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A Systematic Review of Marketing via Social Media: The New Yellow Pages
Waverley Y. He, B.A.1, Christopher Groetsch1, Stella M. Seal, M.L.S.2, Carisa M. Cooney, M.P.H.1
1Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA; 2Welch Medical Library, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

Background: Social media (SoMe) is perceived as a low-threshold means for plastic surgeons to market their services and practices. However, plastic surgeons should be aware of the resources needed to create and maintain a professional SoMe presence and the potential markets associated with various SoMe platforms. Our aim was to evaluate the benefits and costs of SoMe marketing as well as compare patient preferences for and plastic surgeon utilization of SoMe marketing.
Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Scopus were queried in July 2019 for studies describing plastic surgeon- and practice-associated SoMe content and marketing strategies as well as patient preferences for SoMe content. Three reviewers performed abstract screening, two performed full text screening, and differences were resolved through consensus. Two reviewers extracted data on benefits and costs of SoMe marketing, patient preferences regarding online content, and plastic surgeon- and practice-associated online content.
Results: The search retrieved 790 unique articles, of which 128 were selected for full text screening and 50 were included in this systematic review. Both plastic surgeons and patients most highly utilized Twitter, Facebook, and websites with interactive components. Qualitative benefits of SoMe marketing included practice exposure (n=11), perceived expertise (n=7), and brand identity (n=7). Quantitative benefits including new patient referrals (n=8), conversion from consultation to surgery (n=6), and operative volume (n=8) were more difficult to determine. While SoMe is often portrayed as inexpensive, it may require a substantial investment in time (n=8), workforce (n=5), and funds (n=4). Additionally, SoMe may be associated with liability in the form of professional and legal consequences (n=13) and negative reviews (n=12). Patient-stated information preferences were related to procedures (n=13), surgeon details (n=9), and outcomes such as before-and-after photographs (n=9). However, educational content appeared in as little as 16% of plastic surgeonsí posts across all social media platforms.
Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that the greatest SoMe platform concurrence between plastic surgeons and patients comprise Twitter, Facebook, and interactive websites. While there are several intangible benefits of SoMe marketing, quantifying actual return-on-investment (i.e. revenue increase per dollar spent supporting SoMe marketing) remains inconclusive. Additionally, unanticipated expenditures may result from opportunity and/or outside consultant or platform management costs. Finally, when cultivating SoMe marketing content, plastic surgeons should consider patientsí desire for information regarding surgeon details, including qualifications, and procedures, including short-term and long-term outcomes.


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