Instagram has dramatically evolved as a key marketing tool for businesses since its humble beginnings as a simple photo-sharing app. Today, Instagram’s business features, technological capabilities, and reach are why 79% of marketers worldwide use Instagram to attract new clients and grow revenue. Such numbers also help explain why over a quarter of veterinary practices (28%) are planning more social posts in 2023. If this includes your practice (and it should), it’s important to know a few things beforehand to help ensure optimal ROI. To that end, we’ve prepared this blog—The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Marketing for Veterinarians—which covers:
- The benefits of Instagram marketing for veterinarians
- What to post on Instagram to market your veterinary practice
- Content formats for Instagram posts
- When to post on Instagram
- Keeping your Instagram posts on point
Let’s dig in.
The Benefits of Instagram Marketing for Veterinarians
To shed further light on why 28% of veterinary practices are planning more social posts in 2023 (evidenced in our free 2023 State of Veterinary Marketing benchmark report):
Instagram Is Projected to Gain Ground on Facebook
With 2 billion monthly active users (MAUs), Instagram is the second best-performing social media platform, just behind Facebook (2.9 billion MAUs). Yet Instagram is projected to gain ground.
According to Business of Apps, Instagram has grown at a steady pace, and is on track to reach 2.5 billion MAUs at some point in 2023. In contrast, Facebook’s user growth stalled in 2021 for the first time since Facebook’s launch. Providing similar statistics, Insider Intelligence reported in February 2022, “[Facebook’s] rapid growth days could be a thing of the past.”
This isn’t to say Facebook isn’t a key social media marketing channel. Mark Zuckerberg’s big blue platform still has incredible reach. Yet marketing on Instagram is to market on a platform where user numbers have steadily grown and are projected to continue.
Overall, Statista predicts that by 2027, there will be almost 6 billion social media users worldwide (or about 75% of the current global population).
Planning and Preparation to Set Yourself Up for Instagram Marketing Success
Cohesion with your overall practice image is the guiding principle behind Instagram marketing for veterinarians. If your practice website, for example, has a somewhat formal feel in look and content, your Instagram posts should be created with a similar look and tone. Inversely, if your practice website has an informal, conversational feel, your Instagram marketing on Instagram should follow suit.
The goal is to provide a fluid experience for prospective clients. When they click through from an Instagram post and land on your practice website, they should instantly know that they’ve arrived at the right place.
Once you’ve set an overall framework in your mind for your Instagram presence and posts, here are seven steps to get started:
Step 1: Set Your Marketing Budget
Since 79% of marketers worldwide use Instagram (which naturally include competing veterinary practices), it’s important to consider your Instagram marketing budget against what other practices are planning to do on social media to remain competitive, and we’ll acknowledge what may be your suspicion. Given the economic backdrop of 2022 and recession predictions for 2023, you may suspect that veterinary practices would be cutting back on marketing budgets. However, that isn’t the case.
As detailed in our free 2023 State of Veterinary Marketing benchmark report, monthly marketing budgets have gone up.
- 82% of practices are planning to increase their marketing budgets in 2023 or keep them the same.
Given that 28% of practices are planning more organic social posts (which are naturally part of the larger marketing picture), and since monthly marketing budgets have gone up, it’s logical to predict that practices will be spending more on social posts. So, to keep step with competitors, prioritizing a solid budget for effective Instagram marketing makes sense.
Step 2: Get to Know Your Audience
Almost three quarters of Instagram users (70%) are under 35 years of age, meaning Millennials (32% of the U.S. pet-owning population) and Gen X (24% of the U.S. pet-owning population). Though Baby Boomers represent 27% of the U.S. pet-owning population, only 6% of Instagram users are 55 years of age or older.
Gender demographics for Instagram users are roughly even.
- 49% of Instagram users identify as female
- 51% of Instagram users identify as male
Step 3: Determine Your Content Pillars
Content pillars are three to five topics to consistently discuss, amplify, and post about on social media, and your content pillars should ideally align with the services you provide as a veterinary clinic.
If your veterinary practice, for example, specializes in dentistry for pets, one of your content pillars may be content to educate pet owners on the importance of pet oral health and why they should specifically choose your practice for pet dentistry. If you also offer professional pet grooming, you may wish to make the subject a sub-topic of one of your content pillars or its own content pillar.
Define what overall subjects will best speak to the services your veterinary practice offers and set those subjects as content pillars to provide a high-level structure to your Instagram marketing.
Step 4: Define Monthly Content Themes
If content pillars are like the title of a book called Optimized Instagram Marketing for Veterinarians, then monthly content themes and specific posts related to them are the chapter titles and paragraphs, and timeliness and relevancy are the watchwords when creating monthly content themes.
