by Ira Savetsky (@IraSavetsky)
It’s everywhere: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook etc. There’s no avoiding it. And it’s not going anywhere. I consider myself an intermittent contributor but an active participant. Meaning, I’ll post on social media on a weekend when I’m not on call or when I’m on vacation. However, I’ll keep up with others almost daily. On Instagram and Facebook, my content is primarily personal (family, friends, etc.). On Twitter, it’s Plastic Surgery. Instead of Snapchat, I use Instagram Stories, which I really love – brief videos or pictures that go away after 24 hours. What’s your flavor?
Social media allows us to connect with new friends and keep up with old friends. It gives us an outlet for self-expression – from political articles to a cute cat video. There’s no limit and there are no rules. What’s appropriate versus inappropriate is in the eye of the beholder. The potential of social media as it relates to plastic surgery is highlighted in a recent article in PRS, “#PlasticSurgery.” Branford et al noted a great potential for board-certified plastic surgeons to promote evidence-based plastic surgery and join the social media conversation by means of the hashtag, #PlasticSurgery.[i] In contrast, Rohrich highlights the potential danger where individuals highlight techniques and technology on social media that have not been peer-reviewed or described in the literature.[ii].
First and foremost, we have to be safe, responsible and ethical. As a resident, we are and will be scrutinized to an even higher standard. I think if you have any question about the appropriateness of a social media post you should not post it. It’s simply not worth it. As a resident, I personally would be extremely hesitant to post any patient images – identifiable or not. However, if you are to post a patient image it’s critical to be HIPAA compliant. Rohrich stresses that any image or video of a patient, identifiable or not, should have a specific written consent and signed by the patient.[iii] As a common courtesy, I think you should alert all individuals in a potential social media post as not everyone may be comfortable with it. I’m not aware of any plastic surgery programs with any specific guidelines or rules as it relates to social media in the work place but I suspect they will be forthcoming.
So where do we draw the line? Do we use all of our social media outlets to share and promote plastic surgery? Do we have separate professional and personal accounts? Do we mix professional with personal posts? More importantly, what’s our goal? Education? Self-promotion? Answering these latter questions will help answer the former. As millennials, we’ve spent the last ten years or so using social media for primarily personal fulfillment. We now walk a fine line through this uncharted territory of professional social media sharing. As we navigate the world of professional posting, we have to execute in specific ways, depending upon the goals we have. We can no longer post with reckless abandon. Everything must be to some degree, calculated to achieve the result we want.
If we are trying to grow a following for self-promotion and marketing, we must post high quality content regularly that is unique, provocative, and inspirational. This may include beautiful imagery with relevant captions (i.e. a photo of an attractive woman in a bathing suit with a question about liposuction below, or a photo of a celebrity that relates to our topic of choice), a professional, editorial photo from the OR (even if it is staged), or an image of an inspirational quote or short question which can be elaborated upon in the caption. An Instagram account should be viewed as one’s own magazine—the content should be high quality and if it isn’t, it better be an incredibly interesting discussion opener. One should avoid posting low-resolution photos, articles within images, and anything too personal (keep those OR selfies to a minimum and save that kind of content for Instagram Stories!). That being said, dispersing strategic personal posts throughout one’s Instagram can also be advantageous for relatability/likeability.
There is absolutely a boundary when it comes to personal posts. They should be carefully calculated. My plastic surgery audience probably doesn’t care about my brother’s birthday or what I ate for lunch. They may like to see a cute and/or funny photo of my family on the weekend occasionally to show I am multi-dimensional and accessible. My wife is a fashion blogger (@ExcessoriesExpert) and social media expert of sorts and she has taught me that these types of “in the moment” family photos should still be on par with the level of professional content to which my audience is accustomed…i.e. well-lit, clean, and sharp. I’ve learned to never post a photo I don’t look my best in unless I am doing the coolest thing in the world and just have to share it. Mystique is also important for growing a curious and engaged audience, so these types of personal posts should be used sparingly, so my followers will look forward to them.
In order to build a following, it is important to brand oneself. Who am I? What inspires me? What do I stand for? What are my passions? The goal is to weave together all of these elements to create a full picture so that our followers know exactly what they will get when they come to our profiles. If my primary professional goal for social media is education, then it is crucial to start a conversation with my followers. An open dialogue is essential for engagement. By proposing questions, asking for opinions, and sharing experiences, we can create a space for our audiences to learn. And we will learn with them. When these conversations happen in the forum we provide, our followings inevitably grow and our brands inevitably evolve. Involving the public in these discussions forces us to stay relevant with the times and on top of our game with both knowledge and craft. #PRSJournalClub on Twitter is one of my favorite plastic surgery educational social media forums where I can ask questions, start a conversation and engage in discussions with not only leaders in the field but also with the public. We are no longer simply accountable to our patients and colleagues, but to the masses.
As the next generation of plastic surgeons we not only need to remain up-to-date with the latest literature, techniques, and technology but also with social media. Social media is here to stay and will continue to evolve. It is up to us to promote high quality and evidence based content. Lastly, be safe, responsible, and have fun.
Ira Savetsky is a 4th year plastic surgery resident at The Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center and can be found on Twitter @IraSavetskyMD and Instagram @IraSavetsky<e,
[i] Branford OA, Kamali P, Rohrich RJ, Song DH, Mallucci P, Liu DZ, Lang D, Sun K, Stubican M, Lin SJ. #PlasticSurgery. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2016 Dec;138(6):1354-1365.
[ii] Rohrich. So, Do You Want to Be Facebook Friends? How Social Media Have Changed Plastic Surgery and Medicine Forever. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017 Apr;139(4):1021-1026.<s/pan>
[iii] Rohrich. So, Do You Want to Be Facebook Friends? How Social Media Have Changed Plastic Surgery and Medicine Forever. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017 Apr;139(4):1021-1026.