How Dentists Can Use Instagram To Build An Engaged Audience


You have a lot to juggle on a day to day basis - building a practice, meeting the needs of patients, enhancing the patient journey, and keeping up to date with the latest advancements in the field.

So it’s no surprise that many practices fail to take advantage of the critical marketing opportunities out there. But when planned well, marketing your practice doesn’t have to be a hard work.

In fact, marketing can help you to attract new customers, encourage repeat purchases and boost business growth. And as long as you’re armed with clear goals of who you want to reach and what you want to achieve, it couldn’t be easier to get started.

We’ve recently discussed how to market new products to patients, but today we’re going to help you build an engaged audience online.  

Social media marketing isn’t a new tool for dental professionals. For years, practices have used Facebook and Twitter to reach out to patients. But there’s a not-so-new kid on the block that you need to take notice of… Instagram.

Why Instagram?

Instagram has grown significantly since Facebook acquired it back in 2012.

In April 2017, the platform announced that their community had grown to over 700 million users. That’s an additional 100 million Instagrammers compared to December 2016!

So it goes without saying that the opportunity for you to reach your patients using Instagram is huge.

Dentistry is changing. It’s becoming increasingly advanced with the introduction of new technologies like digital scanning and 3D printing. Instagram compliments the digital direction the industry is taking.  

Digital dentistry

The two also go hand in hand…

As an entirely visual based platform, Instagram is perfect for dentists as you have a wealth of imagery and videos at your fingertips. 

Show off your skills and treatments with before and after photos, pictures of smiling patients (with their permission), and shots of new equipment and products. Or market your practice with team photos, behind-the-scenes videos, and snaps from local and community events.   

Social media marketing can be - and should be - a fundamental instrument that you take advantage of. And with a proper plan, there is no doubt that this growing social media platform can boost awareness of your practice and the treatments available.

To get you started, here’s our guide to an effective Instagram plan.

Let the pictures do the talking

Instagram is home to the world’s most extreme social show offs, and boring content just won’t make a mark. You need to make sure your content is fun, human and a little bit different if you want to catch the attention of potential patients.

Just look at The Singing Dentist

Created in an attempt to make dentistry fun, Dr Milad Shadrooh’s online alter ego creates parodies of the latest songs to educate patients on important aspects of oral health. And his antics have gone down a storm on social media!

Use the tool to your advantage and show off your personality. Demonstrate why you are different to the practice down the street and why you are a key business in the local community.

This means mixing it up with the content you post. Establish all the types of content you think patients would want to see, keep it balanced and deliver it in an engaging way..

Use Hashtags

Building an engaged audience takes some work.

It isn’t as easy as making a page and posting pictures.

You need to ensure your content is getting in front of the right people. In the first instance, this has a lot to do with the hashtags you use.

Hashtags are an integral part of social media marketing on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.  They are a part of the communication process and allow users to identify posts on a specific topic. They also allow you to share content with a targeted group of users.

Here are some of the best, most active dental hashtags being used at the moment:

  • #Dental
  • #DentalCare
  • #Dentist
  • #Smile
  • #Teeth

You could also think about oral health and the factors that affect this. For example:

  • #Healthy
  • #HealthyLiving
  • #EatClean
  • #OralHealth
  • #Beauty

Here’s a word cloud of the most popular dental related hashtags being used on Instagram at the moment…

Dentist Instagram

Whilst generic hashtags are great for enhancing your visibility in front of a wider audience, try to include at least one local hashtag - like #London or #Italy - to improve reach within your community.

Take the time to research which hashtags are performing well locally, and add one or two that relate to your content.

But be careful not to overuse them. Try somewhere between four - ten hashtags per post to avoid spamming your followers. And by adding them as a comment below the image, rather than the caption, you won’t have to worry about detracting from the key message of the post!

Again, don’t forget to inject your own personality into the post description or hashtags used. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your content human - it might even help bust the preconception that dental practices should be feared!

Keep it in the community

Once you’ve setup your account and have started posting content, the first thing you will want to do is grow your following.

But remember, you’re trying to attract potential patients.

So whilst 5,000 followers might seem more appealing than 500, if that extra 4,500 are unlikely to become a customer - what’s the point?  

