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    Effective blogging can reap practice benefits

    New York — Cosmetic surgeons who have something they want to write on a public forum might turn to blogging. When done correctly, this online commentary is good for business, according to one expert.

    Consistent and effective blogging can enhance a cosmetic surgeon’s search engine rankings, brand the physician as an expert in his or her desired area and attract new patients. Inconsistent or inappropriate blogging, however, typically is a waste of time and can do a practice more harm than good.

    There are do’s and don’ts for making this social media forum work to a cosmetic surgeon’s advantage, according to social media expert Wendy Lewis, president, Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy.

    Writer beware
    As physicians, cosmetic surgeon bloggers have to keep patient privacy and their credibility in mind.

    Physicians, for example, would not want to make any reference to a patient. Blog comments, such as “the lady I just operated on…” are inappropriate, she says.

    “Clearly, I think physicians know enough not to use someone’s name, but even intimating certain patient situations is real risky,” she says.

    Realize that blogging, while it is candid and conversational, has to be professional.

    “I don’t think you want to be seen blogging during surgery. I can’t imagine that a consumer is going to find that clever or amusing in any way,” Ms. Lewis says. “Blogging should be something that you’re actually sitting down and thinking about. … Everything that gets entered into your blog is your responsibility, so it needs to be checked and double checked and HIPAA regulations need to apply.”

    Blogging do's 
    Commit to consistency. Consistency and frequency are keys to successful blogging, Ms. Lewis says.

    “If you’re not going to blog (at least) a few times a week, you’re probably wasting the effort,” she says. “That’s the big challenge for physicians.”

    Write about what you know. Blogging should be about a topic of interest that’s within your expertise. Cosmetic surgery, fillers and anti-aging are obvious topics. Skincare and beauty might be within your expertise, but travel and fashion are probably off the topic, according to Ms. Lewis.

    “This may seem like a great idea: I can rant and rave about politics, sex, religion, my competitor down the street and other specialties. (But) that’s not a useful way to blog,” she says.

    Pick a voice. Many people blog in the first person. If you don’t have time, however, there are other options. You could enlist someone in your office to blog, or have a third party outside the practice blog for you, according to Ms. Lewis. A blog from the practice can be in the “we” voice, but whichever road you choose, be consistent.

    Be current, relevant. The news often makes good fodder for blog postings. Some examples: A Food and Drug Administration ruling on a new filler indication; newly released cosmetic surgery statistics; or news of a procedure gone awry. Comment on what’s recent and relevant in a constructive, nonjudgmental way. The commentary should be unique to your voice or your positioning, Ms. Lewis says.

    Market your blog. “Just like anything else we do online, blogs should be marketed in some way or you’re blogging, basically, to yourself,” Ms. Lewis says. Leverage your blogging content through other social media platforms, such as Facebook. Link your blog with other related, credible blogs. If your blog has its own domain name, make sure that name is printed along with your website domain name on business cards, ads and other marketing materials.

    Optimize, optimize, optimize. Use keywords that correspond to what you’re stressing on other social media avenues. If you’re optimizing your website for liposuction, breast augmentation and dermal fillers, for example, infuse those words in your blog. “But not so much so that it becomes completely unreadable. Of course, you want to get better Google rankings, but if your content is so obviously search engine optimization (SEO) driven, no one will bother reading it,” Ms. Lewis says.

    Blogging don'ts
    You don’t have to respond to comments, and sometimes you shouldn’t. A blog is more a statement than it is a conversation, according to Ms. Lewis. “Unless you’re the Huffington Post or Charlie Sheen, you’re probably not going to get a lot of responses on your blog,” Ms. Lewis says. “I would argue not to do a blog to look for engagement from patients or consumers. I would look for more engagement on Facebook and Twitter.”

    Given privacy issues, Ms. Lewis recommends setting up the blog so that comments are posted privately for the physician and physician’s staff so they can first review and delete them (if need be) before the comments go live. In this case, doctors would approve appropriate comments and respond to them online.

    Ms. Lewis says she is not a fan of the question-and-answer platforms, which she says are dangerous for physicians.

    “The challenge is, if a patient is asking you a question, even on your blog … technically, you really can’t answer that question as a physician on a public forum,” she says. “Someone can post, but as a physician, you would be advised not to respond directly to a patient question because that would be considered a HIPAA issue. You can post their comment, but no response.”

    Don’t be negative. Venting and bashing colleagues are among the frowned-upon topics for professionals, including physicians, to use a public forum, according to Ms. Lewis.

    Leave out the sales pitch. Blogs have to be interesting to readers. It has to be about them. You’ll hurt more than help the practice with self-promotional content. “With blogs, try to stress education over promotion,” Ms. Lewis says.

    Avoid duplicated content. Blogs should be unique, not rehashed, content. “Google doesn’t like duplicated content. If your blog post is going to be something you pulled off the ASAPS website, that’s not going to help you. It should be original, unique — it should have your stamp on it,” Ms. Lewis says.

    Try to have fun
    Blogging can be fun for cosmetic surgeons who enjoy writing, have points of view they want to express and don’t mind setting aside time to find topics and write about them.

    “I think some physicians flourish in this format, whereas for others, it’s really a chore,” she says. “The goals (for writing a blog) are to develop followers (and) to provide original, fresh and relevant content that resonates with that group of followers on a regular basis.”

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.

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