This 3-part series, told through an extended love metaphor, explores the key parts of social media influencers, their rise to popularity, how they fit into your medical practice and how you can actually tell if they are providing meaningful results.
If you want to explore more of this topic, here are links to the other three articles, i.e. stages of love.
Stage 1: Lust; the Rise of the Influencer
Stage 2: Attraction; Choosing the Right Influencer and Content
Stage 3: Attachment; How to Measure Influencer Success
Got a hot Tinder situation and need the short version? Read our 60-second TL;DR.
Here at Incredible, we are lucky enough to work with literal doctors for clients. But here’s something you probably didn’t know: we are somewhat of a group of doctors ourselves: doctors of the heart, that is. Easy there, mister attorney. We aren’t claiming to be cardiologists — we are talking about the other heart.
Let’s just say you could call us love doctors. (You won’t, but you could.) We treat Twitterpations, not palpitations here.
And who is coming into our office for appointments? The medical aesthetic community, that’s who. Because they’ve fallen, and fallen hard, for social media influencers. Our diagnosis? Well, it’s the only diagnosis we have: you got it, and you got it bad.
Love At First Sight
See, it always starts the same way. You see someone on your screen as you scroll through social media, flaunting the newest treatment results or repping a new medical practice, and they immediately catch your eye. Your body is flushed by chemicals that have an enormous influence on your feelings.
Phenylethylamine, or the “love molecule,” hits you like a truck, and oxytocin , a.k.a. the “cuddle hormone,” floods your body and drops your reservations faster than that fourth Bahama Mama on the fifth day of spring break.
In 1979, Dorothy Tennov coined a term for this phenomenon: limerence.
Unfortunately, she did not write the explanation for it in a limerick.
So, what do you do? You reach out — slide in those DMs like you’re Drake and someone just turned 18, usually with something smooth like, “Hey, I came across your profile and love your work! Would love to work together sometime.”
You play it cool, making sure you don’t overplay your hand. To your surprise, you get a message back. A back and forth ensues, and, like any real love story, this first stage of love, the discovery, is called lust.
It hits you hard, like that awkward scene in Twilight where Edward looks at Bella in the classroom like he is doing his best to keep his life together the morning after binge eating Taco Bell.
Live Más, señor Eduardo.
The most important part of this stage? Learning about the subject of your desire — their history, what makes them unique, and, ultimately, what they offer you in a long-term relationship. So, like any good dating prospect, you listen to what they have to say.
What Is an Influencer?
We hate to hit you with the Oxford definition, but they actually nailed it pretty well in this case.
(And besides, this is an educational blog, not a best man speech. Chill out, bruv.)
Influencer: a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
But not all influencers are alike. After all, you are bombarded by influencers every time you open up your phone, and it took that specific influencer you saw earlier to pique your interest and get those love endorphins swirling.
At their core, though, influencers, like dating prospects, all have the same general anatomy:
- The ability to positively talk about a treatment or service
- A following on one or more social media platforms
- The willingness to partner with brands as a business transactions
The State of Influencers Around the World
The influencer economy is booming — so, all those people that made jokes years ago about influencers not having real jobs are kind of eating their words right now.
According to a report from Influencer Marketing Hub, the influencer marketing industry is on track to reach a valuation of approximately $16.4 billion, rising sharply and consistently since 2016 when the total market was valued at $1.7 billion.
Plus, 75% of brand marketers intend to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing in 2021, and 68% of marketers planned to increase their influencer marketing spend in 2021, according to that same report.
Influencers, regardless of platform, have secured a steadfast spot as a key element to digital and social media marketing. They have become an intermediary between brands and consumers, using the relationships they develop to … influence … the opinions of their followers.
Influencers in the Medical Industry
Influencer marketing as a practice is most associated with e-commerce — you send them a product, they promote it to their following, and that following (hopefully) purchases the service.
But influencers who work in the greater medical industry are also prevalent, although their audiences are much more scrupulous about the influencer’s dedication to providing accurate information since there is generally more at stake when it comes to medical treatments and services.
(Cue Law and Order sound bite: BUM BUM.)
It’s a fair trade-off. Rigorous advertising standards and a requirement for accuracy is nothing new to the medical field, and it ultimately creates an environment that allows a larger number of people to feel comfortable about medical communications in general, even when it comes to marketing material.
(We know there are exceptions to the rule — but for the most part, people aren’t afraid of medical marketing.)
Much like the loneliness you felt before falling for influencer X, the skepticism surrounding medical industry influencers is omnipresent. Couple this with the limited number of people interested in specific medical services, and it is easy to understand why you don’t see a ton of influencers pushing services for general health practitioners.
Influencers in the Medical Aesthetic Niche
Medical aesthetics, though? Now that’s a whole different ball game, son.
