Sometimes, through this digital discourse, the teacher becomes the student. “I’m learning from these interactions,” says Dr. Killeen. “I get a window into what people really want to know about procedures, and that helps me be a better doctor.”

Dr. Killeen credits social media with changing the power dynamic between patients and physicians and, above all, humanizing plastic surgeons by showcasing their individuality. Jericho, the social media marketer, urges his clients to post about themselves, not just their work. People are drawn to doctors who “mesh with their personality,” he says. It’s an evidence-based strategy: In a recent cross-sectional study of the top global plastic surgeons on Instagram, personal posts garnered the highest average engagement.

Of course, there’s more than one way to attract followers. The document-your-life-all-the-time approach never felt comfortable for Gary Linkov, MD. The New York City facial plastic surgeon uses his Instagram grid as a gallery for before-and-after photos, but he focuses most of his efforts on his YouTube channel and its 685,000-plus subscribers. Clocking millions of views, his long-form videos are educational, with a non-judgy celebrity spin. Dr. Linkov has done detailed facial analyses of Madonna, Simon Cowell, Michael Jackson, and others, in which he hypothesizes about the procedures they may have had through the years.

“It’s like fancy gossip,” says Dr. Linkov, sort of sheepishly. “You have to be engaging and dress up the information, but I’m not a clown on screen. I have boards to answer to — I always keep that in mind.” (Dr. Linkov is referring to the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, which certifies him in his specialty, and the New York State Medical Board, which licenses him to practice medicine in his chosen state. He’s also careful to adhere to the ethical standards outlined by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, or AAFPRS.)

More than half of Dr. Linkov’s referrals now come from social media. “Maybe 40% of my patients are from New York, but the rest fly in from all over the world,” he says. “It’s all because of YouTube — it’s such a big reach.”

As his social media stock has soared, so too has demand for his services. “To manage the volume of patients,” he recently doubled his prices while narrowing the scope of his practice to the two procedures he’s most passionate about: lip lifts and hair-restoration surgery (which currently start at $11,000 and $16,000, respectively, but are subject to change, Dr. Linkov says). He’s also been able to monetize some of his YouTube content through ads that the platform runs within his videos.

Dr. Youn is similarly compensated by YouTube as well as TikTok, Facebook, and Snapchat. These earnings, which originally went to furloughed employees during the shutdown, now support Dr. Youn’s social habits, which take time away from paying patients. (He’s given up injecting on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to dedicate more time to his social media pursuits.) Aside from an in-house video producer, who edits his YouTube content, he runs everything himself. “People ask me, ‘How do you have time to do all this?’” he says. “My answer is: ‘I don’t golf.’ My hobby is creating content.” To that end, he spends three weekday afternoons, plus most weekends, overseeing multiple feeds to maintain his social standing.

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