Digital marketing consultant Heather Terveen explores how to increase organic engagement on Instagram to attract the right patients
Since Instagram’s launch as a photo-sharing app in October 2010 it has evolved, similarly to its other social media predecessors, beyond personal social sharing to include business marketing opportunities.1
The focus on images, captions and videos make it a great platform for aesthetic providers to showcase their procedures, treatments and products while building rapport and credibility.2
Understanding Instagram’s machine-learning algorithm while thoughtfully mapping out your ideal patient’s journey from follower to customer is key in strategically using the platform for growth.
Like most social media platforms, content on Instagram’s feed is populated for users based on its machine-learning algorithm. While many factors affect how a user will see content in their personal feed, Instagram’s overall rule is showing users more of what they want to see so that it keeps users on the platform longer.3,4 How does Instagram determine what a user wants to see? While Instagram doesn’t publicly share all factors weighing into its algorithm, earlier in 2020 they shared some algorithm rules via their public Instagram account called @creators. We’ll use these public recommendations, along with insights and data shared from Instagram’s approved software partners as our guidepost.
The short-hand synopsis? The algorithm tracks and measures what content a user engages with in order to serve more of what it deems as pleasing to that individual user. Therefore, the more a user engages with a specific account and type of content, the more the algorithm will attempt to deliver similar content.3,4
Before we unpack some follower engagement best practices and strategies, it’s important to map out the customer journey for your followers. The more intentional and premeditated you are with how followers can connect with you off the platform the better. Growing your potential customer database should be a primary focus. Instagram doesn’t allow for direct linking in posts, but does allow for one website link in your profile. It’s important to be intentional with this link and direct followers to a specific page, article or form offering something of value to followers beyond just visiting your main website homepage. You can use platforms such as Linktree or ContactInBio, which enable you to use several links on your Instagram profile. You should include a hero piece of content to encourage followers to go to your website and opt-in to your email list.
Some examples of content that might entice email opt-ins include:
•The ultimate antiageing guide
•10 questions to ask before choosing an aesthetic injector/cosmetic surgeon
•The insider’s guide to facial rejuvenation
You can also utilise a compelling promotional opportunity or entry into a monthly contest in exchange for followers to opt-in to your email list. Then consistently use call-to-actions in your posts, Instagram stories and videos, inviting them to learn more by clicking the link in your bio.
Finally, establish a new subscriber email series of three to five automated emails introducing your new subscriber to your aesthetic practice’s clinicians/staff, while showcasing your unique value proposition, specialties and softly introducing procedures, treatments and products.
Once you have a follower-to-patient journey established, it’s time to maximise the visibility of your posts by focusing on increasing follower engagement. Instagram broadly defines engagement as likes, comments, reshares and views. So creating content that invites followers to interact with your posts will mean greater exposure for subsequent posts. Let’s take a look at some strategies and tactics that will help increase meaningful engagement with your ideal patient followers. Firstly, what defines ‘meaningful engagement?’ Does a ‘like’ have the same value as a thoughtful comment? While Instagram hasn’t publicly said whether or not there’s a hierarchy to its engagement metrics, marketers hypothesise that comments, shares, direct interactions and time spent on posts have greater impact than likes.3,4 Plus, Instagram has been playing around with removing ‘likes’ from the platform entirely in certain markets.5
Famed British advertising executive David Ogilvy once said, “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money.”6 The same principle applies to your Instagram post captions.
When a user scrolls through the feed they only see a limited number of characters before having to click ‘more’ to read the entire caption. Starting your posts with a curiosity-invoking statement or question to entice users to want to keep reading encourages them to interact by clicking to read more.
It’s important to note that studies show people don’t actually read digital content; they are more likely to scan it.7 In school, they teach us to write paragraphs with at least four to five sentences – on Instagram, however, it’s best to have paragraph breaks after every one-to-two sentences to make it easier for readers to scan.
In my experience, leading with content that educates and inspires your ideal patients to achieve their goals is more effective than being directly promotional. Tailor your captions to focus on specific benefits, results and outcomes your patients can expect from your procedures and products, rather than technical features.
