In 2010 a new social media platform came onto the scene. Fast forward eight years and Instagram has become one of the most popular social media sites. With 800+ million active monthly users, 500+ million of those being daily active users (according to Instagram stats), this platform has the capacity to be a powerful tool for businesses to meaningfully engage with and reach new and existing customers.
To understand why Instagram has become so popular, and why dentists should be on Instagram, we need to first look at how this social media platform grew from humble beginnings to the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
Instagram was launched in October 2010, where it was an instant hit. Unlike other social media platforms, Instagram focussed on users sharing photos with limited text content. Instagram also benefited from the rise of the ‘selfie’, with the launch of the IPhone 4 front-facing camera in the same year. Instagram was acquired by Facebook (an equally useful tool for dentists) in April 2012, a move which secured this photo-focussed platform’s success. The interaction between the two platforms continues to ensure engagement and increased users. Instagram has continued to advance, with the launch of video content in 2013, Instagram Stories in 2016, the ability to ‘go live’ in 2017 and multiple photo posts also in 2017. This constant stream of improvements and new ways to use the site has continued to secure engagement, with 35% of users checking more than once a day, according to data from Hubspot.
As far as businesses are concerned, Instagram has 25 million business profiles worldwide, with over 80% of users following at least one business account, and over 200 million Instagram interactions with businesses every day.
So, what makes Instagram so popular with its users? It’s important we understand this so we can, as businesses, interact with potential customers providing content they want to see. A large part of the attraction of Instagram is its mobile functionality. A lot of us access social media on smartphones. Instagram is built for mobile functionality, and the simple scrolling function makes it easy for users to engage with a wide variety of content. The visual nature of this content is also a part of appeal for users. Unlike other social media sites, Instagram remains a visual medium. Although you can write captions on posts, most people engage with your visuals rather than the text. The novelty factor of Instagram was a part of its initial appeal – giving people specific parameters of engagement, via a photo or image, was a novelty for users. Instagram is a popular choice for people to share photos about their day, follow celebrities and interests and also engage with businesses. The rise of ‘brand influencers’ who share content about new products they have used demonstrates how people are searching for content about products on Instagram.
Why Does Social Media Have A Place In Dentistry?
You may be wondering whether social media has a place in dentistry at all. Unfortunately, a company website alone is no longer enough to give you a strong online presence. It may feel like an alien idea to you to advertise your dental practice on social media and to even engage with potential customers in this way. However, with 500+million daily active users across the world on Instagram, it makes sense to consider whether your dental practice could be reaching a wider audience by engaging with social media platforms. Simply put, you’ve got to ‘fish where the fish are’.
Here are five reasons why social media has a place in dentistry:
- It is a great way to target a local customer base who may never have visited your dental practice
- It gives your patients the opportunity to share your practice on social media to recommend to friends and family
- You can use social media to share educational content – it is not just a form of advertising
- It’s a way for your patients to get to know you as a practice, beyond their treatment time, which will build trust
- Your competitors are likely using social media, if you want to be the name on people’s minds for dentistry, you should be too!
Why Would The UK Public Be Interested In Dentistry on Instagram?
Far from just being a novelty, social media is fast becoming a source of research for the general public in the UK. In fact, so much so, that in the last year a number of outlets, such as FullFact, have emerged to challenge ‘fake news’ or unreliable content shared on social media, as so much trust is placed on the reliability of content shared on social media.
It makes sense then that dentists should be a part of this information sharing. Instagram is still primarily a visual medium, which makes it ideal for dentists to utilise. Sharing images of completed treatments, with before and after pictures, is a great way to engage with this audience. People search Instagram looking for inspiration to solve their dental issues. Dentists should be the ones providing that reliable content and offering solutions for potential patients.
Nothing But The Facts About Dental Health
Instagram is a great way to promote oral health and share good practice when it comes to caring for teeth. Using simple images and videos to start a conversation about dental health is a great use of Instagram. With a proliferation of blogs and articles on every topic you can think of, including dental health, dentists need to provide the facts about dental health and engage with prospective patients around possible treatment options.
What Does a Successful Dentist’s Instagram Look Like?
There are some dental practices and individual dentists using Instagram in a successful way already. Looking at five successful dentist Instagram accounts, we can start to see what a successful dentist instagram account might look like (and how much that varies!)
- @drsamsaleh has 228k followers and is an international cosmetic dentist based in Beverly Hills, USA and London, UK. Dr Saleh combines before and after smile photos, with very brief explanations of treatments, with more personal photos of his family and life outside the practice. This gives followers the opportunity to engage both with his work and also him as a person, which is important for gaining trust. https://www.instagram.com/drsamsaleh/?hl=en
- @thedentalpage has 218k followers and mainly posts video content of treatments. This page is slightly different to the last as a lot of the content are reposts, credited to the original poster, but also is a personal dental blog of Dr Mackie. https://www.instagram.com/thedentalpage/
- @drmohammednaji is a Dubai-based dentist, with 113k followers. Dr Naji posts a combination of videos and photos of successful treatments, and also personal content, to engage with his target audience. Interestingly, as Dr Naji is based in Dubai, the posts are bilingual, in English and Arabic, ensuring he is reaching out to his local audience.
