RealSelf, an online information-sharing community, allows doctors to answer pertinent patient questions about cosmetic procedures, and gives patients an opportunity to rate their procedure(s) as well as their provider(s). Doctors can virtually strut their stuff, including before and after photos, to a den of prospective patients.

RealSelf has become a popular and dependable resource for all involved. That said, many an unethical and/or uneducated marketer may abuse the site as they attempt to promote their practice(s) by any means necessary.

Together with RealSelf, PSP has put together this list of RealSelf etiquette for doctors and marketing executives to remove the  no more gray areas.

Do Answer Patient Questions

This RealSelf feature allows physicians to position themselves as experts about various procedures. If you are or want to be seen as a rhinoplasty expert, answer rhinoplasty questions. It’s that simple. Instead of trying to be the Jack of all trades, be the master of one or two.

The more questions you answer and answer thoughtfully, the more views your profile will receive. If you outsource this task, make sure to review the answers drafted by your representative before they are posted. It’s a numbers game, but quality will always trump quantity on RealSelf.

Do Be Original

All opinions, replies and post should be unique – ie, not canned. Don’t post copyrighted material or content from other websites, not even your own. Content must be original, and all sources referenced must be cited for these entries to really enhance your online footprint.realself-logo-color-sm

Do Show Patients Your Virtual Bedside Manner

Be helpful, not boastful in your replies. The goal is for the consumer to say, “I feel like I already know you,” when they come in for a consultation. This feeling of warmth can be generated by replies and reviews that get to the essence of your practice philosophy and showcase your personality.

Don’t Swipe Another Doctor’s Images

Sounds like something that no one would do, correct? Sadly, many marketing folks may pilfer images from RealSelf and imply either directly or indirectly that these images are related to procedures performed at a practice they represent. (Ed note: It happened to me at least once that I know of!) This is unethical and illegal. Make sure that any photos that accompany your name or your practice’s name are your own and that you have obtained the rights to use them. Don’t include personally identifiable information in photos or captions. Always obtain proper consent before posting photos online—and be clear as to what you will be using the images for. This way, there are no misunderstandings.

Do Respond to Patient Inquiries Right Away

In surveys by RealSelf, 90% of providers say they respond to potential patient inquires within 24 hours—yet 40% of patients say they don’t get a response at all. That’s a significant disconnect, and may explain your less-than-stellar conversion ratio. Make sure your staff is on the ball when it comes to responding to inquiries, whether from RealSelf or another outlet. (We suggest secret shopping your own practice by calling or emailing and seeing what type of response your inquiry gets).

Do Be Transparent

If you’re affiliated with a product, company or provider, there’s nothing wrong with that—just own it. Don’t write reviews when you have any potential conflict of interest.

For more information on RealSelf’s guidelines, click here.