Many consumers are surprised to learn that the heaviest users of Facebook are not Millennials but Baby Boomers and Seniors. Younger generations are increasingly turning to image or video-based social networks that are mobile-centric such as Instagram (purchased by Facebook in April of 2012) or SnapChat. In fact, Instagram now boasts over 300 million monthly users - more than Twitter!
While not appropriate for all types of medical practices, those specialties that offer aesthetic procedures can benefit from participating on Instagram by showcasing post-procedure images of their patients.
A 2015 study found that an astounding 70% of Instagram users have looked up a business on Instagram, making the image-based social network a powerful sales and marketing platform for businesses. Also consider that a 2014 conducted by the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery found that the rise of “selfies” on social media platforms like Instagram accounted for a significant rise in aesthetic procedures in women under the age of 30 for 39% of its member doctors.
As the second largest social network after Facebook, Instagram users share images with each other and their followers through their smartphones. Users can take a picture, apply a filter to give the image a certain look (black & white, vintage Polaroid, etc.) and then send it to their network of friends and family members who follow them, labeling the photos for future searches with a keyword called a “hashtag.”
Facebook does make it easy to sign up for Instagram and add your existing friends and family to your Instagram network, but there is a physicality challenge of having to take a picture of the patient on the spot (Instagram makes it difficult to post anything but recent pictures from your smartphone) and there is the need to blur out identifying patient features such as eyes and birthmarks before posting. And of course, we need patient permission to post even anonymous photos.
The most clever and effective steps we have seen independent practices that offer aesthetic treatments take to attract new patients through Instagram (without paying Facebook for ads) is as follows -
- Create an Instagram account by downloading the app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store on your smartphone. While Instagram was initially for individuals, brands such as Levis are now active on Instagram to promote their brand as well as new products they’re offering. You can use either the name of your practice or your own name, but be sure to include “Dr.” or your degree specification such as “M.D.” or “D.D.S.” if you do so that users know that you are posting from a professional setting. Never include personal pictures in your professional Instagram account!
- Create a monthly contest or giveaway (whether it be through free treatments or gift certificates) for patients who are willing to take pictures of their new “After” photos with a hashtag of the name of your Instagram account, e.g. “#DrJamesSmith” or by the name of the procedure they just had, such as “#mommymakeover” - preferably both! This will attribute the image to your practice and allow your patient’s friends to track the image back to your practice’s Instagram page, as well as create brand ambassadors that increase the reach of your images.
- Let your patients know about your Instagram contest by placing a message on your website or in your patient newsletters. Many doctors are surprised to find that there are many patients who are willing to share their aesthetic procedure experiences on Instagram for a chance to win a free spa package, free laser treatment sessions, etc. Be sure to have the main call to action be to follow your Instagram and to post a photo with your practice’s hashtags - this is very important.
- Make the rules clear and regularly announce the winners. If the contest if a $10 Amazon Gift certificate for every patient that posts on Instagram, be clear about that. But if this presents a logistical problem for your Office Manager of Marketing Manager, they can simply choose a winner who they feel has the best uploaded picture, or choose the winner based on the number of Likes that image has received. In doing so, it’s also important that while you announce the Instagram contest, that the past month or season’s winner is also announced so that it impresses upon your audience of patients that this contest is not only popular and active, but worth participating in. And be sure to share your follower’s tagged photos on your own Instagram account.
- Finally, you should check your state’s laws about contests and prize giveaways as each state has differing rules. You can find a resource for contest rules and regulations for running social media contests here.
While Instagram is relatively new for independent practices as a marketing channel, as with any emerging platform, the early adopters will have an advantage over the laggards as patients increasingly turn to image-based social networks to research aesthetic procedures.
Finally, Facebook now allows businesses to advertise on Instagram using the Facebook Ad Manager (“Facebook for Business”) and even allows you to use your practice’s Facebook page to lead your ads to. For aesthetic practices, the “carousel” ad display format - where multiple pictures in horizontal succession can be swiped left by potential patients - is a compelling structure for displaying multiple images of the same procedure. However, this has both inherent costs and complexities for many independent practices and may be better suited for an outsourced marketing agency to handle on your practice’s behalf. For those healthcare providers that want to manage Facebook’s Instagram ads themselves, we will cover those best practices in a future article. Stay tuned!