To run a successful aesthetic practice, clinicians must not only be masters of their craft, but also possess a keen business prowess. In our current digital age, that means executing a web presence that goes beyond a polished web site. Branding yourself and your practice should include a social media campaign, a search engine optimization strategy, and various other avenues through which physicians can become more accessible to patients. One such avenue is the website RealSelf (www.realself.com), a community for both physicians and consumers for learning and sharing information about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, and other aesthetic treatments. Ahead, RealSelf founder and CEO Tom Seery discusses what web presence means in 2014.

FROM YOUR STANDPOINT, WHAT'S THE CURRENT CLIMATE AMONG PHYSICIANS WHEN IT COMES TO INTERNET REPUTATION?

Among the four core cosmetic specialties, Mr. Seery has seen a variety of attitudes and approaches regarding the Internet as a major factor in a business model for aesthetic practices. “Some seek out angles and opportunities to reach new patients, whereas others will present objections, fears, and risks,” he says.

This divide likely speaks to the varying sensibilities among the different specialties. Nevertheless, in the general, Mr. Seery is seeing a shift toward the broader perception of the web as an important vehicle for branding and reputation.

“We recently conducted a survey with 175 respondents—doctors we've encountered at meetings or have an account with RealSelf—gathering their opinions on the web and its influence on their reputation. I was expecting a bifurcation between doctors who think the web is terrible or great,” notes Mr. Seery. “What we've seen, though, is that by far, doctors are seeing the web as a very important and valued resource to get empowered and to showcase their expertise.” Acknowledging perhaps a skewed sample population, Mr. Seery nevertheless sees this trend taking hold across the aesthetic specialties and believes that more physicians see online reviews as positive for their business and for their own personal interaction. “We are definitely seeing the emergence of a doctor perspective in which the Internet is no longer the enemy and is becoming a source of empowerment and distinction and differentiation from other practitioners.”

Nevertheless, despite increased emphasis on the importance of web presence, Mr. Seery observes that there are still some misconceptions about how to achieve that. “There seems to be a perception among many physicians that all that matters is your ranking on Google,” Mr. Seery says. However, he notes that too much emphasis on ranking—particularly since there is no hard formula for how those rankings are achieved—is somewhat counterintuitive. “Sites such as RealSelf give physicians greater control over their identity and makes them less dependent on Google,” says Mr. Seery.

HOW IMPORTANT WOULD YOU SAY IT IS FOR AESTHETIC PHYSICIANS TO TAKE CONTROL OF THEIR IMAGE?

In the field of aesthetics, where the four core specialties are seeing increased competition from non-core physicians, it is all the more important for physicians to take control of their online image, according to Mr. Seery. “On RealSelf, we focus on board-certified physicians in the core aesthetic specialties to be represented. We see that as an important way we can provide consumers with greater access to reliable information,” he explains.

To read Mr. Seery's description of RealSelf.com and the niche it fills in aesthetic medicine, check out the Modern Aesthetics® App, available for download the from the iTunes store.