5 Healthy Instagram Practices for Your Medical Practice [A Guide]
Maybe it’s things like food porn, wide-eyed pets and outfits of the day that make doctors and medical practice managers think twice about being on Instagram—professionally, that is.
Yet doctors, clinics and even hospitals in Singapore and the rest of the world maintain Instagram accounts that help their practices flourish. And that means that your competitors, or other medical practices offering the same treatments and services you do, are also on Instagram, and are probably doing really well at it, too.
Why is this so, and how do they do it? It’s true, it hasn’t hurt doctors with chiseled abs or flawless skin to get ahead on The Gram. But even if you don’t have a Greek god bod or a NoFilter face, the PHMC in Singapore, AHPRA in Australia, HIPAA in the US, and other government health agencies worldwide have rules in place that level the playing field.
As we take a 360° view of using Instagram for your medical practice, we’ll be sharing 5 healthy Instagram practices for doctors, dentists, clinics and medical practices in general, and going into each in detail:
- Understand what Instagram is, and why your practice needs it.
- Set up your Instagram profile correctly (or improve your existing profile).
- Post the right kinds of content at the right time.
- Reach more potential patients with Instagram ads.
- Know how (else) your practice can make the most out of Instagram.
Healthy Practice No. 1: Understand what Instagram is, and why your practice needs it.
At first blush, it may seem like the centre of activity for teens, fashionistas, and anybody who wants to humble-brag about their latest overseas holiday—but actually, Instagram is much more than that.
Instagram is owned by Facebook, one of the leading social media platforms today. Check out how The Gram stacks up against the two other most popular platforms:
- Facebook: 58 minutes day | 1.4 billion daily active users | 300 million photo uploads
- YouTube: 40 minutes a day | 30 million daily active users | 5 billion photo uploads
- Instagram: 53 minutes | 500 million active users | 95 million photo uploads
Broadbandsearch also says 250 million stories are uploaded every day on Instagram, which also has 800 million monthly active users.
And if you’re thinking that Instagram is only for teenagers, think again—Hootsuite says that the age range of Instagram users in the US is from 18 to over 65:
- 18-29: 67%
- 30-49: 47%
- 50-64: 23%
- 65+: 8%
Singapore social media observers such as Kantar have also noted the rise of the “Insta-Gran”, a demographic representing 33% of Singaporean IG-users between the ages of 55 and 65. (So if you serve a lot of elderly patients, think twice before dismissing Instagram as “too young” for your practice.)
NapoleonCat also notes how 37.7% of Singapore’s entire population—that’s 2,248,000 people—used Instagram in 2018. More than half, or 55.1% of these IG-users were women (among them, mums who make healthcare decisions for the family).
Knowing that Instagram is a powerful tool for reaching both potential and existing patients is the first step towards using it to its full potential as part of your digital marketing strategy.
Healthy Practice No. 2: Set up your Instagram profile correctly.
If your medical practice has yet to set up a profile on Instagram, there are a few things you should know to make sure you set up your profile the right way. If your practice is already on Instagram, check out the following checklist to make sure that your profile is set up for optimal social media success.
✔︎ Is your Instagram profile a business profile?
Setting up your profiles as a business profile will make it easier for your patients to contact you, as well as easier for you to see how well your Instagram posts and other activities are performing.
If your current IG profile isn’t a business one, click or tap here to find out how you can switch to business with just a click or tap or two.
✔︎ Does your username describe your practice?
It helps a lot to have a username that includes not just your name or the name of your clinic, but your specialisation, as well. If your username is just @drtan, for instance, try @drtandermatologist.
If you already have a username, you can change it on your phone or a computer by following the walkthroughs, here.
✔︎ Is your profile picture a high quality image?
By “high quality”, we don’t just mean “high res”, but also an image that reflects your professionalism and what your practice stands for. You can also try using the logo of your clinic.
✔︎ Have you made the most use of your bio?
Make sure you include the following details in your Instagram biography:
- Registered professional qualification
- Operating hours
Your bio is limited to just 150 characters, so try to fit in everything you can without unnecessary (or unprofessional) abbreviations. All the same, don’t forget to add a clickable link to your website.
Healthy Practice No. 3: Post the right kinds of content at the right time.
To help you put this healthy practice into action, we’ve put together a“5T’s Mini Guide” for a medical practice on Instagram, comprising content creation Types, Twists, Timing, Tips, and Taboos.
