The Lifestyle Lift and Astroturf Marketing

Published on February 3, 2010 by

By now we’ve all learned in varying degrees that some of what we read online isn’t exactly “fact”. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with people posting or blogging using opinions or even writing and sharing fictional stories online – as long as it’s clear to the readers that what they’re reading isn’t “fact”.

One of the most effective ways for doctors to get new patients is through word of mouth advertising and in this age of computers and the internet, that translates into posters going onto various websites with comments and stories about the wonderful experience they had with their doctor or the remarkable results they got from a certain cosmetic procedure. The good news here is that this could be one of your best tools when researching a specific treatment or when looking for a plastic surgeon, as these personal reviews tend to carry a great deal of veracity with them. The bad news is that some companies are attempting to generate business by duping consumers.

In 2009, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo settled a claim resulting in a $300,000 settlement against a company doing just that by using “…cynical, manipulative and illegal” methods. Lifestyle Lift was the first company to be penalized for using these “Astroturf marketing” techniques, so named because their aim is to create bogus grassroots buzz about a product. The company admitted it required employees to pose as satisfied customers in their online ads. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also went so far as to create websites to highlight these reviews as legitimate, unsolicited testimonials. In a company e-mail, Lifestyle Lift instructed employees to “…devote the day to doing more postings on the Web as satisfied clients…” and in doing so violated consumer protection laws.

So how do you as a consumer know which reviews, which patient/client comments to believe? That’s a great question, and I wish there was an easy answer to it. There is no magic bullet here. Don’t rely solely on patient comments, but don’t discard them either. Rely on as many tools as there are available, with patient reviews being just one of those. Some of the other things to look for:

MUST BE a board certified plastic surgeon
“CV” or “curriculum vitae” which is their professional resume – where/what did they study?
active in the profession in a teaching and learning capacity
review their personal before and after pictures
consult with more than one surgeon

When all of the items are compared, then you have to rely on what you feel. If you’re comfortable with what you’re experiencing when at the doctor’s practice, you’ve probably found the best doctor for your care. As simple as that sounds, IF everything else is equal, trust your gut!

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    Dr. Steve Byrd

    Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

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