Social Networks Prime Source of Cosmetic Procedure Word of Mouth

Last Updated: January 29, 2013

According to data compiled by the Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), about 42% of patients turned to social networks in 2011 to get information about the procedures in which they were interested. Interestingly, 70% of all patients described the work they wanted by body area, and were not familiar with the proper surgical name, which may further explain the desire to seek answers in a social setting.

Traditionally, word-of-mouth recommendations by friends have been the source of information to which prospective patients have turned most often. In 2010, 63% of people surveyed cited "friends" as their primary resource, especially in the initial consideration stage when they were just starting to think about having "work" done. Last year, that number fell to 48%, while the social marketing indicator was up from only 29% in 2010.

Social Networking Represents a Different Kind of "Friend"

Arguably, getting information from Facebook and Twitter is still receiving cosmetic surgery advice from "friends," but in this instance the friendship may have been formed exclusively in the electronic environment. This is more often the case on Twitter, however, whereas Facebook's stock and staple is reconnecting old "real world" friends and building networks of co-workers and other acquaintances. Both environments make it possible to share photographs, however.

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For the third consecutive year, women were more likely to opt for cosmetic surgery than men, although the exception to that "rule" is hair transplantation.

Talking to Friends May Lead to Misinformation

The AAFPRS expressed concern that information passed on by friends, including recommendations for selecting a surgeon, might not be based on sufficient research into either the doctor or the procedure itself. Dr. Tom Wang, AAFPRS president said in a statement accompanying the release of the survey, "We are encouraged by the possibilities that Facebook, Twitter and other social channels offer for prospective patients, but urge all patients to exercise caution in researching facial plastic procedures to ensure information is from a reliable source."

Verifying a doctor's credentials to actually perform the surgery he is offering is vital, and it is important for patients to understand exactly what will happen during the procedure and how their recovery is likely to progress. That information should not only address expected levels of discomfort, but also a time estimate for the resumption of all normal activities. Realistic expectations are absolutely essential to having a good experience with plastic surgery or any cosmetic procedure. Patients need to know exactly what can be accomplished, and how closely that matches the desired changes they have in mind.

Other Survey Findings

The survey results showed that hyaluronic acid and Botox injections were the most popular non-surgical augmentations in 2011, and were chosen by patients more often than "going under the knife." The primary surgeries requested were nose jobs, eyelid surgery, skin resurfacing, and facelifts. For the third consecutive year, women were more likely to opt for cosmetic surgery than men, although the exception to that "rule" is hair transplantation.

By ethnicity, the AAFPRS data showed African Americans and Hispanics are most likely to have work done on the nose, whereas Asian Americans favor both nose and eyelid procedures. Caucasian Americans tend to opt most often for full face lifts and nose reshaping.

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