(This blog was originally posted on December 29, 2014, and has been updated to be even more amazing!)
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for your practice’s social media marketing? If you haven’t yet, how about making one to consider adding Instagram to your social strategy for 2016!
When Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion back in 2012, it shocked people, but it turned out to be a good deal. Instagram’s current number of active users surpasses Twitter, with over 400 million monthly active users to Twitter’s 300 million. Instagram is a rising star in the social world, and it’s a platform that’s uniquely suited for veterinary practices.
How exactly can you use Instagram, a social networking site that’s all about photo sharing, in your veterinary practice marketing? We’re glad you asked!
Here are some thoughts on why Instagram might be a good fit with your practice social strategy:
The Internet is for cats
And dogs. And every other pet you can think of. We’re fortunate that, as professionals in the animal health industry, we can unabashedly share adorable pet pictures and be completely on-topic!
We know that people love videos – and conveniently, Instagram does videos too. Completely unintimidating, 15-second amateur videos that you can not only share on Instagram, but cross-post to Facebook and embed in your blog posts. You don’t need professional equipment to create great videos that your followers will love. Check out our tips for shooting high-quality video on your smartphone.
The camera loves you
Instagram is a great platform not only to share your own content on, but also to get your followers more engaged with your practice. Once you’ve gathered a bit of a following, use Instagram to host photo contests. Ask all entrants to post their photos, tag you, and use a specified hashtag. The hashtag will keep the photos organized, and tagging you increases your visibility because your followers will be sharing cute animal pictures with all of their followers, all tagged with your account name.
Complement your efforts on Facebook
Since Facebook owns Instagram, it’s really easy to cross-post from Instagram to Facebook. Don’t do this all the time, but sharing your best Instagram moments to Facebook lets all of your Facebook fans know you’re on Instagram.
Are you advertising on Facebook yet? You can also advertise on Instagram through your Facebook ad account. Increase the reach of your ads and drive traffic from two social networks to your practice website with ads on Instagram too!
Tips for Rocking Instagram
Be social – and human
As with any social network, the cardinal rule is to remember to be social. Blast people with nothing but a bunch of commercial solicitations and don’t bother to follow anyone, and your Instagram efforts will all be for nothing. Follow people back, ask questions in your posts to get comments, comment on photos of your patients, be authentic and humanize your practice, and you’ll build a great community.
Oh caption, my caption!
Instagram may be a platform largely focused on photos, but the captions you write for those photos matter as well. Use your captions to create context for the photo, whether that’s introducing your adorable patient or explaining what a staff member is doing in a specific photo. If you want to encourage more engagement, you can also use the captions to ask your followers questions and solicit more comments.
Like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram allows you to hashtag your photos. And unlike the other social networks, Instagram photos with more hashtags perform better! So don’t be shy about busting out a few hashtags to catch some attention. A good place to start is to use local hashtags, like the name of your town, city, or county. Also consider adding hashtags directly related to the subject matter of the photo (e.g., type of pet, breed of pet, etc.).
Take them home
Instagram is a great place to connect with current clients and attract new ones, but your Instagram account shouldn’t be your followers’ final destination. Make sure that you’ve linked to your practice website on your Instagram account, so that your Instagram followers can easily learn more about your practice.
It’s all about timing
The pace on Instagram is a little slower so keep in mind that if you post a bunch of things all at once, you could flood your followers’ feeds. If your photos are awesome and getting great engagement, that could be fine (cute animals!), but just in case, start off slow and see what happens. A basic guideline is one or two photos per day. Play around with the time of day you post at as well – some times will generate more engagement than others.