Instagram for dentists

Is the dash to Instagram marketing really worth it?

InstagramThere has been an awful lot of commentary recently about Instagram and its use as an (apparently) excellent vehicle for marketing and new patient acquisition.

Dental marketing companies and business coaches have been jumping on the bandwagon and someone has even written a book about it!

There’s certainly a lot of interest around Instagram at the moment, but is it as useful as some are making out or just another channel to investigate and test? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons so you can make an informed choice before investing lots of time and resources.

What is Instagram?

Before we jump in further, let’s have a brief reminder of what Instagram actually is and how it might be of use for dentists.

Instagram is a social network which came into being in 2010 and allows users to upload images and videos and share them with followers or selected friends. It very visual and consequently it is relatively easy to see how a business/brand could utilise the service for promotional purposes. It is also free and easy enough to use – so far so good. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram users have a profile and also a newsfeed; so if you are familiar with some of those other platforms, using Instagram will be quite straightforward.

However this blog post isn’t intended to illustrate the mechanics of using Instagram, more about the things to consider before you plough lots of time and effort into using it.

Instagram was acquired by Facebook back in 2012 and this is one of the important factors to remember when considering if it is the right platform to use to promote your dental business; but more on that later.

User characteristics

In terms of demographics, Instagram is more popular with females than males, approximately 68% to 32% at the time of writing. Users also tend to be quite young with 90% of the current 150 million users aged under 35 – another important feature to remember. Research also suggests that the number of higher earning users of Instagram tends to fall away quite quickly as salary increases.

In summary, at the moment it’s fair to conclude that Instagram is used primarily by younger people, early on in their earnings progression and with over twice as many females as males. Data like this is very important when considering if Instagram is right for your dental practice promotion and if so, which treatments.

The question of organic reach

If you are already used to marketing using Facebook, you will understand the concept of “organic reach”. This is essentially the number of people who will see your content when you post it. Looking at the history of Facebook, you may remember when most your posts were seen by most of the people who “liked” your business page? Over the last 4 or 5 years, Facebook has significantly curtailed the extent of organic reach so that as little as 4% of your content is actually seen by the people who “liked” you – this is governed by their “Edge Rank” algorithm and there is a huge range of visibility depending on who you are and how you’ve interacted with content previously. However, the bottom line is that Facebook has drastically reduced organic reach to force businesses to advertise to promote their content.

As mentioned earlier, Facebook owns Instagram and research in 2019 suggests that the organic reach of Instagram posts was dramatically reduced by algorithm changes back then. Facebook denied this but then they also denied reducing organic reach when it first started happening on Facebook itself back in 2014. It isn’t a step too far to suggest that Facebook is already pushing monetisation of the Instagram platform in the same way i.e. “forcing” business to pay for advertising.

This “pay to play” approach is very important to understand. Six or seven years ago, many business spent lots of time and effort trying to build their Facebook presence and “likes” only to be hammered down when Facebook drove forward with their ads initiative. It isn’t a big stretch to think that Instagram will go the same way, although how quickly it will follow is debatable. But if you do invest heavily in Instagram, there is a big risk that all of your efforts will be diluted and you’ll likely end up ‘paying to play’ in the future.

So is Instagram worth your effort?

There is no doubt that Instagram is a burgeoning social media platform and could be of some use for dentists. It is easy to use and a great resource for posting cases studies (anonymised and appropriately approved), testimonials and more. Users often research a business’s social media channels to reinforce credibility and so a solid Instagram presence could certainly help there. It may also be useful for targeting certain treatment types, but be fully aware of the demographic split before jumping in.

However, if you think that it is the universal marketing panacea, you would very likely be wide of the mark. The user demographics are quite skewed and the “pay to play” risks are all too obvious to make Instagram a “sure fire” bet for success.

My recommendation would be to evaluate where you are getting best value and broadest reach for your investment in time and resources. Is it really Instagram, or would you be better getting a solid Google ranking for your website? Or maybe investing in pay-per-click? You can establish a credible presence on Instagram without spending hours on it, but trying to make it your primary marketing channel is unlikely to work. The likelihood is that you’ll end up paying for the privilege too – just like Facebook!

Need any help with social media advertising and where best to get started? Please call the digital marketing team at Dental Media for guidance on techniques and priorities on 01332 672548.