Starting a Revolution: Sheila Nazarian, MD, MMM

Posted By Mike Meyer, Monday, March 9, 2020

dr sheila nazarian

By Michael Meyer, Content Writer/Editor, American Med Spa Association

Today, it seems that practically everyone is determined to use social media to help make themselves stars. But it wasn't that long ago that the list of people who became celebrities on social media was relatively short. Back then, those who managed to make names for themselves in this way did so primarily by presenting something that nobody else could offer. In the case of Sheila Nazarian, MD, MMM, straightforward and engaging looks at plastic surgery led her to become a social media sensation with more than 238,000 followers on Instagram (@drsheilanazarian). Today, she's paying it forward by helping other medical aesthetic professionals find their paths to success.

Opening the Door

Dr. Nazarian has overcome challenges her entire life. She was born in New York to a Jewish family from Iran that wanted to obtain birthright citizenship for her in the U.S. due to Iran becoming an Islamic republic as a result of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. When they returned to Iran, however, the family was not permitted to leave. When Nazarian was six, she and her family were smuggled out of Iran into Pakistan in a truck filled with corn, and, shortly thereafter, emigrated to the U.S.

In college, she studied orthopedic surgery, but found that it did not offer her much of a chance to be creative, so she began to study plastic surgery, which she found to be "the perfect combination of science and art." During this time, she began using Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, and, before long, she began to see the benefits of using social media to do even more.

"People were kind of following my career, because there aren't that many surgeons that are female in my community," Nazarian says. "And then I started talking about aesthetic things and growing Facebook."

After finishing her plastic surgery residency at the University of Southern California, Nazarian found herself with the time to take her social media engagement to another level. "I'd just graduated and I wasn't so busy, so I started making tons of videos because I thought people would rather watch a video than read on my website," Nazarian explains. "Little did I know that was going to help me grow very quickly in SEO [search engine optimization] organically. I was at a conference for residents—I was one of the faculty members—and somebody was talking about SEO on stage, and I said, "Let me search 'Beverly Hills plastic surgeon' and see where I rank.' And I was on the first page, two years out of residency, because of the videos and social media." Nazarian credits this success to her engaging content.

"When Google looks at your website and sees how relevant it is, they look at how long people stay on your website and, when you have videos, people stay on for a long time to watch the videos," she says. "Since I was the only one who really had videos at that time, I grew in the ranking so quickly, without investing any money in Google AdWords or anything like that."

Ready for Her Closeup

Because her content was so popular, and because she was creating videos rather than simply blog posts, for example, Nazarian soon became a go-to plastic surgery expert for all sort of content creators.

"When the journalists were looking for an expert, I showed up number one and, because I am on camera, it was kind of like a video résumé," Nazarian explains. "When they saw I can speak in layman›s terms, really communicate procedures easily for people to understand and I'm not afraid of the camera, they chose me."

Nazarian has appeared on programs such as The Doctors, The Real, Revenge Body With Khloé Kardashian, Inside Edition, The Insiders, among many others, as well as numerous local talk shows.

Meanwhile, Nazarian founded her private practice, Nazarian Plastic Surgery, in 2013 and, since then, it has become a fixture in the crowded aesthetics scene in Beverly Hills. She estimates that she spends half of her time performing surgical procedures and half of her time performing medical aesthetic procedures, and she feels that the things about her that are somewhat unusual in the field help set her apart as a practitioner.

"I'm female, so a lot of women feel more comfortable, especially when it comes to breast augmentation or labiaplasties, being with a woman instead of a male," Nazarian says. "Also, I'm dark skinned, so I did get a lot of dark-skinned individuals coming in initially for issues with their skin because I focus on lasers and spa equipment that are safe for all skin types instead of just having one thing that is supposedly good for everybody. Also, being on TV a lot and doing speaking gigs and things like that where we focus on empowerment rather than telling people what they should look like—I think that's a huge differentiator, as well."

In addition to her work in aesthetics, Nazarian operates a nonprofit, the Nazarian Institute (@nazarianinstitute), that presents events that are designed to help medical aesthetic professionals build and grow their brands. Whether she's acting as a physician or a teacher, she makes sure to take the time to make connections with the people with whom she works.

"I'm inspired by helping people and hearing other people's stories," Nazarian says. "I think we, as physicians, a lot of times, don't take time to really accept a thank you—I think it's just what we expect of ourselves, to give good results. And when people say, 'Thank you,' we're like, 'Oh great! So glad you're happy!' And we move on to the next patient. I'm inspired by changing people's lives, and when they say, 'Thank you,' I really want to internalize that and take it in so that I don't burn out."

Welcome to the Party

Understanding the value of making positive connections is a key to the success of Nazarian's social media, and she advises other medical aesthetic professionals to maintain their online presence in a similar way.

"Treat your social media like a cocktail party," Nazarian says. "If you walked into a cocktail party and showed your before-and-afters to people, you probably wouldn't make many friends. But if you walked in and you were wearing a cute outfit or talked about your kids or talked about the place you went on vacation, it's probably a lot more interesting to people. I think the trap a lot of people fall into is just posting pictures of their practice, pictures of their patients and testimonials. I think it becomes really inauthentic and sales-oriented. I think the more you can let people into your life and inspire people, the more successful you're going to be on social media."

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