When people come to a medical aesthetic professional, they are coming to feel better about themselves and their appearance, not necessarily solve an illness. This means that, while the quality of life stakes can be just as high, especially when we are talking about feeling comfortable and happy with their bodies, the medical emergency component is removed.
You help people in a way that is different from doctors who deal with disease and illness. This alone is enough to help calm the sea of angry followers waiting for an unfortunate misstep… kind of.
I mean look, don’t get us wrong, the internet is always ready and willing to jump into outrage — but influencers, for the most part, will do their best to protect both their integrity (i.e., the marketable trust their followers have, i.e. their most lucrative asset) and the relationship they have with a business partner.
The trust they have is ultimately what your practice is after — their followers consume their content regularly, develop a relationship with them over time, and ultimately make a personal judgment on their integrity when it comes to promoting products.
Think about the influencer you follow the most. Could be anyone. Khloe Kardashian? Huda Kattan? Cole Sprouse? David Dobrik? That one TikTok guy who makes wacky sandwiches in New York?
@newyorknico The ocky way. @meals_by_cug @rah_money1 ♬ original sound – Nicolas Heller
How much more would you trust their opinion on a product over standard marketing material on a website or advertisement?
The History of Influencers
In the lust and discovery phase of love, you are eating up every detail of what makes up the object of your obsession. How were they raised? What background do they have? What obstacles (or lack thereof) have they overcome? What has their journey been like?
“Falling in love” with an influencer, or the idea of influencers in general, is no different. To understand how they came to be such an important part of the marketing landscape, you have to understand how they started.
Before that though, let’s get a bet going. Winner gets a couple of bitcoins? Agreed.
Raise your hand if you think social influencers began in the 2010s, as social media solidified its presence in our everyday lives? What about the 2000s, when the internet really started to hit its groove? The 90s, when digital devices like home computers started to become more accessible? Alright, the 80s? Surely that’s far enough back. After all, the internet as we know it today was invented in 1983.
Keep your hand up if any of these were your guess — we want to see the palms of the people who will be transferring a small fortune to our Cash App accounts.
Here’s the thing: at their core, influencers are celebrities. They might have taken a different path to notoriety than the celebrities we are used to, like those who we see in movies, television or music, but both celebrity and influencers have notoriety in excess. Really, they are kind of one in the same.
The only difference is that influencers use that notoriety as a marketable asset. So, by that reasoning, the truth is that influencers, according to the definition Oxford Dictionary provides, can be traced back to ancient Rome. Gladiators with notoriety would actually endorse products to the public.
“Hey Spartacus-nation, welcome back to my channel. I was just about to head into the Colosseum but wanted to tell y’all about this new sandal maker I’ve been absolutely loving lately. They never come loose in the middle of a fight and you all know how much bad luck I’ve had with sandals before…”
They didn’t call themselves influencers, but if it looks like an influencer, fights like an influencer, and uses its notoriety as a marketable asset like an influencer, then it probably is an influencer.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” — William Shakespeare, about influencers, probably.
And in reality, social media influencers specifically rose to popularity alongside the social media platforms that they were on. A world where social media existed without people looking to leverage their notoriety on that platform is more make-believe than Hogwarts, Narnia, Naboo and Fyre Festival combined.
Even before the OG social media platforms, bloggers were extremely popular and were notorious for using their following for business purposes. In 2005, the game was shaken up when people turned to YouTube to start creating their own audiences for video content. As Facebook, Instagram and Twitter grew their users, they also grew their influencer baseline.
With every new platform that gets released, a new generation of influencers are born — early adopters of new platforms often become the most popular creators on that platform in general. We call this the “social cycle.”
(You can read more about this cycle in this article about TikTok success.)
6 Benefits of Influencer Marketing
We’ve all heard the stories of people making a pro and con list of someone they are dating to figure out if they are long-term significant other potential.
(Or, the much less desirable situation, they are debating between two different people. Sorry if you’ve ever been on the losing end of a pro/con comparison. Look at you now though!)
Influencers have their costs — both time-wise and fiscally — but, like most people, they have their benefits as well. Before you can really decide if you want to move your infatuation forward from the first lust-driven stage, you have to really understand what they offer.
We wouldn’t dare try to quantify the value of a human from a dating perspective, as if we were some kind of digital marketing cupid. But the value someone has to your practice as a potential influencer?
No moral qualms with that. Let’s dissect them like our name is Jeffrey Dahmer.
Here’s the thing, we know as a practitioner, you are likely going to be disappointed when we tell you new patients aren’t really the primary benefit you will get from influencer marketing. We know, take a moment and process — it’s kind of a heavy blow.