Take the subject of flea and tick prevention, for example. To help veterinary teams easily educate pet owners about the importance of flea and tick prevention, we released our free Flea & Tick Awareness Kit in early spring because pet owners largely aren’t thinking about fleas and tick prevention in winter. Yet when temperatures begin warming up, pet owners do begin thinking about flea and tick prevention, just as pet owners tend to think about pet water safety when summer approaches.
So, use the above examples as a guide when defining monthly content themes. Consider what your practice offers pet owners and when pet owners tend to think about certain pet subjects, then plan your monthly content themes accordingly. Timeliness and relevancy are important for post engagement on social and planning things ahead of time helps keep your Instagram marketing on track.
Step 5: Create an Instagram Business Profile
Instagram marketing for veterinarians involves having tools to track how social posts are performing so you can make adjustments to ensure optimal performance, and that’s what an Instagram Business Profile provides.
With an Instagram Business Profile, you can:
- Track your account performance using real-time data to understand what’s working with your audience
- Share contact information so pet owners can reach out
- Sell directly on Instagram
Best of all, there’s no cost to set up an Instagram Business Profile.
Step 6: Plan Your Instagram Content Calendar
Take specific subjects you’ve identified under monthly content themes and organize them as upcoming posts according to the month, day, and time a post will go live. Be sure to include creative components involved (text, links, photos, or videos).
Social media calendar tools for planning and keeping posts on track can take many forms. You might use a spreadsheet, Google Calendar, or Microsoft Calendar. Whichever tool or system you use to plan and track your social media posts, remember to post consistently. As noted by Oberlo, “To increase social media engagement, you’ll need to post regularly on your pages,” meaning spending the time to ensure it’s done, and this is where practices often see their social media marketing fall apart.
It’s one thing to plan but execution is everything, and as busy as practices can be, 55% of practices (according to our 2023 State of Veterinary Marketing benchmark report) understandably cited lack of time as their greatest obstacle to posting more on social media. This explains why more veterinary practices are using social media management to maintain a consistent social presence with ready-made posts and scheduling handled for them. So, planning your Instagram content calendar must include factoring in time to make posts.
Step 7: Batch-Create Your Instagram Posts
To help with the last step, content batching is a productivity technique where you create all required social post text and visual content for a set period (e.g., a month’s worth of posts). The technique does require you to initially spend what may seem like a long period of time (e.g., an afternoon or two dedicated to preparing a month’s worth of material). Yet content batching tends to save time in the long run, rather than dedicating time every day to create content when you may have other, more urgent tasks to complete.
What to Post on Instagram to Market Your Veterinary Practice
As covered earlier under Content Pillars, posts that align with and promote the services your practice offers make sense because that’s what pet owners naturally want when they seek out a veterinary practice. They’re looking for services to ensure optimal health for their pets, and they’re certainly willing to spend the money or ensure they have it. Over the past five years to 2022, for example, pet insurance has significantly grown. This naturally which enables pet owners to choose higher-cost procedures and treatments for better pet health and translates into increased revenue per appointment for practices. Yet pet owners (like anyone) don’t want to hear sales pitches all the time. The primary nature of social media is right in the name. It’s a social medium, meaning if you walked into a room full of people and all you did was try to sell them something, you’d soon find yourself alone and ignored. So, it’s important to strike a balance between posts promoting your services and posts created to engage, surprise, delight, entertain, and ultimately build followers and their affinity for your practice.
When you make a staff-appreciation post, for example, you show the caring nature of your practice while humanizing your practice so potential clients can feel easier about reaching out because it’s as if they already know someone. Other post ideas:
- Inspirational content
- Community involvement
- Holiday posts
- Client testimonials
- Celebrations of success
- Upcoming events
- Contests or giveaways
- Important updates
- Patient posts
In reference to the last item, you certainly don’t need to be funny on social media to earn engagement and followers, and indeed, humor may not fit your brand. So, you’ll have to assess that. Yet as Sprout Social points out, “Being funny on social media can drive serious business.”
Before we get to some statistics that support this statement, think about it for a moment.
When is the last time you didn’t like someone because they made you laugh?
We stress the word like because that’s a big goal on social media. When people like your posts, they begin to like your veterinary practice, and in support of this marketing goal, humor can work wonders because people want more humor from businesses of all stripes.
According to a June 15, 2022, report by Oracle:
- 78% of people believe brands can do more to deliver happiness to their customers and 91% said they preferred brands to be funny, yet business leaders admit their brands rarely use humor to engage with people.
- 75% of people would follow a brand that’s funny on social media, yet only 15% of business leaders said their brand is humorous on social.