There are four main types of content on Instagram, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use all of them. Choose your content types according to the resources you have for content creation as well as their relevance to your medical practice.
• Feed Photos and Videos. These are photos and videos that are permanently posted on the main feed and your profile.
• Instagram Stories. These are photos or 15-second video clips that come out at the top of the main feed. You may add captions, clickable links and polls to these posts.
However, Stories are removed from the feed after 24 hours—to keep your stories, you can move them to your Highlights.
• IGTV. Also known as Instagram TV, this type of content features videos that are at least 1 minute up to an hour long that won’t be removed from the feed after 24 hours. You may post a caption for your IGTV video that’s 75 characters long.
• Instagram Live. This is real-time, “reality”, shot-on-the-spot video that may be seen by your followers. The live stream may be saved after the broadcast is ended.
You may give each content type a certain twist to make it more engaging and provide more value for your audience. The twist you give each post should be aligned with your overall digital marketing and branding strategy.
• Educational. These posts contain information about diseases, conditions, trends and treatments. Posts about current and relevant health issues also fall under this category. These kinds of posts can go a long way toward establishing and enhancing the credibility of individual doctors or a practice as a whole.
• Entertainment. Feature “fun facts” about individual doctors or staff members or the practice itself. These posts might also feature candid shots of the staff “behind the scenes” or on holiday, or tell little, interesting stories about what goes on at the clinic.
• Inspirational. Share success stories such as those about patients who never gave up, or their families who supported them (without naming specific patients or showing prohibited images, of course). Posts might also focus on how doctors and staff members really care about and care for their patients.
• Promotional. These are the posts that are subtle promotions of the services your practice provides. Much like educational posts, you may give factual descriptions of your services and talk about the medications or equipment. For this type of posts, experts generally recommend the 80-20 rule (80% of the content is pro-audience, 20% of the content is promotional).
Businesses are generally advised to post on Instagram at least once (but not more than thrice) a day, but this is not necessarily applicable to your medical practice.
The important thing to remember is that consistency is key when it comes to social media. This means that posting every day for a week, and then posting less often in succeeding weeks is not advisable, as it may cause your user engagement to go down.
When planning the timing of your posts, consider how often you’ll realistically (and not ideally) be able to post for the long term, and whether you’ll truly be able to sustain it. The most important thing to remember is not to sacrifice frequency for consistency and quality.
That said, it’s recommended to plan your Instagram content at least one month in advance. When planning, you may want to keep post variety, as well as timing, in mind. There are several tools out there to help you plan and schedule your IG posts such as Buffer and Hootsuite, as well as planning spreadsheet templates such as this one from HubSpot.
The quality of your Instagram posts speaks volumes about your practice. In the eyes of the people scrolling through their feeds, the quality of your posts reflects on your professionalism and trustworthiness. But more importantly, content quality can help you stand out from the rest of your competitors. Here are 10 tips for improving the quality of your posts.• Use high quality images. Whether you, a photographer, or a videographer take them to order or whether you use stock photos or footage, these images should be clear, and present your practice in the best possible light. And whether they are photos or graphics, make sure they are aligned with your overall branding strategy and reflect the values of your practice.
• Put high quality captions. The text accompanying your images or videos should be well-written so as to complement or reinforce the message or the feel conveyed by your images. Ideally, images and text should always work together to convey one, clear message.
• Use emojis. Emoticons can help make your post text more engaging and create an impression of a healthcare provider who is warm and approachable. Choose your emojis carefully and use in moderation.
• Use hashtags. The number or pound sign (#) before a search term (i.e. a word or phrase sans the spaces in between) makes it easier for Instagram and other social media users to find content. Adding even a single hashtag to your post can increase engagement dramatically. Instagram posts may carry up to 30 hashtags, but industry observers say 1 to 11 are ideal.
Choose hashtags specific to your specialisation and location (e.g. #dermatologysingapore or #orthopedicsurgeonNYC). You might also create branded hashtags for you to own. Examples of branded hashtags include your name, the name of your practice, or a tagline (e.g. #DrTanAestheticClinic or #YourHealthComesFirst).
Note that one main reason for using hashtags is to make it easier for patients to find you, so don’t limit your hashtags to your name, location and specialisation alone. You might try adding hashtags that your patients themselves might use when browsing around, like #kneepain or #tattooremoval.
