February 2012

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp

 

Using the Internet to Educate, Schedule, Connect and More

As a teacher, writer and practitioner it gets pretty crazy sometimes trying to stay ahead, or at least keep up with the technology of our students, clients and readers.

As with any other type of research you have to know the lingo. All internet sites are a name followed by a period and then a directory type name. This might be .com, .net, .edu, .org, gov, or many others. If you know what these terms mean, it can give you giant clues as to what to expect when you get to that website.

Categories:

.com — a commercial website geared to selling something whether it be products or services

.net — a generic top level term that gets its name from network which indicates its affiliation with some television network

.edu — an educational site generally associated with an institution of higher education or other school organization.

.org — a website tied into an organization – generally less commercial in nature

.gov — a website affiliated with a government

These are some of the most common website categories and can help you find the type of site you are looking for. If you are trying to do research, go to Google Scholar. All of the .com websites will have a slant because they are geared to selling products or services. Google scholar is geared to scholarly research information so will give you information with less bias which is what we need when we are learning.

If you are trying to learn the facts about something the first thing to avoid are .com websites. Also avoid Wikipedia. While we all use Wikipedia for quick answers, it is banned from most schools as a reference tool because anyone can post anything on it.

Other great esthetic educational sites are those that focus on education like Allured Publishing and Milady Publishing. Both sell books, videos and other educational materials including webinars. www.ncea.tv has advanced education links designed to assist estheticians who want to become better at their game and nationally certified.

There are many links and references available here. Keep in mind that none of these sites have reviews like we often find on commercial sites like Amazon. Check with fellow colleagues to get their input regarding the quality of the offering. Many of them are superb but there are those floating around out there who have weaknesses such as poor infection control practices.

We also use YouTube as an educational resource. There are a lot of manufacturers that post video clips to demonstrate equipment. If you are trying to expand your education into the medical arena, you can find YouTube segments that will demonstrate medical procedures such as a rhinoplasty. The only caveat is remembering that many of these posts are sales tools so their information may be slanted or incomplete.

Webinars are another form of education or selling. Many of us get notices nearly daily regarding webinars. They are the educational tool of the next era but they are not without issues. I have set up to view webinars and waited for over a half hour only to be told it had to be cancelled due to technical difficulties.

Much of the time they are PowerPoint presentations with voice over. Sometimes they have video clips to demonstrate technique. Some of these clips are great, others are of poor quality. Poor video, poor audio and poor interaction still seem to plague us.

It is new technology and not all of the issues have been resolved. While they are mostly free and certainly easy, know that your educational experience may vary greatly from session to session. Hands-on techniques still benefit from hands-on assistance and while webinars may be a financially sound method for the manufacturer to showcase products or equipment the learning curve may be prolonged and less effective for the learner.

Google is my personal favorite as an informational search guide. If I am trying to find something this is my go-to engine and I get most frustrated with sneaky downloads that usurp it with other less effective tools. Try Google for general searches and Google Scholar for educational/research information.

Some manufacturers are trying to become more information resources as well as offering blogs and chats either on their website, via Facebook or via LinkedIn. Depending on your favorite mode of connection check these out to see what fits you and your research style the best.

Scheduling is a favorite topic of mine. There are many programs that can assist a salon or clinic with scheduling appointments, allowing clients to schedule on-line, selling gift certificates and tracking sales and purchasing patterns. Some of these have many abilities, some link with accounting programs like Quick Books, others are all-in-one self contained.

Generally, but not always, the less expensive the program, the more limited its abilities. Some of these programs that are salon specific will cost $5000 up front plus ongoing monthly premiums. However, there are other programs that require a bit of customizing but have flexibility to suit anyone from a government agency to a large commercial facility. Because of their client bases they are far less expensive than the industry specific programs with start-up costs of less than $200 and then monthly premiums based on the services you want to include.

It is important to do your research before you buy. Anything that is sold as industry specific will probably cost more because most customizing has been pre-done. If you are a member of ISPA they have numerous members that offer this type of program.

Client connections is another important internet consideration. This may include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn as well as sites like Constant Contact which specifically allow you to stay in contact with your clients. Keep in mind some of the larger applications like newsletters may jam up client's mobile phone applications so that they will "unsubscribe." This is all about learning how to use the tool.

Advertising / marketing is something any of us can employ for our personal businesses. There are new options every day. The key to internet marketing is to thoroughly research all of the hidden costs to determine if it will actually increase your bottom line, or if you are just paying to have the opportunity to reach people and then to market anyone that comes into your clinic as a result of this marketing.

Judith Culp, has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. She is the owner of NW Institute of Esthetics, Inc. and contributing editor for Miladys Standard Esthetics: Advanced and lead author of Esthetician's Guide to Client Safety & Wellness. For more information visit www.estheticsnw.com.