In other words, start local and reach people who have the potential to become patients…

  • Team support: ask all of your team to follow the account, interact with posts and share it with their friends and family who live in the area.
  • Current patients: let your current patients know that you’re on Instagram. Promote the page on your existing social media platforms, include it in your monthly newsletter or advertise it around your practice.
  • Local businesses: getting involved in your local community is a great way to build trust and awareness. Follow local businesses and groups and engage with their content.
  • Competitors: as well as helping you keep track of what the competition are doing, you can also browse who is following them and who they are following.
  • Local hashtags / geotags: Instagram is all about the hashtags and geotags (when people check in to a location). Search for your local area of local businesses and see who has checked in!

As well as following all of these key accounts, interact with their posts by liking and commenting. There also several ‘regram’ applications which allow you to quickly share posts from other users to your own feed.

You could even test the water with Instagram Stories and really ramp up engagement…

Launched in 2016, Instagram Stories allow you to share content exclusively with your followers and only last 24 hours before disappearing forever:

  • Create personal experience with Instagram Live.
  • Reach out to your followers by tagging their Instagram handles in your story. They will get an alert and it could open up new opportunities for communication.
  • Have some fun with Stickers and Boomerangs and show off your personality

By taking content away from the Instagram feed - that anyone and everyone has access to - you’re giving followers unique content catered to them. It’s personal and will evoke positive reactions.

Sharing is caring

Social media is a ‘give and you shall receive’ game. Engagement is usually rewarded with engagement.

It’s essential that you are actively engaging with other people’s content if you want to build a valuable audience. Spend time liking, commenting, and sharing your followers’ posts to improve the chance of likes, comments and shares back in return…  

This will also naturally boost your visibility in front of their followers who will be able to engage with your comments too.

And don’t just limit engagement to your followers. Connect with people who are using relevant hashtags and checking in using local geotags.

To encourage even more interactions, try introducing a new hashtag…  

Hashtags like #tbt (throwback Thursday), #humpday (Wednesday) and #sundayfunday perform really well week in, week out because everyone can relate to their meaning and easily get involved.

Think of a hashtag that you and your community can all use - whether it’s on a weekly basis or when a certain type of visual is shared. This will build your presence in the community and encourage trust.  

And don’t forget your existing patients!

If someone leaves your practice smiling, suggest that they share their new and improved smile on Instagram. They will likely tag your practice and give you a great opportunity to engage!

Dentist social media

Eyes on the prize

According to a 2016 study by the social tool Tailwind, Instagram accounts that run competitions could grow their audience 70% faster than those who don’t - all whilst helping boost engagement!

Firstly, establish the prize. It could be anything from a free electric toothbrush to a free scale and polish.

If you want to offer something more valuable and achieve more visibility, consider partnering up with a local business or group. For example, you and the local beauticians could offer a complete beauty package complete with a dental goodie bag and a treatment at the salon.

Partnering up with another brand not only means you can offer a more appealing prize, but delivers exposure in front of their followers as well as yours!

Secondly, determine the ins and outs of the competition…

  • Make it easy. Whilst you could ask participants to post a selfie of their smile, consider that they might be more comfortable simply regramming one of your posts.
  • Think of your reach. Remember, your goal is to build an engaged audience, and asking people to tag three friends in order to be entered into the competition will do wonders for your visibility. Equally, making it a requirement that participants have to follow your Instagram account (and any other brands involved) is an effective way to boost your audience.
  • More is more. The more entries each person is allowed, the more visibility you are going to receive. Consider allowing one entry per day from each Instagram account.

Finally, announce the winner and harness the opportunity to engage with them. This could be asking them to post pictures of their prize to their account so you can interact on the post, or asking them for a picture when they visit the practice.

Building your dental practice with Instagram

It’s about being clever and being able to recognise opportunities to engage and interact with the right people at the right time - all whilst projecting your brand and personality at the same time.

Social media is a fun tool to use, and can be extremely effective at building awareness and engagement. Just remember:

  • Inject your personality into your profile and each post you publish.
  • Use targeted hashtags on your post to increase visibility.
  • Interact with local businesses and groups to demonstrate how you are a part of the community.
  • Get involved and engage with followers and other Instagrammers using relevant hashtags.
  • Boost reach and encourage engagement with competitions.  

With this strategy at hand, you will be able to build your practice with one of the fastest growing platforms around.

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