Make sure your hashtags aren’t too long or possibly associated with anything negative that could hurt your brand. When creating branded hashtags, you may have to check whether it isn’t already used by someone else. Using a tool like Hashtagify or Googling a hashtag may help.
• Tag relevant profiles. Since adding clickable links to Instagram posts isn’t possible, tagging relevant profiles is an exception to the rule. You might try tagging affiliate clinics or other branches of your practices as well as the profile pages of your doctors or staff members. While it is unadvisable to tag patient profiles, the patients themselves might tag you.
• Add location tags. This may be especially helpful for reaching audiences in the vicinity of your practice, and for helping potential patients to find you. Social Media Examiner says there are countless success stories about sales being generated by businesses that were found on Instagram.
• Add URLs. While links aren’t clickable in post captions, it still might help to add URLs if they are short and memorable enough for users to type into a browser (e.g. drtan.com). These URLs are way of relating your post to other relevant content.
• Keep tabs on the competition. It’s a good idea to check out what your competitor or other medical practices in your field are doing on Instagram. Take note of the kind of content they put up, which hashtags they’re using, and how well their content seems to be performing.
• Keep it professional, yet personal. While it is important to maintain a professional look and feel for your content, try not to be so clinical as to be uncaring. Patients appreciate healthcare providers who are sympathetic and relatable, and Instagram users are more likely to engage with content that speaks to them on a personal level versus highly technical content.
• Keep it consistent. It helps if your medical practice has a style guide or brand manual to keep the quality of your content, consistent. But even if it doesn’t, you can maintain consistency by using the same filters (choose one or two) as well as the same colours, font and general layout. Your posts might also adhere to a consistent theme (e.g. excellent service, family atmosphere).
Bonus tip: While it is possible to link your Facebook and Instagram accounts, and consequently share your IG content on FB—don’t do it. Facebook prefers content that is shared exclusively on its pages, which means that “cross-posted” content ends up getting ranked lower on people’s feeds.
It’s highly recommended for you to keep the content you post on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms separate and diverse, instead of creating “one size fits all” content. One way to do this would be to plan which platforms to use for specific content types or twists. IG might have more candid photos, for instance, while FB could have more educational posts.
Finally, there are a few things you should never do on the Instagram business account of your medical practice—not just because they could hold your marketing efforts back, but more importantly, they could be harmful to the general public.
Because of the rising popularity of Instagram amongst healthcare providers and the growing diversity of the content being published by those providers, what is or is not appropriate for healthcare providers to publish has been increasingly called into question.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the regulations for medical marketing and communications vary between countries, and are generally strict when it comes to compliance. If your practice is in Singapore, getting away with non-compliance is one of the Top 8 Myths of Digital Marketing for medical practices.
Generally, however, here are three taboos (and one golden rule) for creating content for your medical practice on Instagram and other social media platforms:
- Never post or tag anything that might identify a patient.
- Never post or share anything that counts as protected or personal health information.
- Never give medical advice or prescribe treatment for a specific patient.
- Always follow the PHMC guidelines or the medical advertising regulations of your country.
Healthy Practice No. 4: Reach more potential patients with Instagram ads.
Building up a following on Instagram takes a considerable amount of time, and until the number of your clinic’s followers reaches influencer levels, it’s a good idea to widen the reach and drive the engagement of your content using ads.
Again, because Instagram and Facebook are owned by the same people, both platforms use the same audience targeting set-up which allows you to reach people based on their location, age, interests and so on.
You can manage your Instagram profile from your Facebook page, provided they are both business accounts and you have admin access. (In fact, you can even place ads on Instagram using Facebook without even having an Instagram account.) You can find out how to use Facebook Ads Manager to place IG ads, here.
Probably the easiest way to get started using Instagram ads is to promote one of your existing posts (particularly if it’s already enjoying higher engagement versus your other posts) or create an Instagram stories ad. You can find walkthroughs for this, as well as using Ads Manager, here.
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet and are a little more comfortable with using Instagram ads, you might try exploring the other types of ads on IG which include:
- Stories Ads or full-screen videos
- Photo Ads or square or landscape images
- Video Ads or square, 60-second videos
- Carousel Ads or multiple, swipe-through photos
- Collection Ads or a combination of photos and videos
- Ads in Explore or ads on Instagram’s Explore page
There’s also the Instant Experience, or IX on Instagram which, like its Facebook counterpart, is a sort of “mini-website” you create for your audience that allows them to experience your brand without ever leaving the platform.
