Mr Olivier Branford shares his social media journey and explains how he uses it as his primary way of educating and attracting patients.
Social media (which I refer to as SoMe) is now an essential tool for business. In this article, I’m going to show you the possibilities that stem from using SoMe and how you’re limiting your business if you don’t. I’ll also share with you my SoMe journey, from zero to 250,000 followers on my various platforms from 2015 until now.
I find that these days, most patients do their homework via SoMe. In fact, according to the latest statistics from the aesthetic review website RealSelf, 97% of patients expect online engagement.1 The number one consistently trending healthcare hashtag in the world with four billion views per year is currently #PlasticSurgery and the public are turning to this to seek credible, medical information.2 SoMe is a visual medium so it is well suited to aesthetics. What I find patients want is two-way communication. They have questions and possible concerns, and they want to know that the practitioner they choose is communicative, accountable, approachable and competent and, in my experience, patients believe that practitioners who have successful SoMe accounts demonstrate this. SoMe also allows you to engage, educate and control your digital image. SoMe is the new language of plastic surgery and non-surgical aesthetics and it is quickly overtaking word-of-mouth as the most popular way of obtaining information.3 I believe that SoMe also assists you with your consultation to treatment conversion rate. Although there is no published data on this yet, I have heard numerous times at conferences that approximately only 40% of patients who go to a consultation follow through with the actual treatment. My conversion rate is more than 95%, which I think is because my patients already feel they know me, my ethos and the treatment they want through SoMe. In addition, SoMe channels are saturated with relentless marketing from unscrupulous organisations and practitioners representing untrained, poorly-qualified individuals. This is why it’s so important for the genuine experts to make a huge effort to be visible on SoMe.
My journey started in 2015 when I opened my Twitter account. Today, I have 150,000 followers on Twitter as well as almost 100,000 followers on Instagram, where my focus has moved primarily for reasons described below. According to the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, my large following has led me to be one of the top global SoMe influencers in plastic surgery.4 My demographic (patients seeking breast augmentation, body contouring and non-surgical facial aesthetics) are huge users of SoMe; in particular, Instagram. Instagram is what I consider to be ‘the new website’ as 90% of my patients come via Instagram and most of the remaining 10% have checked out my work and approach to aesthetic treatments before getting in touch via my website. There are now one billion Instagram users and they’re an engaged user base; the average person spends one hour on the platform every day.5,6 Instagram users have the greatest engagement out of all platforms – 10 times that of Facebook for the same number of followers.7 I get far less patients coming to me from Twitter; however, all posts are index linked on Google, so it helps with search engine optimisation (SEO). I’m also on Facebook and LinkedIn; but Facebook is a more financially-driven platform, which means that your posts are shown to more people based on your spend and LinkedIn is mainly business to business so I don’t tend to get patients this way.
From my experience, I think one of the key pillars for success on SoMe includes being positive and to never engage in arguments. Be social, be kind, support others and interact with them. As well as following marketing guidelines,8-15 I believe practitioners should always behave ethically and never target insecurities. They should focus on education, patient happiness and wellbeing, both physically and mentally, and the consequence of different treatments on outcomes. I strongly believe that SoMe should be used responsibly; I believe that we as medical practitioners shouldn’t promote a false ideal of beauty or overdone, exaggerated looks. As such, I use my voice to promote natural beauty, and I recommend that my colleagues to do the same.
Don’t use stock photos or poor quality images, and remember that you must have full explicit consent to use clinical photos.16 I recommend avoiding overuse of before and after images because I believe that, to some extent, they have a negative aspect in that they celebrate how good someone looks now in relation to how ‘bad’ they may have looked before. As mentioned, I always try to advocate natural beauty on my SoMe feeds – indeed I use the hashtag #naturalbeauty in my posts and typically post photos of patients looking natural and refreshed, without wearing makeup, rather than before and after photos. Although, I do sometimes use before and after images because they are quite popular with patients. If using before and after images, be sure to follow the Advertising Standard Authority’s guidelines.14 I also find that re-sharing patients’ posts works well – I repost images that my patients send me to post after their treatment or images where they have recommended me. I want to emphasise that patient images should never be manipulated and I also advocate the avoidance of graphic surgical images – according to Realself, 8% of people are turned off by graphic/gory content.17
I have coined the term ‘academic marketing’, which essentially means to use the evidence base as content – I have 50 PubMed cited publications which I share on SoMe. To make it easy for patients to understand, I mainly talk about my publications on breast beauty, SoMe and plastic surgery and do not go into too much detail about the actual paper. This is a form of content marketing – the process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage an audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action. It’s about educating, rather than selling.
I have also found influencer marketing, the new buzz word, very successful for my business. This involves collaborating with prominent individuals to help produce and distribute content. People want to ‘buy’, but they don’t want to be sold to! So how do you sell without selling? As medical professionals we are familiar with the term ‘key opinion leaders’ (KOLs), but in the world of SoMe, these are known as ‘digital opinion leaders’ (DOLs).18 The fact is that most of the top aesthetic and beauty influencers are not practitioners – only 18% of top plastic surgery posts on SoMe are by board-certified plastic surgeons.3 When working with influencers, I recommend the use of videos and even podcasts for different and interesting content. I recently recorded a podcast on breast augmentation with my patient Mimi Bouchard, who runs a lifestyle podcast. This sort of content makes a very useful resource for prospective patients, is good content for my SoMe, and my expertise was broadcast by an individual who has 162,000 Instagram followers.19
I believe in posting about ‘hot’ and trending topics, such as the recent risks of buttock fat grafting that was highlighted in the media. Keep an eye on trending hashtags and news in the industry and be sure to comment about it. I believe that the future is all about video – and I am not alone. The latest Cisco Visual Networking Index Complete Forecast predicts that by 2022, 82% of all IP traffic will be video.18 So, start thinking about how you can implement video into your SoMe. Another useful way to gather new followers, I find, is to follow the kinds of people you think could be potential patients. Social media is social; unless you are a celebrity, I feel that you can’t build your following without making new contacts, so follow new people and try to engage with them as much as possible so that they follow you back.
