Protecting Your Medical Spas (And Your Own) Reputation Online

Medical Spa MD has been threatened with lawsuits on more than one occasion for something that someone posted in the forums.

If you're running a laser clinic or medical spa you'll have some unhappy patients from time to time as well.. and very soon every one of your patients will have a Facebook page, Twitter stream, or personal blog that provides a public platform for them to voice their displeasure.

In fact, more than 85% of your potential clients who are looking for a medical spa or elective plastic surgery proceedure are doing research online. And it's not just kids. People between 35 and 60 are the fastest growing group online. If you're not the most prominant voice, you're loosing patients, revenue, and reputation.

There have been a number of medical spas and physicians who have literally gone out of business because they were unable to manage their reputation online when it was attacked. (Look at American Laser Clinics reputation.) Trying to 'fix it' with underhand tactics can make it worse.

And there's nothing you can do about it.

Here's a story on CNN about a student who created a Facbook page about a teacher:

A former Florida high school student who was suspended by her principal after she set up a Facebook page to criticize her teacher is protected constitutionally under the First Amendment, a federal magistrate ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Barry Garber's ruling, in a case viewed as important by Internet watchers, denied the principal's motion to dismiss the case and allows a lawsuit by the student to move forward.

"We have constitutional values that will always need to be redefined due to changes in technology and society," said Ryan Calo, an attorney with Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.

"The fact that students communicate on a semi-public platform creates new constitutional issues and the courts are sorting them out," Calo said.

Katherine Evans, now 19 and attending college, was suspended in 2007 from Pembroke Pines Charter High School after she used her home computer to create a Facebook page titled, "Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I've ever met."

In his order, Garber found that the student had a constitutional right to express her views on the social networking site.

"Evans' speech falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech," he wrote. "It was an opinion of a student about a teacher, that was published off-campus ... was not lewd, vulgar, threatening, or advocating illegal or dangerous behavior."

Matthew Bavaro, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Evans, was pleased with the ruling.

"The First Amendment provides protection for free speech regardless of the forum, being the Internet, the living room or a restaurant," he told CNN.

So, while there's nothing you can do to prevent an unhappy patient from broadcasting their displeasure, there is a way to keep that unhappyness from being the first thing that comes up when someone searches on your name or the name of your medical spa or clinic. That's to be the dominant 'voice' that's heard when someone is looking for information about you, your practice, or your services.

So what can you do to protect your personal and medical reputation?

In effect, you need to have a bigger microphone. That means that means that you're going to need to do some heavy lifting online to make absolutely sure that when someone is searching for information on your medical spa, dermatology practice, or plastic surgery clinic, the information that they find is about your practice, not negative comments from disgruntled patients.

And since this is such a problem for every medical practice and physician, we've been looking to help address this need. We're about to launch two new Medical Spa MD Select Partners to help.

The first, Freelance MD, is a creative agency specializing in marketing and advertising outsource services for medical spas and plastic surgeons. The second will be announced later this week.

Freelance MD will be hosing a free webinar on social media marketing this week. (You can see details and register in the previous post.)  If you're not an expert at using search engine marketing, social media, special events and local PR, you'll want to sign up and learn how it's done.