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Instagram: Healthcare Marketing’s Powerhouse Picture Tool

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Instagram logoHospitals, group medical practices and other healthcare professionals have embraced digital and social media for marketing. The standard toolbox begins a robust website, plus a Facebook page, and sometimes, a blog. Deeper plans may also include a YouTube channel, Twitter and/or LinkedIn and others. Relatively new on the scene is Instagram, which is a powerhouse picture tool for healthcare marketing.

Here’s what providers, administrators and communications executives need to consider in giving it a spotlight role in your marketing plan.

If you’ve been quick enough to follow the meteoric rise of Instagram, this may be the right time to connect with a powerful social sharing platform…and a mighty big audience. The Adweek headline [June, 2016] declares: Instagram Now Has More Than 500 Million Monthly Users as Explosive Growth Continues.

The top number is impressive, but the growth rate is amazing. “Instagram gained 100 million members in nine months,” and, “what's more, the social platform has gained about 200 million users in the last year and a half” (since January, 2015).

Given these big numbers, you probably know a bit about Instagram. But Wikipedia provides this concise description:

Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them either publicly or privately on the app, as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. Instagram is distributed through the Apple App Store and Google Play; the app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android handsets.

Consider that (nearly) everyone carries an Internet-connected smartphone/camera, you or I can take and post a photo, photos, or a 15 second video in an instant. The payoff, however, is that 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, which the brain processes thousands of times faster than text.

What’s more, 40 percent of people respond better to visual information than plain text. [Zabisco] And visual messages have a greater “sticking power” in the human brain’s long-term memory.

The emergence and influence of Instagram…

It seems as if there’s a new-and-wonderful social media something born daily. And California’s silicone valley is a treasure chest of amazing success stories. Instagram is one of the rocket-to-riches business success stories.

The free mobile app launched in 2010. Although there are other image-sharing platforms, Instagram gained immediate traction with users worldwide. And, as business spins in the tech world, the rapid popularity caught the attention of its social sister.

Adweek reports, “when Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, it had 22 million users and a dozen or so employees. Per eMarketer, Instagram will rake in more than $1.5 billion in global mobile ad revenue, an increase of 144 percent over last year.”

The broad demographics tend to a slight female audience majority, generally among a younger, urban population. More than half of young adults (18 to 29) in the US use Instagram, according to Pew Research. Among those surveyed, 21 percent of all adults, use Instagram.

Healthcare marketing has been slower than major brands in adopting Instagram. Better than 80 percent of top brands use the social platform in their marketing mix. Visual content, both photos and videos, fuel engagement.

Brand engagement is strong; by some measures, significantly stronger than via Facebook or Twitter. But keep in mind that Instagram is a mobile-only stage. Although that’s a disconnect for laptop and desktop users, mobile devices are the screen of choice for huge audience segments.

Using Instagram for hospital and healthcare messaging…

Is Instagram a fit for your marketing plan? Social media and the various branches of the medical profession are subject to some higher standards, with patient privacy and confidentiality being at the top of the list. In addition, providers and institutions need to find the positive—happiness and good health—visual opportunities.

That said, here are some of the ways that Instagram can augment your healthcare social outreach and storytelling, and build a trusting rapport.

  • Answer common questions
  • Community annual report
  • Demystify places and procedures
  • Educate/inform patients
  • Introduce facility, department or office
  • Meet doctors and/or medical staff
  • New facilities, equipment, products and/or services
  • Practice welcome, overview, orientation
  • Promote contributions and fundraising
  • Simple “How-to” instructions
  • Special events and special visitors
  • Testimonials and morale boosters

Getting started, or getting better…

The Instagram platform integrates with other online marketing tools. Not surprisingly, it connects naturally with Facebook. For an individual or for a medical practice, the first consideration is to create an optimized profile that connects with or relates to your audience.

  • Create a user name that is descriptive and memorable.
  • Enter a bio or description of the business that touches your audience.
  • Find and use related hashtags for indexing and discovery.
  • Links are vital; include your main website or web landing page.
  • Paint a picture with captions and text
  • Space is limited; use URL shorteners.
  • Where appropriate, integrate your logo and branding.
  • Wherever possible, link each of your social media to each other for a larger presence.

And some tips about content integration…

Instagram is a useful, but not universal, tool in marketing and storytelling. But in many situations, there is exceptional value in using Instagram to leverage, extend and amplify your marketing and social messaging.

  • Educate and inform, but don’t “sell”
  • Humanize; show people actively using or doing
  • Know what resonates with your target audience
  • Know your communications objectives and goals
  • Only good quality images and video are acceptable
  • Quality is far more important that quantity
  • Use visual content that’s interesting, compelling and shareable

The benefits of Instagram in healthcare marketing include enhancing your social media and online presence, attracting new patients and referrals, increase visitor traffic to your website and Facebook page, promote engagement, and as a showcase opportunity for your brand and branding message.

Visual images communicate quickly and conveniently. And the added benefit for hospitals and healthcare providers is the opportunity to humanize healthcare, and to make an emotional connection with the Instagram audience.

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