Social media marketing coupled with paid advertising on these platforms continues to dominate the bleeding edge of dental marketing. While Instagram itself is not a new platform, it is still the most popular platform in the social media space after YouTube and Facebook. Instagram for business really only launched last Fall as the company, owned by Facebook, attempts to monetize the service. According to their website, there are 5 million businesses on Instagram and 1 million of those businesses are paying for advertising via Instagram for Business. Many dental practices, including several Pro Impressions Marketing Group member offices, are trying to incorporate Instagram as part of their marketing mix. The problem is that many dental offices are missing the mark in implementing some best practices for effective marketing on Instagram.

Why Bother With Instagram

There are plenty of reasons for Instagram to make sense for dental marketing. Some statistic sources say that almost 70% of Instagram users are females. 32% of Internet users are also Instagram users, as are 31% of American women. 26% of Instagram users make more than $75,000 per year. Those are the good statistics.

According to the same sources though, 79% of adult Internet users are Facebook users, so Instagram is a distant second. The vast majority of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29 with only 8% of users aged 65 and older. All told, 80% of Instagram users are outside of the U.S.. So, if our target demographic is older, affluent women in our office’s areas, the demographics show that they are there, but that there aren’t a ton there yet.

Even so, social media giant, Facebook, purchased Instagram in 2012. This puts a lot of momentum behind Instagram and their goal, despite having begun the monetization process in November, their focus is still to grow its user base and improve functionality.

Snapchat is up and coming in the social media world, but falls behind Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter with just 18% of the market , but that’s 18% that Facebook would like to see shift over to Instagram, which is what prompted them to add their Stories functionality to record shareable videos that can delete themselves after a limited time. So, if Facebook has their way, social media trends will continue to push Internet users their way for social media- be they Facebook users or Instagram users.

These users will continue to age and with 33% of internet users between the ages of 30 and 49 using Instagram today, it’s not going to take long before more of them become ideal candidates for restorative dentistry.

Why Instagram Can Be a Bother

You can think of Instagram users as the social media elite- or at least people who want to rub elbows with the elite. Top brands are investing money in trying to reach these users in attempt to either set trends themselves or to affect the choices of the trend setters in their favor. The trouble is, since Instagram is an image-based social media platform, being active on Instagram means generating image-based content.

Creating quality images is easy for high end brands like Michael Kors who have the time, money and product to have a weekly photo shoot. When you have a service business, you have to try to capture the essence of what you do while you’re doing it.

You might think, “Well, my ‘product’ is my dentistry! We can share photos of our patients and their appliances!” This is a great idea. We should absolutely do that, but there are some challenges to this approach:

  1. You have to take the photos. There is no way of getting around taking photos if you want to do Instagram marketing.
  2. You have to have permission to share patient photos on social media.
  3. Your photos have to be high quality images (good lighting and composition).
  4. Instagram users bore easily

The first item is the biggest issue. You have to generate original content if you want to grow a following on Instagram. That is the most important take-away on this article.

Instagram Do’s and Don’ts

When you post to any social media platform, you want to focus on these areas:

  • Who you are
  • Making patients feel special
  • Reminding patients why they chose you
  • Educating patients about dentistry- but from a patient’s point of view

These are ideas that were presented at the Digital Dental Marketing Conference this year (can’t remember the speaker’s name). One of the presenters at the conference, My Social Practice, is a fairly well-known company in the dental marketing world. They specialize in helping offices with their social media and offer a variety of packages and services. They advise promoting a patient of the day on Instagram.

The biggest problem is that all of their stuff ends up looking the same. Again, because Instagram users bore quickly, they will smell canned social media messaging a mile a way. If offices don’t judiciously intermingle posts that they create on their own with the canned content from social media marketing companies, their marketing will tend to be a turn-off in the long run.

Unlike Facebook, Instagram posts cannot contain links. So, trying to comment with links back to your website is futile and will look spammy. Instead, your office’s Instagram profile needs to link to your website and your best hope of converting users will be to attract followers using hashtags.

Hashtags have a reputation for being overused and misused but they can be done strategically. Don’t try to merge SEO tactics with hashtags by tagging images with #sandiegodentist etc. Instead, use hashtags that are likely to be used by users and brands that have the same values and interests as your ideal patient while still being relevant to the image. Some examples might be:

  • #lookingood
  • #thegoodlife
  • #onlythebest
  • #bestinsandiego

That last one is obviously borderline but you get the idea.

Getting Started with Instagram

Instagram has tutorials for this but the key that I will share is this: in their 3 step recommendations for creating content on Instagram, Step 1 is the only one devoted to signing up for an account as a business. Step 2 is Understand What Makes Good Creative Good and Step 3 is Create Quality Photos and Videos. So while it’s easy for us to tackle Step 1, your team needs to understand how to tackle Step 2 and 3.

My best recommendation would be for you and your team to focus on posting great content to Facebook and then we can select choice image-based content to share on Instagram. Not everything that makes for good Facebook fodder will help us win on Instagram.