Don't skip Instagram when you're thinking about your digital marketing strategy. The 1-billion strong social media network focuses on visuals, making it a potentially perfect fit for dental practices looking to engage their audience and increase their patient base.
Of course, nothing happens automatically. You might already have a presence on the platform but realized that when it comes to marketing, Instagram can be a pretty tough nut to crack. Too many organizations have tried and failed to attract and engage their audience make it automatic.
Fortunately, there is a success formula. You just have to find it. Or, better yet, follow these 8 steps. They'll give you the recipe you need to market your dental practice and grow your audience on Instagram.
1) Turn on Your Business Account
The first step is also the simplest. If you already have an Instagram account, make sure it's a business account. That allows you to add some basic information a standard account doesn't offer:
- The physical address of your practice
- Your front desk phone number
- Your business or walk-in hours
Once you've set it up, you can also see some analytics (more on that in step #9) and run ads, should you so choose.
The best part: it's free. Simply go to your profile, navigate to the Settings wheel icon on the right of the Edit Profile button, and find the "Switch to Business Profile" option. The following prompts will connect your Instagram account to your Facebook page and allow you to select a category. While dentist is not available, some potential categories to choose from include:
- Medical Center
2) Optimize Your Profile
Next, it's time for the background work on the profile itself. This is what your audience sees when they decide to learn more about you after seeing one of your posts, so you want to make sure to get it right.
Instagram profiles are deceptively simple, so it's easy to overlook a few of the key features. Each of the following will play a core role in helping you market your dental practice:
- The name. Make sure it's the name of your practice to be easily recognizable.
- The image. Depending on what your audience would recognize more easily, choose either your practice logo or the portrait of the dentist.
- The description. It's a snapshot of what your dental practice is about. Make sure to add relevant keywords, like your location or the type of dentistry you practice. Use it to highlight what makes you stand apart. Where relevant, use emojis to include some visual touches in the description.
- The website link. Make sure you link to the page on your website that would be most relevant to your audience.
- The action button. Not all of them are relevant for dentists, but a few (like 'reserve') can help you drive more visitors to your website and patients into your practice through a highly visible call to action.
3) Build Your Feed
Time to start looking outward. With your profile in place, build out your own feed to make sure you have plenty of good and relevant content to see, share, and interact with.
That might mean following some dentistry Instagram account that can serve as both content feeds and inspiration. This article of the best dental Instagram accounts to follow is a great start, with examples including:
- Dr. Amanda Seay, whose feed is full of case studies, dental-related travel, and personal touches.
- Dr. Scott McLean, who is a great follow for his insights into the latest advancements into dentistry.
- Top Dental Practices, an account dedicated to showing off the work spaces of dentists around the U.S.
- Dentinal Tube, where you can learn about new dental materials and trends.
- SpongeBob Dental Memes, if you need to lighten up your (or your followers') day.
- And many others.
Beyond following individual accounts, you can also follow hashtags related to the dental field and industry. That allows you to surface more relevant content in your news feed, helping you more easily find posts to interact with. Simply enter the hashtag and click the 'follow' button at the top.
4) Create a Content Strategy
While some of your content may include sharing others' posts (which can actually be a bit tricky; more on that here), most of it will need to be original and coming directly from you. Time for a content strategy.
To be successful on Instagram, you'll need a regular flow of content that averages out to about 1.5 images or videos per day. Your content strategy helps you make sure you fulfill that quota by building a healthy mix of a variety of post types:
- Educational posts about dentistry that show off your expertise in dental work.
- Personal posts that get your personality across alongside your expertise.
- Behind the scenes posts that introduce your office and staff to new and returning patients.
- Case study posts that (with the patient's permission) allow you to showcase the quality of your work.
Organize these posts into a content calendar that allow you to keep the right balance and cadence.
5) Find the Right Hashtags for Each Post
If you're familiar with Instagram, you know about the power (and plight) of hashtags. Perhaps more than on any other social network, they play a vital role in categorizing your content. But they can easily take over captions and comments.
Some research has found that about 11 hashtags seem to make sense per post, but we'd recommend starting a bit lower—about 3 to 10 per post to begin. All of them, of course, have to be relevant to both your dental practice and the content you're publishing.
Beyond obvious answers like #dentistry, it can be tough to figure out exactly which hashtags make sense for individual posts. Hashtagify is a great tool to help, allowing you to plug in a keyword you want to target and suggesting popular hashtags related to that keyword. You can then choose your hashtags based on both popularity and relevance.
6) Leverage Instagram Stories
Instagram is more than just posting individual pictures. In fact, its Stories feature might just be the most powerful tool at your disposal. You just have to know how to use it.
Put simply, Stories are 'in-the-moment' content that tend to be multiple images or vertical videos designed to take over the entire mobile screen. It's all about that authentic, unedited feel, and it gets about 500 million daily active users across the platform.
To start, simply click on your profile picture. Upload a picture of video, or take one in the moment. After you've selected one (or more, you can add music, text, or emojis. Hit publish, and the story will be live for 24 hours before disappearing. However, you can download it as a video file afterwards should you feel the need to.
One great feature within this tool: interactive stickers. They allow your audience to interact directly with you, using anything from a questions feature (which you can answer later) to a poll or location.
7) Generate Instagram Engagement
We've already hinted at it with the interactive stickers feature in Stories: Instagram success hinges in large part on how you can interact with your audience and vice versa. As with almost any other social network, posting content is only half the game. Engagement makes sure you get caught in the web of Instagram's algorithm, and your content surfaced to your followers feed.
Fortunately, you can build that engagement pretty easily:
- Respond to direct messages quickly, especially if they ask questions.
- When using interactive elements in your stories, become a part of that interaction.
- Respond to all comments on your Instagram feed. You might even want to consider commenting first on your own posts with some added context, which can also encourage others to do the same.
- Ask questions when you can. An obvious prompt for engagement tends to get your audience to comment, especially if it's about their experience or opinion.
- Occasionally, go for the 'cheap like'. A picture of a beautiful flower outside your practice or your new puppy can do wonders. Don't flood your feed with it, but use it occasionally to fill content gaps.
8) Measure, Evaluate, and Adjust
A business account allows you to view valuable analytics on how your posts and account as a whole are performing. To view it, navigate to your profile and tap the Insights button.
You'll have three tabs, which give you valuable information about your success on Instagram:
- Activity, in which you can track your weekly interactions, reach, and total impressions.
- Content, where you can see how your individual posts and stories are performing.
- Audience, where you can learn more about your followers, including their growth over time.
These insights are inherently actionable. Check them out regularly (they only go back a week), and look for the posts performing particularly well. Then, try to identify trends on why your audience tends to react more positively to one than another type of post or story.
Based on these insights (not to mention the information you get about your audience), you can strategically improve your Instagram dental marketing over time. That, in turn, results in a steady stream of new followers, more engagement, and ultimately better awareness among potential patients in need of dental services.
And that is the power of Instagram. While it can be counterintuitive for some, its beauty is actually in its simplicity.
Yes, success requires some experimentation and yes, you will need to spend quite some time on the network. But if you follow the above steps, you can reliably leverage the platform to market your dental practice and grow your audience and awareness.