Is Instagram a Priority for Acquiring New Dental Patients?

Is Instagram a Priority for Acquiring New Dental Patients?

Budget and resource considerations for dentists

Over the last couple of years there has been a flurry of activity with dentists joining Instagram. You may remember similar a number of years ago when there was a similar flocking to Facebook?

So what has happened with all of those accounts and how many dentists are actually getting lots of new patients from Instagram? Well the reality is, very few indeed. So what’s gone on and why hasn’t Instagram become the panacea for new patient acquisition promised by some dental marketing agencies and written about in more than one book?

Let’s take a look…..

Understanding organic reach

This is absolutely critical and explains why simply creating an account and posting content to Instagram won’t instantly lead to new patients getting in touch. The harsh reality is that simply because you’ve posted content on the platform, doesn’t mean that anyone will necessarily see it. Just like Facebook, you need to gain a following of people to stand a chance of reaching anyone with your content. Even then, there is no guarantee at all that your content will be seen, even by those who followed you.

It’s also important to remember that Instagram is owned by Facebook. With Facebook, organic reach (the average number of people who liked your content who actually see your posts) has been reduced to less than 4% – so that’s less than 4 in every 100 people! Facebook did this to support their “pay to play” plans; forcing the use of their paid advertising for those who are serious about getting their content in front of potential purchasers.

Whilst organic reach on Instgram hasn’t been curtailed as much as Facebook yet, it’s going that way quickly as Facebook again pushes businesses to pay for the privilege of using their platforms. So even if you’ve managed to get quite a few followers, the large majority of them aren’t seeing what you post.

What do we see in conversion data (new patient enquiries)?

The analytics data we run for many dentists shows us how many new patients enquiries (conversions) come from the various channels used to promote their services i.e. how many visits come from Google searches, paid ads on Google and also from social media, including Instagram.

It’s very clear from the data across numerous accounts that even those dentists who have quite active social media presence, tend to see very limited new patient enquiries coming organically from those channels (i.e. not via paid ads).

What does this mean for your marketing budget?

This is a case of prioritisation and understanding what delivers best “bang for buck” from your marketing campaigns. Typically we see that the most valuable channel is organic enquiries from people finding your website in Google; but you will very likely need to invest in SEO (search engine optimisation) to gain great rankings and then maintain them ongoing. However the cost for achieving this, even though it can take time, is typically a lot less per new patient than enquiries coming from social media i.e. from paid ads on social media.

The cost to build a huge organic Instagram presence is actually significant and to be frank, most dentists won’t make it. Not only do you need to build a huge range of followers, you then need to actively engage them with lots of new and interesting content. Generating this content and then devoting the time to post and manage it is far from trivial. Those few dentists that have managed it either pay huge sums to external agencies, or have dedicated resource within the practice to handle those activities. But it isn’t achieved in just an hour or so of activity each day unfortunately.

Is it worth posting on Instagram at all?

For the vast majority of dentists, using Instagram can be successful but you will need to use paid ads to buy the reach you need. Indeed your paid ads campaigns on Facebook will likely incorporate Instagram too. As we’ve seen, achieving it through organic reach alone can be a bridge too far for many businesses.

Instagram is very visual and useful to demonstrate what you do, along with demonstrating what is known as “social proof”. So where someone likes or comments on your content, others will see that as a validation of your services and help to convince them that you should be their dentist of choice.  We also know from our data that website visitors will often link across to your social media channels to see what’s going on there. If they see activity, it’s another confirmation that they are engaging with a modern business which takes an active role in publishing what they do.

So it is worthwhile to use Instagram but also important to understand how it will help your dental practice and the limitations surrounding that.


As a dentist, jumping on the “Insta” bandwagon could well end up being disappointing and expensive if you expect too much from it. Very few dental business have the means to build a huge Instagram following and hence don’t see the benefits from it that they may have been led to believe.

Instagram is useful but you need to understand the limitations and also the need to “pay to play” with paid ads if you really want to use it to acquire new patients. Unfortunately that article you read or seminar you attended may not have been as clear as it should have been with what to expect; so don’t leap in until you have a clear picture of the commitment needed from you and your team.

Need help? The social team at Dental Media will be pleased to help you launch a practical presence on Facebook and Instagram and let you know what you can realistically expect. You can reach us on 01332 672548 or via the website contact form.