Move over, word of mouth
There’s a new king of getting new patients: online reputation management. Your reviews, your before & after photos, your interactions with consumers – they combine the influence of a personal recommendation with far more reach than just a chat between friends at a cafe.
Consider this: 60% of RealSelf survey respondents said that finding the right provider is the number one challenge. With online reputation management, you can make that decision much easier. To start, take a look at these common questions I get from providers, and the answers I share after more than a decade in the aesthetics industry.
1. What is online reputation management?
Like staying in touch with loved ones or shopping for a new shirt, word-of-mouth has moved online. Think of reputation management as taking a more active role in shaping what people think of you based on what’s available on the web.
I know the idea of embracing what others say about you can be intimidating. Sure, you can ask a patient to write a review, but you can’t—and shouldn’t—tell that patient what to say. As with word of mouth, reviews and before & after photos are powerful because of their authenticity.
“I like to see both the good and bad reviews, and comments by the doctor addressing any concern that may have been brought up in the review. This shows the doctor cares and truly is ok with knowing not everyone is going to happy/impressed.” – RealSelf.com user
2. Why is reputation management important for me?
Because these days, consumers love to research purchases and services. I should know, I run the marketing team at RealSelf. With 10 million consumers visiting each month to research aesthetic treatments and choose providers, we’ve learned a lot about what potential patients want.
For instance, 78% of aesthetic consumers say that researching reviews and ratings is critical to selecting a provider. That’s more than training and certifications (64%), or even treatment cost (44%)1. So while word-of-mouth referrals are still valuable, you can’t afford to ignore what thousands or even millions of people will see and say about you online, either.
3. Where can I manage my practice’s reputation online?
Providers often start with what they fully control, like website testimonials. These are a good start. but what seems more authentic: what you say about yourself, or what others says about you? That’s why consumers rely on 3rd-party sources these days, like hotel reviews on TripAdvisor or aesthetic provider reviews on RealSelf.com. The most effective way to manage your reputation is by meeting potential patients where they already are.
Conversely, RealSelf survey data reveals suspicion if you don’t focus on 3rd-party profiles. 38% of consumers will think you’re outdated, while 16% will believe you’re hiding something. This survey respondent quote says it all:
“If they don’t see the purpose of investing updated information to future clients, I don’t feel the need to invest my time or money into them, either.” – RealSelf.com user
4. What types of content should I focus on for managing my reputation?
When we surveyed RealSelf users about what inspired them to contact a specific provider, the most popular answer was reviews. And that’s backed up by analyzing how consumers use RealSelf.com as well:
Avg patient contacts/month on RealSelf.com
- Providers with no reviews: 0.1 contacts
- Providers with 1 to 9 reviews: 1.1 contacts
- Providers with 10+ reviews: 17.5 contacts
Photos are also a big opportunity for establishing your reputation with potential patients. By sharing untouched before & after photos, you both showcase your practice’s work and build trust with consumers suspicious of marketing gimmicks. Bonus: you can upload your photos to RealSelf and still share them on social media too.
5. How can I manage my reputation online with limited time?
Instead of trying for a little bit of everything, focus mainly on a few key treatments. Maybe it’s the three most popular treatments you have, or the most popular one plus the new laser you invested in recently. How you decide is up to you, local demand, and your practice’s business goals. The important thing is to shine through as a local expert in these select procedures and avoid spending all day doing so.
Another way to save time managing your reputation is with helpful tools:
- Use free Google Alerts to get real-time notifications or daily digests when your practice is mentioned online.
- Claim your free RealSelf Profile (surgical providers) or RealSelf Business Page (medaesthetic providers) to be seen by local aesthetic shoppers, add before & after photos, and send review-request emails to your current patient base.
- Use a free or inexpensive social media management program to schedule posts, track metrics, and more.
Building trust is a must
Online reputation management is all about trust. You trusting your practice’s expertise and ability to get even better. Your potential patients trusting in your existing patients. And, most importantly, potential patients trusting you before they even walk in the door.
By actively managing your reputation online, you put your practice front and center with consumers. And whether you’re marketing your surgical practice in Los Angeles or a medical spa in Topeka, I trust that growing your practice is high on your list of priorities.
(1) RealSelf survey data