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and the like use their social media platforms as a place to spotlight who they are and how they work, all while cultivating an heir of both credibility and approachability that encourages followers to trust them and maybe even book a consultation. But, with so much misinformation online, it can be hard to know who to trust or what to look for.
To better understand how to successfully use social media during the research phase of finding a provider, we spoke to physicians and patients alike. Below, AEDIT providers share how they showcase their work in the digital age, as a patient shares her experience finding a surgeon for her rhinoplasty surgery online.
What Providers Use Social Media For
Individual social media feeds and strategies are as unique as fingerprints at this point, and the content aesthetic providers post is no exception. Ultimately, the look and feel of their account(s) depends on their specialty and who they are trying to reach. Some dermatologists and plastic surgeons exclusively post before and after images of their most popular procedures. Others share footage from the treatment room. All the while, there are those who take a more personal approach by keeping medical content to a minimum in favor of focusing on themselves and their families or even creating a lifestyle of sorts. And then there are the providers who do a little bit of everything.
Melissa Doft, MD, a double board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City falls into the latter category. Her Instagram feed (@doftnewyork) features a beautifully curated collection of editorial imagery among pics from her travels, media clippings, patient testimonials, and, yes, the occasional B&A. “I like to share some photos of my family and vacations sometimes,” she says. “It helps to keep things human.” Even so, the primary goal of her feed is to give her patients (current and future) something aesthetically pleasing — and maybe even a bit aspirational — to look at.
Instagram vs. TikTok
If you are researching potential providers and wondering what social media platform you should be on, the answer is not as cut and dry as it used to be. While Instagram had long been the undisputed go-to, frequent tweaks to its content guidelines and algorithm have made it difficult for providers to showcase certain parts of their practice (think: potentially graphic procedure footage). As a result, TikTok now plays host to a growing number of doctor accounts. “We post more videos to Stories and Reels on Instagram, and TikTok is popular, too,” says Jason Emer, MD, a board certified dermatologist in West Hollywood, who can be found at @jasonemermd on both platforms.
While Dr. Emer still uses static before and after photos for some posts on Instagram, his use of video gives patients who want to know what's going to happen during treatment the opportunity to learn about the procedure(s) they’re considering prior to coming in for a consultation. Jason Roostaeian, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Los Angeles, has begun to adopt a similarly video-driven approach. On his @drjasonplasticsurgery Instagram account, you’ll see Reels of patients holding their ‘before’ photos while being filmed to show the results of their procedures mixed in amongst more traditional before and afters.
The most significant difference when it comes to determining whether Instagram is still the standard-bearer in the search for a cosmetic dermatologist or surgeon comes down to whether it's the place you spend the most time scrolling. At the moment, gen Z and younger millennials are generally more active on TikTok than Instagram, while IG still reigns supreme for older millennials and gen X.
How to Find a Provider on Social Media
Cautionary tales were echoed by Dr. Doft, Dr. Emer, and Dr. Jason: Not everything you see online is to be believed, nor does a massive following on social media mean a provider is the right person to perform your procedure. “Before and after photos are valuable, but photos taken shortly after surgery don't take things like swelling and long-term healing into account,” Dr. Jason warns.
While there is no universal governing body dictating how before and after photos must be presented, best practices indicate that, depending on the procedure, they sometimes need to be taken weeks, months, or even years apart. As such, be wary of the provider who is showing ‘after’ photos of surgeries like rhinoplasty from the operating room, doesn’t use consistent lighting, or isn't showing multiple angles of a result. Dr. Doft says cases of photoshop run rampant on social media, so be sure to read plenty of reviews in addition to pursuing images. Still have questions? Check out our complete guide to viewing before and after photos.
While the rise in the quality and quantity of the information available about plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures has generally increased for the better, it’s important to keep in mind that your honorary MD from Google does not replace the advice of a trained professional. Dr. Emer says one of the issues with social media is that patients often come in with inspiration images that are not realistic for their anatomy or arrive dead set on a specific procedure regardless of whether or not it makes sense for them. It’s important that you find a provider who is willing and able to give it to you straight, so that you receive the best treatment for your needs and aesthetic goals.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the human element. We all likely know someone in our own lives who comes across one way on social media and another way in person. Since rapport and bedside manner are such important components of the provider-patient relationship, take the time to find someone you trust both online and IRL. At the end of the day, all of the scrolling in the world cannot replace a virtual or in-person consultation with a provider.
Finding a provider, particularly if you've never had a cosmetic procedure before, can feel super overwhelming. Jenni*, a patient who had rhinoplasty when she was 22, used social media to narrow down her search for a surgeon, and here she opens up about what she learned from the process.
The AEDITION: When you were looking for a surgeon, what did the research phase entail?
Jenni: First, I asked my closest friends if they had anyone to recommend, which gave me the ‘master list’ that I worked from. I took each of those doctors' names and searched for them online. I looked at patient reviews, before and after photos, and read through comments from their followers.
The AEDITION: How did the information you gathered online influence your decision?
Jenni: I was looking for a surgeon who created natural-looking results and who was someone I felt comfortable with. Before and after photos were very influential for me, but I also think I got a feel for surgeons from their social media presence. I wanted to be able to trust the person who was operating on me entirely. Hence, surgeons who over-shared online, particularly with images during surgery, went to the bottom of my list.
The AEDITION: What was it like meeting the providers in person for a consultation?
Jenni: One of them in particular didn't give off the same vibe in real life as online. I guess it's a bit like online dating. We've all been there, right? The other two I consulted fell in line with what I expected from their online presence. They were very approachable and offered the kind of look I was hoping to achieve. The surgeon I ended up going with didn't have so many before and after photos on his socials, but I went to the consultation based on the fantastic reviews I read. He ended up showing me tons of past patient photos in person and talked me through what to look for in them, which was so helpful.
The AEDITION: Do you have any advice for people in the process of researching providers?
Jenni: I'm so pleased I asked friends. I think that's something I'd recommend to everyone, where possible. I wouldn't be as obsessive about looking through before and after photos if I started my search again. It isn't easy to gather what a surgeon could do for you from their work on other people. The best information to form an educated decision came from the consultations I had. I recommend going to a few different surgeons and figuring out who you feel will be your best option.
When it comes to researching aesthetic providers and learning more about cosmetic procedures, social media can play a very helpful and important role in the discovery process. Scrolling through before and after photos and treatment videos on Instagram and TikTok can help narrow down the search, but be careful not to be swayed by large followings or deceived by duplicitous editing. At the end of the day, choosing a provider is a deeply personal decision and nothing can replace a face-to-face consultation.
*The patient's name has been changed
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