Healthcare marketers must continually review and modify social media communications strategy, which typically include a robust website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. This is especially true as social media channels rise and fall in terms of popularity and technical advantages. The hottest social media channel is Instagram, and with 1.074 billion users worldwide in 2021, has become an increasingly relevant medium for healthcare messaging. If your organization doesn’t post to Instagram, now is the time.
Image is Everything
The visual nature of Instagram is one reason it has become the top platform for engagement. Instagram offers visual content such as photos, videos, live videos, stories, and now IGTV (a standalone app for watching long-form video). Visual images communicate quickly and conveniently. The marketing firm Healthcare Successreported that 40% of consumers are more likely to answer to visual stimuli than simple text, “as the brain can process images much faster than text and retain them longer”.
Followers (and those reached via sponsored posts) can offer likes, comments, or share the content either publicly or privately within Instagram and on connected social media (Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, etc.).
A study conducted by the influencer marketing network Bloglovin found that 60% of micro-influencers believe Instagram promotes the highest level of audience engagement, surpassing Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. In fact, Instagram can generate over 4x more interactions on Instagram compared to Facebook. And, Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes per day on this platform, an amount of time comparable to those on Facebook (58 minutes per day).
Reach a Key Demographic
Healthcare marketers must use multiple channels to best reach the various demographics within their audiences. Instagram users skew much younger (71% of monthly active users are under the age of 35). The single most popular age range are those between the ages of 25-34, followed by users aged 18-24. These age groups align with those considered Millennials and Generation Z; two demographic groups notoriously fickle regarding healthcare choices, or simply disengaged.
Instagrammers are Shoppers
Facebook sponsored research, as described in the article How Instagram Boosts Brands and Drives Sales, provides data specific to shopping behavior among Instagram users and how these users make purchasing decisions. 50% of Instagrammers follow at least one business. And, 80% of Instagram users decide to buy a product or service based on viewed content. In fact, 54% of people surveyed made a purchase either in the moment or after seeing a product or service on Instagram.
Relevant to healthcare, where online purchases are not typically the goal, 42% of survey respondents said that it helps with discovering products or services, and 44% said that helps them find new information about a service. Additionally, 41% of people surveyed said that a brand’s content helps them in their research. People interviewed also expressed a desire to hear from brands in their own voices.
Brand admiration and allegiance will likely benefit from an active Instagram presence, where both have been shown to be significantly stronger than on Facebook or Twitter. People surveyed say that they perceive brands on Instagram as popular (78%), creative (77%), entertaining (76%) and relevant (74%).
With an Instagram Business profile, brands can access Instagram analytics, providing data about impressions and reach per post, as well as more information about your demographic.
Connect With Your Audience on an Emotional Level
The benefit for hospitals and healthcare providers is the opportunity to humanize healthcare, and to make emotional connections with the Instagram audience. Instagram can augment your healthcare social outreach and storytelling, and build a trusting rapport. The blog Instagram: Healthcare Marketing’s Powerhouse Picture Tool, published by Healthcare Success, offers these content ideas:
- 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
- Promote contributions and fundraising
- Simple “How-to” instructions
- Special events and special visitors
- Testimonials and morale boosters
Other opportunities for Instagram sharing are press releases, participation in awareness day events, COVID-19 communications, inclement weather service closures and messages from the CEO.
Instagram Best Practices
Hospitals, healthcare systems and individual physician practices must create an optimized profile that connects with your audience. Here’s some guidance:
- Create a username 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.
Post daily. Best times to post are 2:00 – 3:00 PM & 8:00 – 9:00 PM. Use the 15-second videos Reels feature when you can. Studies have shown that with Instagram hashtags, it isn’t a case of the more the merrier. In fact, engagement decreases for posts with six or more hashtags, so use five or fewer.
Finally, know your communications objectives and goals. Instagram can help you humanize your organization, its activities and employees. Always be aware of your messaging so that it is relatable, entertaining, informative and important. Content must resonate with your audience. Show people actively using or benefiting from your services. Educate and inform, but don’t “sell”. The tone should be conversational and responsive to comments. Respond with likes, thank yous, and simple messages of encouragement.
Start small, go big.
Instagram is an important new tool in the healthcare communicators armamentaria. Use it to connect with patients and build community, especially with the hard to reach Millennials and Generation Z. Engage this important audience by generating relevant conversations, sharing creative stories, humanizing your brand and creating personal relationships. In the end, you will attract new patients and referrals, increase visitor traffic to your website and Facebook page, promote engagement, and favorably impact your brand and branding message.
James Shulkin, a member of WHPRMS since 1999, is the Chief Brand Officer, Healthcare at NOISE, Inc.