Instagram, which was picked up by Facebook for a cool $1 billion in 2012, is a photo and video sharing platform. It also happens to be the fastest-growing social media channel du jour. On Instagram you can essentially tell your brand’s story in a creative and visually appealing way, using words, photos, graphics, and/or videos.

Instagram is different from other social networks because it is a mobile platform. You can log in from your laptop or desktop and view your page, but most Instagram activity takes place on the mobile app. Instagrammers are posting, liking, and sharing primarily on their smartphones.

Before jumping on and in, give some thought to the kind of content you plan to post, where you will get it from, who can create the visuals needed, and lastly, who will manage Instagram for you. Getting the whole staff involved is critical to make Instagram work for your practice.

Eight Practical Tips to Make the Most of Instagram

1. Optimize Your Profile

Your Instagram profile is like your business card and will be the first place people will look to find out more about you and your practice. Instagram only gives you a maximum of 150 characters to explain your practice. Be concise, clear, and strategic in choosing your words. If you are mainly a local business, add your location.

The “must-haves” for your profile are:
A high-resolution-quality photo or your logo
A brief description of your practice (a few words, optimized with keywords)
A brief description of what you will be sharing on Instagram (skincare tips, body shaping, diet and fitness advice, or beauty tutorials)
A link back to your practice website URL

If the account is in the name of the practice, it may be best to use your brand’s logo or a graphic symbol. If it is in the doctor’s name, use a headshot. Keep in mind it will be cropped into a circle and appear as a 150- by 150-pixel image on most devices, which is pretty small like a thumbnail.

2. Showcase Your Services/Products

“Insta” is a cool way to show what you have to offer, but it should not be all about you. Increase the number of your followers by offering them educational content, appealing visuals, and creative product shots or other posts that are engaging and likeable.

Ideas for posts:
Behind-the-scenes photos that followers can’t get on other platforms;
Staff or team photos;
Event photos;
Photos shared by your followers;
A demonstration of your services; spa treatment, mock consultation; or
Other photos that convey the culture or identity of your practice—your brand and image.

3. Engage with Other Instagrammers
When you tag someone in a photo, they automatically receive a notification and the photo is added to their “Photos of You” section. This will ensure that they see your image, and it increases the likelihood that they will share the photo with their followers. This is good.

Include the location of your photo or video when it helps tell the story of the image. Use the “Add People” feature to tag accounts in your image when they will help you reach a broader audience. DO NOT tag patients.

Tracking hashtags is one way you can monitor conversations about your brand, products, or the medical aesthetics and beauty industry. This will give you a chance to find out what people are saying, but also to jump in and take part in the conversation.

Another obvious way to engage with other users is to like and comment on their images, and respond to comments on your own images in a timely manner. You can search by username, or choose a hashtag that may be relevant to your practice.
Once you are set up, make sure you let people know that you are on Instagram. Announce it on your website, blog, social media channels, eblasts, and newsletters, and include the Instagram icon and your username on all practice marketing materials.

4. Integrate Your Instagram with Other Platforms

Follow the steps that allow you to integrate your Instagram account with your other social channels. On the mobile app, click the gear icon in the top right corner and choose “Share Settings.” Once you integrate with Facebook, you’ll have the option to share Instagram photos on your personal Timeline, a Page that you manage, or on Twitter.

5. Use Relevant Hashtags

Hashtags are an integral part of Instagram, and most posts should include several to get found. Keep captions reasonably short and pithy. Incorporate up to three hashtags so they don’t detract from the simplicity of the post and the image, which is really the heart of Instagram.

Hashtags are searchable on the key social platforms. They serve as a vital way for people to find and follow you. Use the same hashtags throughout your social platforms for consistency, and add to your core list as needed. Check for which hashtags have robust uploads, which indicates people are searching for them.

It’s likely that your interest has already been assigned a hashtag that is widely used by Instagram users. To gain more connections, try to ride on these hashtags. To find them, go to your search bar and enter a hashtag you are considering. For example, #cosmetic has 2.3 million posts. You are better off choosing a hashtag that is less popular and has a more narrow audience, such as #cosmeticsurgery. (It has 24,398 posts.)

6. Don’t Forget Descriptions

The intro to every post matters. Do not just post a picture without a description, or it loses value. Each graphic requires some explanation of what it is and why Instagrammers should like and share it. Keep it to three lines on your phone because on Insta, it’s all about the visual. Add your location to identify where the image or video is from or where you are when you are posting.
Choose story lines or themes that are authentic to your brand and are best conveyed through captivating imagery. Create posts that follow these themes for a diversity of content that also remains consistent over time so followers will know what to expect. Ask questions to engage more people and start a conversation.

7. Analyze Your Progress

Monitor how your content is doing as you go along. Key performance indicators include likes, comments or engagement, and number of followers, just as you have grown accustomed to on Facebook and other platforms.
Iconosquare.com is a useful tool that offers a way to track what is and is not working. It can help you gain valuable insights into your followers, such as:
Most liked and commented-on
photos and videos;
Optimal days and times for posting;
Frequency to post based on your
followers’ activity;
Best-performing photo filters; and
Statistics about who your followers are and who you are following.

8. Quality Trumps Quantity

Work with your brand or creative team to produce images and videos that are well-crafted. You can recycle content used on other social media platforms, but it needs to be changed up. The Instagram user has different standards and consumes content in a different way than users of Twitter or Facebook.

Amateur photographers beware: Instagrammers have very high standards when it comes to visuals. Edit your images with filters and the other tools available in the Instagram app, or download one of the many Instagram apps that help make your images more appealing. These effects give images that Instagram look that people respond to.

Videos can be only a maximum of  15 seconds, so these are just capturing a brief moment in time. Whether your subject is a person or an object, capture it in a context that gives followers a sense of your brand’s identity or your unique point of view.
Posting high-quality images or videos daily or every other day may be sufficient to keep your Insta growing. The more good content you post, the faster you can build up your followers—the operative word being “good.”

The only platforms that allow you to schedule Instagram posts in advance are used by big digital agencies, although that is likely to change in the near future based on user demand. At press time, Instagram is in real time, so if you are posting about an event or an awards show, do so while it is still going on or it will lose its impact and relevance.

Lewis_WendyWendy Lewis is president of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy, www.wendylewisco.com, founder/editor in chief of beautyinthebag.com, and a contributing editor to Plastic Surgery Practice. She can be reached at wl@wlbeauty.com.