It’s hard to know where to put your social media focus in 2018. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and more are all popular social media platforms with an engaged community of users (sorry, Google+, you don’t make the cut). What should your plastic surgery practice be doing on each of these platforms and how much of it? And maybe an even better question is, How much are you going to have to pay to play on each platform?

Instagram has been getting a lot of buzz this year; as the latest platform to surge in popularity, does it really have the staying power and potential for ROI to make it worth an investment from your medical practice? From what we’ve seen, the answer is Yes – but you have to be ready to be authentic, engaged, and tell stories visually.

What Makes Instagram Special

Instagram has seen a steady rise in its user base in the past five years, hitting 1 billion active monthly users in June 2018. Almost 2 in 5 adults online use the platform, with a skewing toward important demographics including women and people under age 35. This level of engagement and popularity can make Instagram an excellent outlet for branding, patient engagement, and expanding a practice’s audience reach.

Both Instagram and Pinterest are highly visual platforms. Not surprisingly, us humans like to look at new and interesting stuff, so if you sit us in front of a never-ending feed of images and short videos, it’s pretty hard to get us unglued.

Another popular aspect of Instagram is its relative anonymity, at least compared to many other social platforms. For instance, a person on Instagram can like, comment and otherwise engage with plastic surgery topics, even if they don’t want anyone else knowing they’re considering a procedure.

How Instagram Can Help Your Practice

Because Instagram is such a visually focused platform, your practice’s account there has to feature attractive photos, humorous images, engaging graphics, and other media that will catch people’s eyes. Some of that content will be off-the-cuff – a snap of your patient coordinator’s office birthday party, a funny meme or ecard you came across – while other content takes a bit more thought and planning.

Instagram is a place to curate and share your story visually, so it’s important to consider how an overall account feed will look. At the same time, writing well-crafted posted, using relevant hashtags, and actively responding to comments will draw in users and keep them interested.

To reach a wider audience, the content you post needs to be highly share-worthy. You gain ground when Instagram users tag their friends in the comments of images, gifs, videos and other content you share. For instance, you might share a few of your most remarkable before and afters (adhering to nudity guidelines, of course) and use the photos as an opportunity for Instagram users to ask questions and comment about that procedure. Your humorous or very visually engaging posts might get shared out to friends, increasing your reach organically and giving you an opportunity for more people to note “hey, that practice seems pretty cool.”

So, What’ll It Cost?

Ideally, a practice needs one person in-house who has the time and social marketing know-how to manage the ins and outs of Instagram and your other social accounts. All of the practices we work with who have a successful social media presence have an in-house person behind the scenes. Case closed.

A marketing agency offering social media management can do a couple things to help optimize your Instagram feed. First, we can consult with your in-house social media specialist to develop ideas and campaigns for engaging Instagram posts. Related to this, an agency can help you craft custom content where needed, provide guidance on popular hashtags, and analyze your metrics to see what’s working best. But keep in mind that it’s always going to be the authentic, people side of your practice that gets the most engagement – you can’t just farm out an Instagram effort and expect any success.

An agency can also help you navigate the waters of pay to play on Instagram’s platform. Like Facebook, promoting certain Instagram posts can help you effectively reach a target audience that otherwise might not have seen your content due to the sheer size and amount of content competing for eyes on the site.

Adding it all up, a sustained and successful effort on Instagram may run you anywhere from $250 to $500 or more per month, accounting for your in-house effort, marketing agency fees, and media spend on Instagram itself. Of course, keep in mind that this isn’t just some sunk cost – by growing your followers, you should be reinforcing your brand message to current patients and reaching new ones as well. All of this effort should result in a net revenue gain from a wise investment on a platform where more and more people are devoting their time.

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