- 88% of people are looking for new experiences to make them smile, and 72% of people would choose a brand that makes them smile over a competitor that doesn’t.
The report also points out that 45% of people have not felt true happiness for more than two years. As dismaying as this statistic is, it also makes sense when you think about it. More than two years after the WHO declared COVID a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the planet remains steeped in daily doom headlines. People are unhappy and struggling with the economic situation, and recession predictions are causing distress. Since laughter has been shown to help reduce stress, it makes perfect sense that people want and would welcome more opportunities provided by businesses to laugh and feel happier, and why 41% of people are willing to leave a brand if it doesn’t make them smile.
Adding to this, nearly 43% of veterinary professionals ranked staffing and employee retention as their top practice challenge in a recent survey by LifeLearn Animal Health. Because of increased workloads and exhaustion due to staffing and employee retention issues, stress unsurprisingly ranked second (20.5%), and poor team morale ranked third (18.1%). Humorous social posts certainly can’t erase this challenge. Yet social posts that afford your staff an opportunity to laugh certainly qualify as team morale medicine.
The Best Times to Post on Instagram
Different sources provide different answers.
HubSpot, for example, recently reported that the best times to post on Instagram across all industries are mid to late evening and mid to later afternoon, and that mornings were generally the worst time. Search Engine Journal indicated the opposite, saying that mornings were generally good, along with 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., when people are generally breaking for lunch.
The disparate nature or such reports boils down to variables:
- Where a business is located
- A business’s time zone relative to its customers
- The online habits of a particular audience
- Fluctuating work and lifestyle influences
- Seasonal influences like summer vacations
This simply means that while mornings may be a poor time for some businesses to post on Instagram, mornings may be a good time for your practice to market to pet owners on Instagram, which brings us to the next section.
Keeping Your Instagram Posts on Point
You can choose a time each day that feels right to market to pet owners on Instagram, but once you do, it’s essential to track your post performance using real-time data to see whether your posts are having optimal reach and are resonating with your audience. Then adjust your content calendar and track your post performance again. Instagram marketing for veterinarians isn’t set it ands forget it. As illustrated earlier, social media involves variables. Test and repeat to find the best formats and times that work for your practice. Follow where the data leads you.
Q: Will hashtags help my posts get more views?
A: The usefulness of hashtags was widely debated in 2022, and the debate is still going on. Some businesses maintain that hashtags remain key tools to categorize content and serve up posts to relevant audiences. Yet Adam Mosseri (head of Instagram) recently said that hashtags now do little to help users get more views, and in May 2022, Socialinsider found the same thing, writing, “hashtags don’t affect distribution, which confirms Mosseri’s statement.” Whichever way you view hashtags, the more important element now appears to be post searchability.
- According to internal research by Google, 40% of people age 18 to 24 now use social media as their primary search engine, rather than sifting through long lists of Google results.
- Globally, recent research by GWI shows that 49.6% of people age 16 to 24 use social networks as their primary search engine when researching businesses, as do 42.9% of people age 35 to 44 and 36.1% of people age 45 to 54.
Given the importance of keywords in search results, a December 2022 article by Search Engine Journal stressed the importance of keywords for businesses to take full advantage of social media in 2023. Supporting this, 2022 research by Hootsuite found that using keyword-optimized captions increased post reach by 30% and doubled engagement.
Q: What are the cons of using Instagram for marketing?
A: Instagram is an image-driven platform. Attractive images tend to attract attention and earn followers. Poor-quality images tend to cause people to skip images and messages in posts. So, carefully select good-quality images when creating posts.
Also, Instagram posts do not support clickable links in post text and social media users are not in the habit of cutting and pasting link information into their browsers. However, you have the option of setting a website link in your profile and/or adding clickable links by linking your page to social media landing pages like Linktree.
Q: Does my Instagram follower count entitle me to more Insights information?
A: Your follower count doesn’t entitle you to more information in Insights.
Your ad budget, reputation, or follower count don’t entitle you to any more information in Insights
As more veterinary practices look to social media to market more effectively in a competitive market, attract new clients, and build practice revenue, Instagram is a solid marketing platform for veterinary practices because it’s a growing platform with a tremendous reach that’s projected to grow bigger. With careful planning, execution, and monitoring of social posts, you can set your practice up for success.
The main element behind it all (as mentioned earlier) is time.
Here at LifeLearn Animal Health, we understand the same thing that busy practices do. There never seems to be enough of it. That’s why 57% of veterinary practices now use an online marketing provider (versus 28% in 2022), and why practices across North America team up with LifeLearn to keep their social media marketing humming with LifeLearn’s social media management:
- Done-for-you posts made weekly
- Customized profiles created for top social networks
- Three packages to choose from because not all practices have the same needs