On Instagram, you can give users an IX in the feed or on Stories, and you can use images, text and video to allow them to see, for instance, what the inside of your clinic is like or what they might expect during a consultation.
If you’re worried about the cost of Instagram ads, you’ll be relieved to find that IG is affordable versus other digital marketing platforms. Neil Patel quotes his sources as saying Instagram ads are twice as cost-effective as their Facebook counterparts.
But while this doesn’t automatically mean that Instagram ads are cheap, Mr Patel also notes how you’ll never spend more than your allocated budget.
And while ads may increase your Instagram following, it’s important to bear in mind how you can have 10,000 followers, but relatively few actual patients among them. This makes careful targeting and having advertising objectives that are aligned with your overall digital marketing strategy, absolutely essential to the success of your Instagram efforts.
Healthy Practice No. 5: Know how your practice can make the most out of Instagram.
Having set up your business profile, created top quality content, and run a few ads or so, it’s a healthy habit to know how else your medical practice can make the most out of Instagram. That said, here are six other ways to optimise your use of The Gram for your digital marketing.
• Track your performance. Instagram business profiles have a feature called Insights which you can see on your phone. This feature allows you see which posts or content types or twists work better, so you can make adjustments accordingly.
You can find out more about how to use Insights, here, but note that you don’t have to keep tabs on all the metrics—just the ones that are aligned with your own digital marketing objectives.
• Follow and engage with others. This is the first step towards growing your Instagram following, which you can take by following your colleagues, the recognised heads of your field, or affiliate or partner practices. Don’t forget to like or comment on their posts where appropriate.
• Follow relevant hashtags. The second step you can take to grow your IG following is to follow the hashtags of your field and location, and to like and comment on their posts, as well. To paraphrase Dale Carnegie, if you want others to be interested in your content, be interested in theirs.
• Answer enquiries. Keep an eye out for enquiries not just in your Instagram Direct messages but also among the comments on your posts—and make sure you reply (and reply personally or confidentially when necessary). If you see recurring questions, you might want to create some educational content to address them.
• Attract qualified staff. If you’re looking for more doctors, nurses or other professionals to join you at your practice, it’s not unusual for those with the right qualifications to check out your Instagram profile to see whether your practice is right for them.
When your content gives an accurate reflection of what it’s like to work at your practice, as well as the values you uphold, it makes your practice that much more attractive to potential new team members.• Seek professional help. Maintaining a professional Instagram profile for your practice can be a lot of work for one person alone, particularly when it comes to running ads. One workaround might be to share the work of posting content among your team members, and setting guidelines for them to ensure the quality and consistency of your posts.
But unless you have an Instagram or social media marketer on your team who’s familiar with running ad campaigns, finding the time as a busy healthcare professional to make the most of your presence on Instagram can be challenging. An alternative could be to engage the services of a freelance digital marketer or a digital marketing agency to take care of this for you.
You have your specialisation, we have ours.
Just as healthcare professionals undergo years of study and internship to become specialists in their particular fields, digital marketers have their own “residencies” and specialisations as well. Social media marketing is one such specialty, with Instagram marketing being a subspecialty of that form of digital marketing.
And just as a specialist at a larger practice or a hospital benefits from access to other specialists, such as an orthopaedic surgeon who works with an anaesthesiologist and nurses—social media marketers benefit from working with agency colleagues.
These specialists are able to see how Instagram marketing can best complement your other digital marketing efforts, and are able to work with other specialists such as writers and graphic designers to create effective and engaging content for you.
The social media specialists at NEO360 are trained, certified and have several years’ experience helping the owners and marketing managers of medical practices and other businesses just like yours.
And like you, they keep abreast of the latest developments in their field, and are constantly updating their skills and methodologies to help you get the most out of Instagram and your digital marketing efforts as a whole.
About the Author
A Mechanical Engineer by training who graduated from the Nanyang Technological University. With over 15 years of experience working in Start-Ups, SMEs and MNCs, he has driven sales revenue and leads across the Asia Pacific region. Shei Wah was one of the SEO Speakers at the first Search Engine Strategies Conference 2011 held in Singapore. As Managing Director, he aims to establish NEO360 in all of the world’s major cities. Even as he works toward this goal, Shei Wah also dreams of his children’s future happiness, and unwinds by doing calisthenics with his former school buddies three times a week.