Despite its endless stream of selfies, food art and filtered vistas, Angela Tufvesson writes that Instagram is an ideal platform for dentists to connect with current and potential clients
Instagram boasts a whopping 500 million users globally, and here in Australia an estimated seven million people use the site, placing it second only to Facebook in the social media space.
While the plethora of duck-faced, selfie-taking teenagers, fashion brands and Hollywood celebrities can make it seem like the photo-sharing site is best suited to superficial over-sharers, in fact it offers impressive marketing potential for small businesses with limited time and financial resources. And for dentists in the business of improving aesthetics, the image-only platform may be the pick of the social media bunch.
Here are seven ways practices can use Instagram to build a loyal following and convert followers into customers.
Tell your story
Visual imagery is a key component of telling a brand’s story, and the beauty of Instagram is it makes it easy for brands to connect with customers on a more intimate and tangible level. For dentists, this means stepping away from behind the chair and sharing the best bits about your practice with your followers—save the clinical shots for your next conference.
“Instagram photos need to be fun, relaxed and beautiful,” says Carolyn S. Dean, founder of My Dental Marketing (@carolyn_s_dean). “Procedural shots, like an image of someone having an implant or an extraction, do not work. It may be technically very interesting for a dentist but it is not appropriate for Instagram because Instagram is about beauty. It needs to be something that patients want to look at and engage with. Team photos, behind-the-scenes photos and before and after photos all work.”
Highlight the aesthetics
Dr Luke Cronin, owner of Sydney-based Quality Dental (@qualitydental), has amassed an impressive 16,000 Instagram followers and says the platform is a natural fit with cosmetic dentistry, which comprises 95 per cent of his business. What’s more, the younger generations populating Instagram are often the same people interested in cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening.
“Because it’s essentially a sales page, I’m looking for clients to engage with—so the imagery needs to be very consumer-friendly,” says Dr Cronin. “The things that translate for us are before and after photos and influencers and celebrities.”
Take beautiful photos
Thanks to an overwhelming number of filters and retouching tools, creating beautiful Instagram-worthy imagery is not difficult, but it still pays to take photos that are as pretty as possible before you start editing, says Charles Morgan, head of strategy and accounts at social-media marketing agency Hello Social (@hellosocialau).
“Lighting, lighting, lighting—it’s all about the lighting so figuring out how to get good lighting is the main point. It’s the lighting that makes the big difference rather than post processing.”
Indeed, research shows that light, bright, low-saturated images are most effective. One study by image analytics company, Curalate, that examined more than eight million Instagram images found light images generate 24 per cent more ‘likes’ than dark images, and photos with low saturation generate 18 per cent more ‘likes’ than those with more vibrant colours.
Hashtags are keywords marked with a hash (#), which make your photos more findable. Dean says there is no point posting photos without a hashtag or five. “Hashtags are big on Instagram but they’re not the base of Facebook and they aren’t as strong on Twitter,” she says. “Hashtags link your image to a category, so for dentists think ‘Invisalign’, ‘smile’, ‘braces’ and so on.”
If you are a specialist, be sure to hashtag your speciality, and always use a consistent hashtag for your practice—preferably one that includes your suburb or town. Tagging photos with seemingly obvious hashtags like ‘dentist’ and ‘dentistry’ is also an effective strategy.
Engage with followers
As with other social media platforms, the goal on Instagram is to engage in two-way dialogue with your followers, so it is crucial to reply to comments and direct messages. “Instagram is another form of customer service and if you ever treat the platform as if it’s not another form of customer service, you’re doing yourself an injustice,” says Morgan.
Dean agrees: “You need to respond to comments because it’s a conversation. If someone is commenting on your images or they are tagging the practice, it’s really important to comment back and respond.”
Connect with influencers
Dr Cronin has a significant celebrity client base who—having signed a release form—are happy for him to share their pearly whites. But he says this strategy is only effective because it speaks to his audience of people in the public eye.
Morgan agrees, explaining that practices that serve local communities are better off connecting with influencers of a different variety. “If you’re trying to be a family practice, you should be talking about families and featuring people in your local community—it needs to be true to what you’re trying to build,” he says. “You might post selfies with local teachers, shop owners or other health professionals to help embed your practice into the community.”
So how do you know if Instagram is worth the effort? Keeping track of ‘likes’, comments and the number of followers will give you some insight into whether your photos are doing the job. Setting up as a business account will allow you to track impressions and the reach of your posts, plus the number of website clicks from your business profile. You will also be able to access a breakdown of followers by gender, age, location and the times they are online, to help you create more targeted posts.
Dr Cronin says that ultimately, it takes time to build a large following so it is important to commit to posting regularly. “There’s no point doing a little bit then stopping because it will waste your time. You need to make people aware you’re there.”