Of course, what must be noted is that SoMe does take time, effort and energy. I often hear from surgeons and other aesthetic professionals that they don’t have time to be on SoMe. What I simply say to them is that, really, you have to be. Treat it as any part of your daily commitment, like opening your emails, rather than an ‘extra’, which it’s not. Learn to be efficient with managing your SoMe and take your time – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I mainly manage my SoMe on my commute and find that it matches the time that many of my followers are online. Talk to your following, even if it’s just one person at a time and remember that we all start somewhere. I personally advise to manage your SoMe yourself, although you can get some help from a third party. I manage it myself because I find that it’s possible to engage with your followers through conversations better this way. Although some people and businesses find it useful to automate posts, and they are very successful at doing so, I never do this as I believe that SoMe must be responsive and I don’t believe automation would work for my current follower base.
With the majority of my new patients finding me through Instagram, I see communication through this platform as being an essential skill for any aesthetic practitioner hoping to be successful in today’s society. I always recommend that you add a personal touch to your brand by engaging with individuals. Using SoMe successfully will help you to gain patients and build trust in your brand, and trust is marketing gold.
1. RealSelf, What Patients Really Want, 2018. <https://www. slideshare.net/realselfinsights/what-patients-really-want>
2. OA Branford, P Kamali, RJ Rohrich, D Liu, DH Song, P Mallucci, K Sun, M Stubican, SJ Lin. #PlasticSurgery Plast Recon Surg 2016;138(6): 1354-65.
3. Dorfman RG, Vaca EE, Mahmood E, Fine NA, Schierle CF. Plastic Surgery-Related Hashtag Utilization on Instagram: Implications for Education and Marketing. Aesthet Surg J. 2018;15;38(3):332- 338.
4. A Chandawarkar, D Gould, W Stevens, ‘The Top 100 Social Media Influencers in Plastic Surgery on Twitter: Who Should You Be Following?’, Aesthetic Surgery Journal 38(4), March 2018.
5. Statista, Number of monthly active Instagram users from January 2013 to June 2018 (in millions). <https://www.statista.com/ statistics/253577/number-of-monthly-active-instagram-users/>
6. Rani Molla and Kurt Wagner, People spend almost as much time on Instagram as they do on Facebook, Jun 25, 2018. <https:// www.recode.net/2018/6/25/17501224/instagram-facebook-snapchat-time-spent-growth-data>
7. TrackMavan, What 51 Million Pieces of Content Say About Your Social Media Marketing Strategy, 2019. https://trackmaven.com/ blog/social-media-marketing-strategy-report/
8. Cosmetics Interventions Marketing (non-broadcast and broadcast), Committee for Advertising Practice, Marketing of Cosmetic Interventions, (2013). <https://www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/cosmetic-surgery.html>
9. GMC, Guidance for Doctors Who Offer Cosmetic Procedures, General Medical Council. <http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/ ethical_guidance/28687.asp>
10. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Blue Guide: advertising and promotion of medicines in the UK. Third Edition, First revision (September 2014) <www.assets. publishing.service.gov. uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/376398/Blue_Guide.pdf>
11. Nursing and Midwifery Council. Guidance (2018) <www.nmc.org. uk/standards/guidance/>
12. General Dental Council. Guidance on advertising (September 2013) < https://www.gdc-uk.org/api/files/Guidance%20on%20 advertising%20(Sept%202013).pdf>
13. Committee of Advertising Practice. The CAP Code; The UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (2014) <www.asa.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/ cacc4b1f-5171- 4ba4-8679bb383a25aa2a.pdf>
14. Committee of Advertising Practice, Before and after photos (December 2014) <www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/before-and-after-photos.html>
15. Julia Kendrick, Maintaining Compliant Marketing in Aesthetics (UK: Aesthetics, February 2017). <https://aestheticsjournal.com/ cpd/module/maintaining-compliant-marketing-in-aesthetics>
16. Martin Swann, Patient Photography and Data, Aesthetics journal, 2018. <https://aestheticsjournal.com/feature/patient-photography-and-data>
17. CISCO, VNI Global Fixed and Mobile Internet Traffic Forecas. <https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/service-provider/ visual-networking-index-vni/index.html>
18. Gregg Fisher and Kevin Michels-Kim, Digital opinion leaders (DOLs) and their role in pharma markets, 2017. <https://pharmaceuticalcommerce.com/brand-marketing-communications/digital-opinion-leaders-dols-role-pharma-markets/>
19. Mimibee Podcast, #47: Plastic Surgeon Olivier Branford Answers Your Boob Job + Filler Questions (Recorded Live At The Cadogan Clinic!) <https://www.mimibee.com/47-plastic-surgeon-olivier-branford-answers-your-boob-job-filler-questions-recorded-live-at-the-cadogan-clinic/>