Avoid using too much industry jargon and speak using the language, questions and commentary you hear your patients using during consultations. For example, instead of ‘Create more lip volume and projection’ you could try ‘Get beautifully-enhanced lips’, or for younger patients, try ‘Dreaming of a full, sexy, pout? Here are a few things we consider when our little-lip patients have big-lip goals’.
Calls-to-action are direct statements in your captions asking your followers to comment, swipe, like, click the link in bio, direct message or share. Almost every post, Instagram Story or video should have one, and only one, call asking your followers to take some sort of action on the post. The likelihood of your followers responding goes up when you tell them exactly what to do next. These smaller simple asks make it easier for your followers to engage. Plus, it will produce more exposure for subsequent promotional posts that directly ask followers to ‘book a consultation’ or ‘call to schedule an appointment’.
Breaking up educational and promotional content visually through using Instagram’s carousel feature (the ability to load up to 10 images for users to scroll through on a single post) increases engagement because users are encouraged to swipe. Plus, Instagram will automatically show the second photo once a follower has already seen the first photo, encouraging your followers to see more of your content organically. Strategically breaking up your content across multiple images like this helps readers consume your content as well. Experiment with the exact quantity of images to observe what is most effective.
Quick tip: try incorporating before and after images across a carousel post while telling followers to ‘swipe left’ to see a patient transformation.
Replicating some of the rapport and trust from your in-person conversations with Instagram marketing is possible with video content. Connecting with followers by weaving one to three videos per week into your overall Instagram content plan helps reduce the friction potential patients may have by seeing and hearing from your practitioners on camera. A quick breakdown of the five types of video content on Instagram:
•IG post videos: traditional Instagram feed post videos that can be from three to 60 seconds in length
•IGTV: Instagram’s long-form video format where videos can be from one to 60 minutes in length
•IG Live: Instagram’s version of live streaming
•IG Story videos: videos in 15-second clips shared directly inside of Instagram Stories
•IG Reels: this is the newest video feature on the platform (launched August 2020) where users can record 15 and 30 second video clips set to music
Some ideas for Instagram video content include:
•Behind-the-scenes of treatments, procedures and consultations
•Tips and educational videos on procedures, treatments or products while sharing your practice’s unique perspective or protocol
•A behind-the-scenes video showing what a patient can expect during their first visit to your practice
Quick tip: share all video content to your Instagram Stories. Create ‘highlight’ categories (curated collections of Instagram Stories that live directly beneath your user profile) around your products, procedures, about us, behind-the-scenes and testimonials so that visitors can binge-watch your videos directly from your profile.
1. Poll patients to put together a master list of their biggest objections, questions, concerns and goals
2.Take one question or topic and write a brief script for the video. Sample format:
a. Start with a curiosity-invoking hook of what you are about to share e.g. three of the biggest myths about acne
b. Present three to 10 points/tips or one thoughtful anecdote answering the question or presenting your solution
c. Finish with a call-to-action of where they can learn more or connect with you off Instagram
3. Decide if you will pre-record or live stream the video beforehand
4. Once posted, email your subscribers to encourage current patients to engage on the video and connect with you on Instagram as well
Your communication on Instagram should be a direct extension of the personal experience your patients have inside of your clinic. The conversations and commentary happening with patients on a daily basis should inspire your Instagram content planning. Encouraging patients while they are in your practice and through email to connect with you on Instagram is paramount. They are likely to be the most engaged of your followers, in turn, helping your content get more exposure.
Creating a follower-to-customer journey while focusing on increasing organic engagement on Instagram is a recipe for attracting more ideal patients to your aesthetic practice. While the machine-learning algorithm changes and adapts dynamically hour-by-hour, one rule that has remained constant is Instagram’s focus on their user experience.3,4 Aesthetic practices that focus on serving their followers with engaging content that speaks to their ideal patient’s goals and pain points will succeed on the platform.
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