Marketing expert Justin Knott explains how to grow your Instagram following as part of a successful digital practice marketing strategy.
Instagram has quickly become a titan in the world of social media marketing. This has been no truer a case than in the health and medical industry. People are taking their health into their own hands, and in doing so, are actively looking to connect with providers and practices that can aid them in their journey.
Practices have long since realized the benefits an active and engaged social community could have on their practice or hospital system. Yet, they often struggle to ever realize that value and achieve success. One of the most common questions I receive from clients and acquaintances in the healthcare world alike is: "how do I grow an active following on Instagram?"
It can seem like a real head scratcher: Do people care about what we are doing in our medical practice? I understand them liking, following and engaging with a clothing or product company, but us?
Well, fear no more. I am going to walk you through 8 different proven tactics that we use week-in and week-out to grow medical Instagram accounts.
Don't just take my word for it, you can see lots of practices and providers killing it on Instagram using these same tactics.
Here we go…
Step 1. Create Your Perfect Patient Avatar
Before you start any marketing or advertising initiative, much less in social media, you need to define who your ideal target patient is and create that patient profile, or avatar. Just like you would target a specific audience to whom to sell a product, every practice or specialty has a specific type that tends to walk through the doors. Some practices may have a broader patient scope than others. For instance, if you are a dermatologist, you may have two avatars or patient profiles: one for dermatologic procedures and one for cosmetic/aesthetic procedures.
Thus, to find where your patients are on social media, you need to understand them:
Answering these questions will allow you to know where to go on Instagram to leverage profiles that have these types of followers.
Step 2. Follow & Engage – Get Social!
Now that you have developed those patient profiles, it's time to start creating a list of hashtags and handles that closely align with the lifestyles of the people in your target demographic.
Instagram is about being proactive, not passive. You need to be on the platform daily following, liking, commenting and engaging in your community. The more you do this, the faster your account will grow. For instance, if you are trying to grow your patient base of post-college graduate women, checking out who your local barre or cycling studio is following and who is following them is a great place to look.
Step 3. Leverage Instagram Stories
Instagram stories are all the rage. Practices have been late to jump into the game of leveraging them.
Generally, any new tool or product releases that major social media platforms come out with can be to your advantage and it’s worth figuring out a way to leverage them. The reason? The platforms want to push adoption so they will usually give preferential treatment to those tools in terms of feed placement, increased organic reach and engagement.
The same holds true for Instagram Stories. Instagram wants a continuous stream of new and live content and the best way to do so is with Stories. Therefore, if you really want to explode your organic reach you need to extend beyond just posting on your wall and start adding content regularly to Instagram Stories.
Step 4. Get Your Providers Involved
Long-term social media success ultimately takes buy-in by all the providers in your office. You will struggle to gain traction over time if you don't succeed in getting everyone involved.
Take a look around Instagram at the medical practices having significant success. The providers tend to play a critical role in the content that is being produced.
Getting your providers involved with has a two-fold effect:
Step 5. Bring Patients into the Office & Operating Room
People love seeing authenticity on social media. By inviting them into your office and showcasing what you do, whether it is in the clinic or the operating room is big.
Take a look at what Sandra Lee M.D., a.k.a. Dr. Pimple Popper, has been able to accomplish with a camera and some dermatologic tools. She has amassed millions of YouTube, and Instagram followers, her own television show and quickly become one of the most sought-after dermatologists in the country, simply by letting people into her office to see her in action. Come to find out, people really, really like to watch gross pimples being popped.
If the idea of shooting video is overwhelming, consider this:
Jump on Amazon and purchase a ring light and lapel mic to ensure the lighting and sound quality are good and then point and shoot with your phone. Then hire an agency to create some professional video animation templates that include an intro, lower-third overlay and outro with a clear call to action.
High-end templates will add a level of professionalism to your videos and ensure brand consistency.
Step 6. Get on the Influencer Marketing Train
Why battle uphill trying to grow your account when you can leverage people that are already there and serving your target audience? That is where influencer marketing comes in. Influencer marketing is essential leveraging someone else's already established audience to get your brand message in front of their followers. It works so well because they have already established trust with their audience. Pick the right people, and it will do wonders to drive new brand awareness and patient growth.
There are a few keys to consider when leveraging influencer marketing:
Influencer marketing can be utilized in many different ways for the benefit of the practice. Including: promoting a product or service, showing a demo, sharing a REAL patient success story your audience can connect with and much more.
Step 7. Use the Right Hashtags
Hashtags are a core component of how Instagram information is disseminated, found, and consumed. All too often, however, practices are using the wrong hashtags or not using them at all, and it is killing their reach.
When searching for the right hashtags, it is beneficial to leverage a free tool. There are several that are out there that can help you see what hashtags are trending and being used for particular topics.
My general rule of thumb when it comes to the right mix of hashtags is this:
Let’s say you’re a dermatology practice located in Atlanta and posting a video demonstration of a new laser skin resurfacing procedure. You could incorporate a blend of these types of hashtags:
#laserskincare #laserskinresurfacing #laserskinrejuvenation #atl #atlanta #atlantamoms #atlantafitness #momsquad #mommymakeover #buckheadatl #aesthetics
There are not 30 here, but you get the general idea of the ideal blend that should be used.
Step 8. Encourage Employee Involvement
Last, but certainly not least, is get your employees involved and excited about the success of the Instagram program.
You would be hard-pressed not to be able to find several of your employees that are very active on their social media in their personal life. Put a program in place that not only encourages but rewards your employees for getting onboard with helping promote the practice to their sphere of influence. You could even try a monthly employee takeover day where they handle content creation for the day on the account.
Make sure you set guidelines and parameters, but this can be a great way to gain access to new audiences in the local community. Consider having signs or posters created that the employees can use to have fun with patients and to create more visual content.
Instagram marketing for medical practices is one of the most effective ways to reach new patients and broadcast your content. Be patient but proactive with the growth and don’t be afraid to try new things. But, most importantly, be engaged, be consistent and create a structure for provider involvement.
Follow these tips, and your practice will be well on its way to cultivating an active community of loyal patients.
If you are looking for more tips to grow your Instagram following make sure to check out this 13 Instagram Marketing Tools Every Practice Needs ASAP eBook.
Justin Knott is the President of an award-winning healthcare marketing agency, Intrepy Healthcare Marketing. He founded his agency in 2014 to bring a specialized approach to marketing for medical and dental practices. His primary focuses lie in digital marketing, social media marketing, medical SEO strategy, and advertising to help practices generate new, targeted patients. Justin has been published as an SEO and marketing thought leader in dozens of online publications.