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Getting social (and strategic) with Snapchat

Article-Getting social (and strategic) with Snapchat

Marketing without social media is like baking a cake and forgoing the icing. But keeping up with what’s hot and what’s not in social media can be challenging for busy cosmetic surgeons.

One plastic surgeon who has figured out how to make Snapchat and Instagram social media platforms work for his practice is New York City plastic surgeon Matthew Schulman. The International Business Times named Dr. Schulman’s Snapchat account, @nycplasticsurg, as one of 17 new usernames to follow in 2016. 

Why Snapchat and Instagram?

With 115 million Snapchat users, and 10,000 joining the social media platform every month, it’s hard to ignore. About a third of 18 to 34 year olds in the U.S. have a Snapchat account, according to Static Brain’s Snapchat statistics. Instagram has more than 182 million users, with 18.7 billion photos shared, Static Brain reports.

Dr. Schulman says especially Snapchat has the power to reach patients in key demographics who are hungry for information about cosmetic procedures.

“Snapchat is an extremely powerful platform. I broadcast my entire day, including consultations, surgeries and behind-the-scene footage,” he says. “I have almost half a million people who watch me every day. Not only do they watch my surgeries, but they also watch me and my staff prepare for surgeries. They know details about me and my staff that only my loyal viewers can know. To have 500,000 people follow every step of every day is powerful.”

We asked Dr. Schulman (, who gives viewers an all-access pass inside the operating room, to share his best practices.

Dr. Schulman and his team pictured filming surgery for Snapchat.

In This Article

How Do You Use Snapchat?

What Are Your Returns?

Tips for Making Snapchat Work for Your Practice

NEXT: How Do You Use Snapchat?


How do you use Snapchat? How do you use Instagram?

Dr. Schulman: My primary platform, right now, is Snapchat. I start broadcasting first thing in the morning, and stop when my day ends. We broadcast the entire surgical process, including the preparation and what the staff does in between cases. We also show consultations and allow our patients to participate as much as they feel comfortable. On Instagram, I generally show before and after photos as well as some small video clips taken from my Snapchat account. There is still a percentage of Instagram followers that have not embraced Snapchat, so it is important to maintain a strong Instagram account as well. 

How are these different than old-school Facebook and Twitter?

Dr. Schulman: Instagram is photo- and video-dependent. It becomes a great tool to demonstrate before and after photos. The picture is the content. Snapchat allows the physician to tell a story using short video segments. I use Snapchat to show my day, my surgeries, and my patients' stories. Both Snapchat and Instagram can be interactive, allowing followers to ask questions and have you answer them directly. Instagram also allows followers to easily tag friends, alerting them that your account is worth following, and this can rapidly grow your follower base. Instagram and Snapchat are platforms used by a younger demographic, and include patients who are among the fastest growing patient base. Only Snapchat has the ability to show a "story," which can be your entire day made up of 10 second video clips. My viewers can see exactly what I did all day. They can watch my 13-hour day in only about 10 minutes!

NEXT: What Are Your Returns?


What kinds of returns are you getting from your social media activity on these platforms?

Dr. Schulman: The return is very strong. I use it as a part of my entire branding process, so it is impossible to quantify the actual ROI. I have always had a strong national reputation and a very busy practice. However, ever since my Snapchat account has taken off, I have gotten even busier, mostly because of an increased close rate (the percentage of people coming for a consultation who book a procedure). My close rate is extremely high now. When a patient comes for a consultation, and they indicate on the intake paperwork that they are following me on Snapchat, there is an 85% closure rate. This compares to a 50% closure rate among non-followers. The reason is that my Snapchat followers know me and my staff intimately, and have seem me operate. They like what they see, which is why they came for the consult. When these followers come for a consult, I don't even need to introduce myself or my staff. They often act ‘star-struck’ since my Snapchat account is like my own reality television show. These patients want to be part of the ‘show,’ so it makes them eager participants. Over 90% of my patients agree to appear on my Snapchat.

Why do you think it’s important [cosmetic surgeons] know about Snapchat and Instagram and how to use these social media platforms?

Dr. Schulman: Social media is the most important marketing tool of 2016. Potential patients are using social media platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat, to educate themselves about cosmetic procedures and select physicians. Existing and past patients are using the same platforms to demonstrate their own results and endorse their surgeon. They act as brand ambassadors and are essentially doing the advertising for you. Public endorsements are far superior to any paid advertising out there. I strongly believe that the days of website search engine optimization (SEO), and pay per click advertising are done.

NEXT: Tips for Making Snapchat Work for Your Practice


What do you think doesn’t work and what should cosmetic surgeons avoid?

Dr. Schulman: Physicians need to be authentic and not try too hard. I follow many other physicians, so that I can put myself in my viewers' shoes and see what works. One of the most common mistakes that I see is a physician who thinks that they need to put on a show. Avoid creating characters. Your staff should be your staff. It is not necessary to have cute nicknames for each and having them dress in costumes and wigs. You are all medical professionals, not comedians, actors or dancers. You want to be entertaining, but the primary goal should be education.  If you try to broadcast a sitcom, your viewers will lose interest very quickly. Even worse, you can be perceived as being disrespectful to your patients and unprofessional. Not only can this lose you followers and potential patients, but it may even lead to a formal complaint to your medical board. Unfortunately, I see other physicians engaging in behavior that can be perceived as an ethics violation by many medical boards.

What are some tips you can offer readers if they want to get in on this media craze?

Dr. Schulman:

1. Be Authentic     

The key is to be authentic in your broadcast. People will respect you when you simply show your day. People who are not in the medical field will find what you are doing to be interesting, even if you think it is boring. There is no need to embellish things.

2. Create (and Commit to) a Pattern     

You want to develop a pattern to your broadcast. Viewers want a pattern. Each day should have a beginning, a middle and an end to it.

3. Invest in Your Setup     

Make sure that you have proper lighting and proper sound. This will take some experimentation. It took me several weeks to figure out how to adjust my operating room lighting, so that the videos would be clear enough for the viewer to see exactly what I am doing. We also had to figure out what camera angles work best. I installed boom microphones in my operating room, because I found that the sound quality was lacking in some earlier broadcasts.

4. Get Written Consent

Of ultra-importance is to make sure that you have written consent for every single patient that is shown on Snapchat, even if you do not disclose their face, name or any personal information on the broadcast. This is a new area and you want to make sure that you are not violating a patient's privacy.

5. Be Patient

Another key is to be patient. Unlike Twitter or Instagram, there is no way for people to find you on Snapchat unless they are actually looking for you. There is no search function. To follow you, they need to physically type in your account name. This means that it will take longer to gain followers and it is important to have compelling content so that your followers will tell their friends. 

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