The number of direct leads you get will be beneficial, but the place where you experience the most direct and immediate benefit to your digital marketing program is within your content. This isn’t true for most industries or even e-commerce, but for medical aesthetics, content is the name of the game.
When planned properly, you can get huge value from a single influencer office visit. We will dive deeper into preparing yourself and the content team for this visit in Part 2 of this series, but here is a list of the kind of content you can generate from your partnership:
- Social media posts
- Social media stories and highlights
- Patient Journeys
Not to mention, with enough planning, you can create the godfather of effective content itself: the before and after photo. A popular face for your potential patients to see results on is hugely effective at converting patients.
It is very probable that, simply by association, you will gain new followers from the partnership between you and your influencer. When done correctly, influencers tag you in their posts, interact with your posts about them, shout you out on their stories and throughout their journey, and are generally strong advocates for your practice.
Naturally, this sparks interest in your services and people who are interested in keeping up with your offerings will follow you to stay informed and have an easy path to communication should they ever decide to work with you.
A select few followers of your partner will notice that you are in their area and sign up with services with you based strictly on the influencer endorsement. They are rare, but they do exist. More impactful, though, are the potential patients who will come across the content that is created from the partnership.
This content can be converted into sales, when planned and executed appropriately. So even though we said earlier that leads aren’t the most immediate benefit you will have, the impact on your content program could provide conversions down the line — on a timeframe that will long outlast the exchange agreement between you and an influencer.
How do you do this? You create evergreen content. Patient Journeys and testimonials are great examples, but highlights on Instagram or pinned videos on TikTok can also serve as evergreen content. Even a blog, maybe a Q&A or interview with your influencer, can provide direct value for months, even years, to come.
4. Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is a simple enough idea: it is the number of people who even know you exist. The benefit that social media influencers have on this concept is also pretty straightforward: they push your brand to new audiences. If Taylor Swift named dropped your office on a story or social post, a lot more people are going to know your practice exists.
The hope is that, eventually, people move from being simply aware of your brand to developing a trusting relationship from all the name drops. That is how we move into brand legitimacy and awareness.
5. Brand Legitimacy
The aesthetics market is becoming more saturated by the day. It is expected to grow by nearly 15% in the next eight years, and since 2000, the market has grown steadily by 174%, slowing down only briefly for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 and 2020.
With this kind of growth, two developments are sure to happen: 1) more medical spas will open in hopes of capturing some of that revenue, and 2) more plastic surgeons will look to provide nonsurgical and minimally invasive options to increase their bottom line.
That means more competition for you down the line.
Combatting this isn’t an easy process, but you can do it. You simply have to establish yourself as a legitimate and trustworthy practice and practitioner. When enough people see you treating influencers they have developed a relationship with, then you will naturally become someone they trust as well.
Eventually, they will choose you over others simply because of your reputation. This phenomenon is called brand equity.
6. Brand Equity
Brand equity is the value that patients and potential patients place on your practice simply because they trust your results and practices over other options. Think about any of your favorite brands; if their products stopped offering industry-standard features, would you still buy them?
Unless the brand name is Apple — probably not.
(Relax, I switched to an iPhone more than a year ago. I am one of you now.)
Jokes aside, people stick to brands because they are reliable, and they trust them to give them the best service or product possible. Apple is a good example of providing reliable services to its customers. Their products are stable and generally work well without needing a ton of understanding from the users.
Potential patients don’t necessarily want to understand the ins and outs of their procedure, they just want to feel safe with who is performing it and confident that it wouldn’t be happening if results weren’t probable.
First stage is lust, you’ll fall in love with an influencer and get to know all the foundations of what makes them unique. Incredibles are doctors … kinda. Influencers are people who persuade potential patients to sign up with your service. The influencer economy is booming. Medical influencers have harder environments, but medical aesthetics are super popular and have somewhat lower stakes, making it a less harsh ecosystem. Influencers have been influencing since Ancient Rome. There are six main benefits of influencer marketing: more content, followers, leads, brand awareness, brand legitimacy and brand equity. But as it turns out, a lot of these also impact total long-term conversions. (Hurray!)
Still Unsure About Your Influencer?
No worries. Take your time — get to know your
date influencer before you start to worry about long-term commitment. Enjoy the lust and discovery stage, where the possibilities are endless and the paperwork is… constrained.
Because eventually, you’ll have no choice but to move into the second stage of love: attraction.
In Part 2 of this series, we will help you figure out what kind of influencer is right for your practice, covering everything from influencer size and personality to finding someone new if that initial flame didn’t pan out.
Love is a marathon, chief. And it’s a race you have to run.
Getting nervous? Need a wingman? We got you covered. Hit us up if you have any questions. As always, our educators are here to answer any questions you have, anytime, for free. Give us a call at (800) 949-0133 or schedule a one-on-one.