- @dr_miguel_ortiz has127k followers and specialises in dental photography, sharing a unique insight with extreme close-ups of teeth and treatments. Dr Ortiz uses his unique position to be able to share a different side of dentistry and has built up a following from these posts. https://www.instagram.com/dr_miguel_ortiz/
- @dentistsinging has 138k followers and is what he says – the singing dentist! This funny, charming and unique account is a professional dentist who records parody songs about oral health. With 2.6 million views on his parody, Save Your Teeth, although this may sound funny, it is also doing an amazing job of educating people about dental and oral health.
Where Do I Get Started?
Now we aren’t suggesting everyone becomes like the singing dentist and starts recording parody songs! The pitch of your voice is not one of the most common dental marketing problems. However, what each of these accounts we have chosen show, is that successful dentist Instagram accounts seem to do a number of things, each in their own way.
- Share Successful Treatments – whether you share photographs of your own before and after treatments or repost content from other users of treatments you can perform, the important thing is to show your followers what they can expect from your dental practice and how they can find answers to their dental issues from you.
- Reach Out To Your Local Audience – tag your Instagram stories with your city tag to reach local followers. There are plenty of successful dentist accounts on Instagram that don’t have thousands of followers but do have a core local following, which leads to new patients.
- Use Your Unique Personality – your followers will be interested in you as a practice or a dentist. What do you do when you aren’t providing treatments? Maybe you are training for a marathon, maybe you have an allotment or a collection of unusual objects. Sharing a personal post every now and then can help your patients to build trust and a relationship with staff at the practice.
How To Post Case Photos In The Correct Way
When it comes to sharing case photos, even if it is just close-ups of a patient’s teeth, you will need to have obtained the correct consents from your patient. Just as you need to be up to date with data protection, it’s important that you comply with patients’ wishes when it comes to imagery. It may be that you decide to have a single consent form at registration, or that you gain consent each time a photo is taken. Whichever option you choose, make sure you:
- Make it clear to the patient if you intend to use the images for social media or marketing purposes
- Keep copies of any consent given, for future reference.
How To Stay Professional On Instagram
That might sound like a strange point, given that we have already looked at dentists who post photos of their life outside the practice. However, it is important, even when doing this, to remain professional at all times. Whether you choose to post as an individual dentist or as a practice, everything you post will reflect on your business.
Things to consider to stay professional on Instagram:
- Posting personal photos often works well, but be mindful of the kinds of photos you are posting and the narrative they give to your followers. It goes without saying that personal posts can build trust but can also easily erode it, if you are seen in an inappropriate situation.
- The language you use will reflect your business, make sure you remain professional and respectful in your language.
- The people you follow – everyone who follows you can easily see the accounts you follow too, so be mindful of this when choosing who to follow!
Content That Will Work For You
When it comes to starting to engage and interact with your followers, where do you begin with posting content? Do you stick to photos, add videos or go live? How often should you post?
Here’s our top tips for getting started:
Choose an Instagram Filter/Style/Watermark for Treatment Posts – if you are posting before and after treatment photos, choose a format that will be recognisable for your followers. Most big businesses always use the same filter, as they know when people are scrolling through their feed, familiarity stands out. It’s also worth considering adding a watermark or practice logo to these photos, so if accounts repost them, you are automatically credited.
Use Hashtags – this has always been a key way to engage with new followers, but now that Instagram has added a ‘follow hashtags’ option, it is even more important you choose the right hashtags. We suggest between one and five key hashtags for your post, including at least one that gives your location. Think about the post you are creating and what people might search to find it – there are your hashtags!
Make Use Of The Link in Your Bio – unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram doesn’t allow links in the caption or comments. You can post them but they aren’t hyperlinked or copyable. That’s why you might see “link in bio” a lot on Instagram. You can post the link of your practice or blog post in your bio and direct followers there to find out more. This is always more effective than a super long caption.
Vary Your Content – use photos, videos and maybe even quotes and funny content to mix up things with your followers. Keep it relevant and professional but also engaging.
Use Instagram Stories – part of the appeal of Instagram is getting to know your dental practice. So use Instagram stories, for photos or short clips of life inside the practice. Who can your patients expect to meet first? Try and keep this content light and non-threatening for nervous patients, and also keep in mind any confidentiality issues of filming in the waiting area.
Make Your Account a Business Account – if you are a dental practice with a Facebook page you can make your instagram a business account, which opens up for greater insights into who is and isn’t engaging with your posts, and gives options for paid advertising on Instagram.
Engage with SImilar Accounts – apart from anything else, this can be a great way to see what similar practices are up to and how treatment is progressing. There is also another benefit – the more you engage with other users, the more your content will be prioritised by Instagram. This is also true of replying to comments on your posts, which is good practice anyway as they may be from potential or existing patients.
Keep An Eye On The Time
Instagram is an amazing tool for dentists and dental practices to both engage with existing patients and also to reach a whole new group of potential patients. When it comes to social media, it is important to think about how you target your audience . Like everything, Instagram takes time to post and update, to reply to comments and to engage with others’ content.
It’s important that, like any advertising tool, you find ways to track time spent and results of your Instagram engagement. Try adding a box on new patient registration that asks where patients heard about the practice and tracking results. Remember, however, that social media is often just one of a number of stages for patients in discovering your practice, and may be the way they decide if you are trustworthy after a recommendation.
Instagram is a great way to engage with a wider audience and should be used by dentists and practices, but with a consideration of the time taken on social media versus the rewards.
Brendon MacDonald – Founder and CEO of Yello Veedub