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Managing Your Online Reputation in the New World of Social Media

October 6, 2010 |

How do you manage your online reputation when everyone is a critic? That’s the question many of our physicians are asking us today. The answer requires a shift in the way we relate with consumers, moving away from one-way storytelling to strategies that enable conversations with prospective patients. Implementing a reputation management program as a true extension of your marketing efforts is a must now more than ever.

The impact of social media channels on businesses today is huge, because everyone now has a voice that can be heard. Rating and review sites are a great example. They continue to have a profound and, in some cases, paralyzing impact on businesses of all sizes. Along with the multitude of brand advocates you can acquire, you may encounter detractors along the way, some more vocal than others, which is why it’s become critical to manage your online reputation. These sites, as with the web in general, move fast – much faster than any one practice can keep up with.

Remember the phrase “word of mouth?” It used to describe how one person would tell one person something, then that person would tell another, and so on. The advent of the Internet, its ease of use, and consumer adaptability bring a new meaning to the phrase, challenging us to think globally, as in “world of mouth.” In fact, a study conducted by Opinion Research earlier this year found that more than 32 percent of consumers had personally posted feedback or a review on a website after an experience with a product or service. This percentage will likely grow rapidly. For cosmetic surgery practices, it is nearly impossible to escape the likelihood of being evaluated. Your fans, your critics, your current and prior employees, your competition and anyone with Internet access (and an opinion) can post a comment, or rate or review you at any given time. 

To manage your online reputation, you must actively own a presence, participate, and engage in social media channels so that you can begin to manage your online reputation. The key word is “manage,” because in this age of real-time, instant, universal dialogue, you cannot expect to “control” this space. Realizing this will make you much more effective in this effort. Further, these new tools and your marketing efforts require a new skill set, including monitoring the online conversation and engaging with customers to promote the best news about your practice in the appropriate channels that most benefit your practice. These new marketing skills have become essential for mainstream businesses.

The following are three key steps to managing your online reputation.


According to a survey by the Opinion Research Corporation, 84 percent of Americans say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. Consumers are being influenced by what they are reading online about your practice, which is why it’s so critical to listen to what’s being said. For some practices, this will be an easy task while for others (as we have seen over the past year) it may be a time-consuming and possibly even daunting task. You may not necessarily want to hear what’s being said, but it is pivotal to your business and its reputation – online and offline. To listen to the conversation:

•          Search for your practice name and physician names on Google – do you like what you see?

•          Set up a Google Alert, an easy way to get automated alerts about your practice right to your e-mail inbox simply by inserting a few keywords.

•          Research rate/review sites: Review your profile on HealthGrades, Vitals, DocShop, Rate MD, Realself and PlasticSurgeryReview, along with a host of other rating and review sites. Do you like what you see?

•          Search Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Technorati, etc. Get an idea about the type of results that are appearing when searching for your practice, if any.

•          Claim your listing within all online directories (Yelp, Google, YellowPages, DMOZ, Yahoo). These sites have easy step-by-step instructions to do so in the help section.

•          Consider online reputation management software. There are a host of new and old applications out there from which to choose, ranging from relatively inexpensive to very expensive: The Marchex Reputation Management, My Media Info., Brandseye, and AgentGenius are just a few of the dozens of suitable services.


Get into the conversation, and turn your prospects into patients. Engage your patients by showing them that your practice is actively listening and participating in the dialogue. There are a few things you must consider before you venture into the conversation, the most important of which is not to argue with the consumer, especially because this public space is so visible. Try to listen and put yourself in the patient’s place. If the topic is delicate, which most of them are, invite the patient to contact your office directly and privately, allowing him or her to feel comfortable and others viewing your conversation to see how you take the time to listen.

Another thing you should never do is post false reviews. Don’t write fake reviews to boost your business or trash a competitor. Businesses have been publicly exposed for shilling and suffered major embarrassment. Many of you probably are aware of the Lifestyle Lift incident that occurred last year. Authorities ordered the cosmetic surgery clinic Lifestyle Lift to pay $300,000 in civil penalties after an investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s office found that employees had posed as plastic surgery patients to write glowing reviews of their own business — a bogus grassroots movement known as “astroturfing.” Keep it simple and keep it honest:

•          Participate in the review sites by commenting on reviews and offering guidance.

•          Publish press releases, articles, service-supporting documents and videos.

•          Be the one to create the news for your practice, don’t wait for something to which you can react. Spread the good word about you and your practice.

•          Implement a rate and review program: Invite consumers to comment about you and give you honest feedback on your service.

React and Respond

Turn your current patients into evangelists. Implement monitoring activities, whether they are a paid subscription, free automated tools, manual monitoring, or any combination of these. Make a point to do something with what you are learning. If you have an overwhelming number of patients complaining about time to get an appointment or lack of follow up, do something about it. Don’t ignore what you hear, even if it’s negative. If you receive a suggestion for an improvement, do something with that or at least acknowledge the input and let your patients know you are listening.

•          Modify, respond and react.

•          Promote the good news.

•          Utilize the free analytic tools.

•          Monitor the chatter.

•          Implement what you learn.

•          Ultimately get to know your customer and capitalize on good reviews.

If you are serious about implementing a reputation management program, you have a variety of actionable items to employ as soon as possible. No doubt, this is a lot of information and a good deal to absorb. One approach is to do a little at a time and test the waters. The most important point to all of this is that there is a conversation happening with or without you online. Social media has transformed the way we interact with our patients and it’s up to us to master the conversation rather than one-way storytelling. This is no longer a one-way conversation.

The fundamentals of marketing have changed and the best approach now is to look at this as an exciting opportunity to talk to our customers as we never have before. This opportunity can transform the way we do business and ultimately grow our practice. Embrace the change, see it in a positive light and follow the steps outlined above and you’ll be on your way to implementing a successful online reputation management program.

by Vanessa Capozzi

Vanessa Capozzi is vice president of Interactive Marketing for MD Communications, Inc.  MD Communications provides aesthetic medical providers with a single, experienced source for effective, efficient and ethical medical marketing results both online and off-line.  MD Communications represents the Skin Center Medical Spa based in Pittsburgh, PA.

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