“Look at Instagram as your opportunity to share exclusive behind the scenes access to your veterinary practice.” – Eric D. Garcia
The social media sites with the highest traffic in 2017 aren’t just getting millions of views; they’re receiving billions of them. That’s right, as of May 2017, Facebook is averaging almost two billion visitors per month. The exact figure, according to online source Statista, is 1.94 billion.
When I first started talking about Facebook and using their platform as a focal point in my presentations, they had just broken 500 million users back in 2010-2011. Since then, they’ve catapulted to the top of the index when it comes to heavy-hitting social networking platforms with the largest global impact, achieving an almost unfathomably large user base in the process.
YouTube comes in second with about one billion monthly visitors, but guess which social media site comes in third? If you guessed, Instagram, you’d be right; coming in on the heels of YouTube with 700 million monthly users.
Instagram however, which centers around posting, liking and commenting on pictures and short video, has a key difference from other social platforms like Facebook and YouTube that I often discuss.
Instagram is a platform that may already extensively showcase your veterinary practice… even if you’ve never set up an account.
In fact, there is a very good chance that your practice is already on Instagram (also known as Insta for short) because of geolocation tagging that exists as a major function of the platform. This location feature within Instagram, allows people to share and post their location, wherever they are. Check it out for yourself, visit Instagram.com or download the Instagram app. To easily look up your location page, simply type in the name of your practice. You’ll see a listing come up, like this one:
This listing at the top with the little pin and your address is the location that Instagram has already created for you.
Very few practices know that this location listing exists. It’s like both Google and Yelp, where the listing was created for you by using a database of businesses. The biggest differentiating factor is that, with Instagram location tagging, you can’t leave reviews and you can’t claim your listing (at this time).
People are social by nature, so when pet owners are sitting in the waiting room, right after the veterinarian leaves the exam room, they might just take out their phone and start posting!
In fact, they probably are.
This is how the conversations about your practice on Instagram starts in the first place. After all, who can resist a selfie with their beloved pet?
What this ultimately means for you is that if you haven’t started using Instagram to interact and engage with pet owners who are already posting about your veterinary practice, you’re missing a major opportunity!
Your veterinary practice can immediately tap into its existing user base by liking and commenting on photos, and by posting your own. This can serve as the perfect opportunity to offer pet care tips, send a quick thank you, offer condolences for a pet whose final moments are posted to Instagram by the pet owner (it happens often) or anything else that truly lets the client know that they are appreciated. If you haven’t set up your account yet, it’s certainly not too late. Currently, there are close to 6 million posts that use the hashtag #dogsofinsta and almost 55 million using the hashtag #catsofinsta (yes, let the rivalry continue).
A hashtag, by the way, is just a way to tag your photos. Hashtags categorize or describe the picture or details at hand. So, when I post a picture with Elvis and Penny, tagging #dogsofinsta is an easy way to reach more viewers and gain more likes.
To get started, you’ll need a practice owned smartphone (or iPod Touch). Then you’ll need to download the Instagram app, even though you can browse photos through the Instagram website, you’ll need to have the app downloaded and logged in to post photos or short videos to your own account.
Now, without further ado (and if you promise not to use too many hashtags), let’s start using Instagram to interact with pet owners in fun and meaningful ways.
Get started by taking these simple steps:
- Download the latest version of the app to avoid bugs and ensure you have the best version possible at your disposal. Make sure you use a practice owned device, and pick a user handle. Your handle is your social media short name and should contain the keywords of your veterinary practice name. My handle is @EricGarciaFL and I use it consistently across social media channels to make sure veterinary practices and pet owners can find me easily.
- Switch your account to a business profile by following these simple steps (https://www.facebook.com/business/help/502981923235522). This is important because it will unlock a full range of advertising and analytics options that are otherwise unavailable. Don’t forget to include a bio, your website, your practice phone number and a nice, high-resolution logo.
- Now, download the free Perch App (perchapp.com), which will automatically notify you via email and/or push notification when a pet owner or client tags your location on Instagram. Since you can’t control whether your veterinary practice is listed or what people post with their location tag, the Perch App keeps you a step ahead by notifying you instantly when a post is made.
- Finally, it’s time to start posting! Look at Instagram as your opportunity to share exclusive behind the scenes access to your veterinary practice. Post compelling pictures of your hard-working team and the occasional selfie to let pet owners know who’s behind the camera (as if I needed to convince you to take another selfie!) As long as they sign a photo-release form, you can even post pictures of pet owners and their pets. In general, have fun with it and don’t look too surprised when you see new likes flooding in almost instantly after posting! One of the most fun parts of Instagram is the immediate feedback you’ll get after a great post.
- Finishing touches on a great post can include hashtags that appropriately describe your local area, theme or mood. For example, #Happy #TampaBay #DogsofInsta (with emojis optional) might be the perfect addition to a post with you and your dog’s outside on a sunny day.
By creating an Instagram account, converting to a business profile and using Instagram just like pet owners do, you’ll tap into something very special. People share photos of their pets and themselves not because they must, but because of the incredible joy that these pets bring and the fun of it all!
The more you tap into this feeling and share this bond with those coming to your practice, tagging pictures and commenting along the way, the more you’ll see that your pet family is even bigger than you first thought it was.
Now that’s something worth posting about.
Follow me on Instagram at @EricGarciaFL!
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