Dr. Pimple Popper: Skincare’s Gross Social Media Superstar

Is there any topic more boring and unlikely to draw an audience than dermatology? If I wanted to make something sound uninteresting, I’d say it was about “pimple popping.” How can you market that? Ask Dr. Pimple Popper, AKA Dr. Sandra Lee, the doctor with 2.5 million YouTube followers, 2.4 million Instagram followers, and a social media empire that’s about to make a big pop.

If healthcare marketing tips and ideas like Dr. Pimple Popper are what you want, don’t miss Target Marketing’s first ever Healthcare Marketing Roundtable on June 15 in Philadelphia! Click here for the details. 

Is there any topic more boring and unlikely to draw an audience than dermatology? If I wanted to make something sound uninteresting, I’d say it was about “pimple popping.” How can you market that? Ask Dr. Pimple Popper,  AKA Dr. Sandra Lee, the doctor with 2.5 million YouTube followers, 2.4 million Instagram followers, and a social media empire that’s about to make a big pop.

Be Outrageously You

A few weeks ago, I wrote about talking to Scott Dikkers, founding editor of The Onion, at MarketingSherpa Summit. One of the things he said was that the best way to get attention and coverage isn’t to send out a press release, it’s to do things people wan to talk about. That meant being outrageous — as outrageous as you could while still being true to yourself.

But being outrageous was easy for The Onion. It’s a spoof news site, outrageous was just a good day at he office. How can a boring doctor be outrageously herself?

Dr. Pimple Popper found a way! (Fair warning: I would not click this if I were you.)

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRJU1Lrjh-H/

I’m really sorry about that. I can’t even watch these. My wife has watched them for a while, and I had to ask her to use headphones so I wouldn’t even hear them.

But Dr. Pimple Popper’s videos are, without a doubt, outrageous.

And they’ve paid off for her. Not only is this all fantastic marketing for her practice, Dr. Lee recently launched a new line of skincare products.

The Power of Radical Transparency

Beyond being outrageous, Dr. Pimple Poppers’s social media success is a testament to the power of transparency. All of her videos are the kind of thing that you would never expect to see, probably not even as a patient. But there was interest.

From a recent Fast Company article:

“I really saw that people became popular [on Instagram] when they had something that was different or unique about them,” says Lee, noting experimental hair colorists or adventurous travelers who excel in visuals. She thought: Why can’t dermatology be just as exciting?

Lee posted a few skin care videos and pictures, but nothing really landed. That is, until she posted a blackhead extraction video in late 2014 and the numbers jumped. She posted another, and they doubled. She knew she was onto something. After a bit of digging, she discovered a Reddit group devoted to “popping.” They called themselves “popaholics.”

“I was floored to see 60,000 people sharing popping videos they found on the internet,” she says. Most of them were amateurs: People in their garage with beer cans strewn on the floor and dogs barking in the background. Definitely no gloves.

There was a devoted subculture, and she was more than qualified to cater to it. So she dubbed herself Dr. Pimple Popper, posted videos of some stomach-churning extractions, and it “took off from there,” she says. Quickly, pimple-popping fans appeared from all over the place to peep at her practice.

What is it that makes these work? She’s actually following a lot of best-practices for content marketing:

  1. The content is unique: She’s revealing a behind-the-scenes POV that even her patients probably don’t get to see.
  2. The content speaks to a specific audience: “Popaholics” were basically waiting for someone to make this kind of content.
  3. The content is very visual: This is important, you need to find something you can show, not just discuss.
  4. The content provides value: For the most part, Dr. Pimple Popper’s audience is driven by curiosity about these epidermal maladies. They may even have some. Her monologue during the procedures imparts a lot of knowledge to viewers.
  5. The content is prolific: Dr. Lee has created hundreds of these videos, enough for even the most hard-core fan to disappear down a long rabbit hole and establish a strong connection with her brand.Her YouTube channel has something like a billion views.
  6. The content has personality: Dr. Lee is charismatic, and her gentle candor really resonates through.
  7. The content is unforgettable: Perhaps regrettably so — good luck forgetting that you saw any of these videos.

Those are principals that any marketer can work with to establish an effective, content-driven social media marketing presence.

Find Your Own Weird

Figure out the weird, interesting aspects that go into creating your product or delivering your service that a strong segment of people are interested in. Poke around the Internet and see what kinds of things from your production process people are already watching.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTLOiSSD80d/

As Dr. Pimple Popper proves, it doesn’t have to be dinner party small talk that appeals to everyone. In fact, you might be better off building on a small, devoted base (like the popaholics Reddit group she found) around something not everyone wants to see than trying to sanitize it to appeal to everyone.

Interesting is a lot more important than palatable.

There’s more opportunity for this kind of social marketing in the healthcare world. There are undoubtedly other areas of medicine that people are just waiting to see more. You may already be filming procedures that people are dying to see. You just have to find that thing.

If you can find that thing, you might have yourself a social media empire waiting to happen.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

3 thoughts on “Dr. Pimple Popper: Skincare’s Gross Social Media Superstar”

  1. Alas Thorin, you missed another pimple-popping doctor, now retired with the, umm, eponymous-sounding name, “Dr. Zizmor.” (You can’t make this stuff up.) For roughly thirty years, New York’s subway cars exposed us to his ads, with razzle-dazzle layouts, starbursts, subheads like “Tired of that tattoo?” and the reassurance “Every case seen by Doctor Z,” plus before-and-after pictures of zit-speckled faces and even, incongruously, pictures of his wife in a big floppy hat captioned, “Mrs. Z.” Now that his office and his ads are gone, a ride on the 6 Train just isn’t the the same.

      1. He’d have no choice but online video. These days, everybody on the New York subways is staring into a cell phone.

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