It’s no longer news that social media outlets have earned their place in the marketing mix. For organizations with fewer resources to devote to self-promotion, platforms such as Instagram™ offer an unbeatable price tag and an increased potential reach (600 million active, monthly users).1 Perhaps even more compelling is the fact that these platforms are all about community building – a natural for independent pharmacies. So what exactly does Instagram offer for pharmacy marketing?
A Way to Connect Now
Now owned by Facebook™, Instagram is uniquely photo-centric. Posts consist of an image (or short video) and caption. This contrasts with other forums that are more text-heavy. Many companies use Instagram in an inspired way (look up Letterfolk™ or Staples®), but a recent study in the Journal of the American Pharmacy Association found that less than a fourth of Instagram’s pharmacy-tagged posts contained self-portrayals of that business. Only 1.8 percent advocated for the pharmacy profession.2
This leaves a lot of ground for pharmacies to make an impression. Instagram is not difficult to learn, and there’s no need to master every in-and-out of the platform. Success comes from having a plan, posting regularly and most importantly, offering a window into your business’s true personality. A main theme to remember is that social media favors authenticity and community.
A Tool to Share Who You Are
What makes your pharmacy special? Your pharmacy is naturally different from other pharmacies in identifiable ways. Publicize your uniqueness with pictures of iconic physical features, memorable local products, favorite employees and special initiatives, like immunization clinics or walking clubs. Go behind the scenes to capture aspects of the business that customers may not usually see, such as early-morning deliveries or continuing education time. You might also want to consider highly popular Instagram themes. For example, on Throwback Thursdays (#tbt or #throwbackthursday), many Instagram users post old photos using hashtags. This is a prime opportunity to showcase a long-standing or family business.
What’s your background? Introduce followers to your pharmacy’s staff by posting photos of them deeply focused on a task or laughing with a customer. Use captions to share tidbits about their years of service, area of responsibility or even favorite sports team. This helps build credibility, trust and loyalty. (As always, privacy concerns should be honored.)
Do you have useful advice? Health and well-being are enormous areas of interest on social media. Pharmacists, particularly independent pharmacists, are well positioned to provide trusted guidance here. You might institute regular Instagram posts that combine a memorable pharmacy image with a health tip. If you post about health topics during nationally recognized time frames, such as American Heart Month in February, and use related hashtags, you could increase your posts’ reach.
Who is your community? Social media platforms are about sharing and community. They also tend to be aversive to head-on sales pitches.3 Remember your community in your Instagram posts, just as you do during normal business. Snap a photo of a local event, share a post about a citywide initiative or capture a meal at a favorite nearby lunch spot. You can also ask customers to show off their photos and then respond to them via Instagram likes and comments.4
A Natural Fit for Independent Pharmacies
As a media platform that favors authenticity, community and equal footing for all, Instagram seems tailored for promoting independent pharmacies. It is a free, technically easy and popular tool to appeal to people’s growing desire – more than 8.6 million hashtags and counting – to #shoplocal.
- Only works fully on mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, not on desktop computers. It’s available for free download at the Apple® App or Google Play™ stores.
- Sign up using an email address or Facebook account.
- Functions (and their icon): Search (magnifying glass), Add a photo or video (camera), Like (heart), Profile (human figure), Settings (gear, under your Profile).
- Terminology (and definition): Post (a single image, including any caption and hashtags), Follower (an Instagram user who chooses to see all your posts), Likes (a way to show appreciation for a post), Stories (photo sequences that expire after 24 hours).
- Use hashtags. These phrases that begin with the pound/number symbol are used to label posts (for example, #pharmacy). People search Instagram using hashtags to find images about specific topics. Search results display the number of posts with a certain hashtag, offering a glimpse into popular topics.
- Setting your smartphone to take square photos makes posting easier.
- Consider using social media-savvy employees as a resource.5,6
Beyond the Basics
- Creating great visuals. Captivating images take thought. The Content Marketing Institute’s “Visual Content Look Book: 25 Examples,” available online, is a good resource.
- Planning posts. An Instagram account that starts with a flood of posts and dries to a trickle will lose followers. Do a search for “editorial calendar” at www.hubspot.com.
- Keeping brand consistency. Creating a template to re-use with similar posts, such as health tips, saves time and creates a cohesive, recognizable brand. Software options include PowerPoint; learn more at www.socialmediaexaminer.com/create-graphics-for-social-media/.
- Running promotions. Offer perks, such as a discount at the register if customers show they follow you, or a giveaway with the winner picked from users who repost a certain image with hashtag.
- Measuring results. If you sign up using Facebook, convert to a business account for data on follower engagement. Consider other tracking programs as well. An internet search for “Instagram analytics tools” displays top options and many are free.7,8
1 Kolowich, Lindsay. “14 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now.” HubSpot. Feb. 21, 2017. Web. 6 April 2017. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/instagram-best-brands
2 Cabral, David. “White Coats on Instagram: What Does Pharmacy Look Like?” Pharmacy Times. March 17, 2017. Web. 6 April 2017. http://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/white-coats-on-instagram-what-does-pharmacy-look-like
3 Hemani, Moosa. “4 Common Social Media Mistakes Every Business Should Avoid.” Campfire. May 8, 2015. Web. 6 April 2017. https://enveritasgroup.com/campfire/4-common-social-media-mistakes-every-business-should-avoid
4 Morrow, Theresa. “9 Social Media Tips for Community Pharmacies.” Pharmacy Times. July 5, 2016. Web. 6 April 2017. http://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/theresa-morrow-pharmd/2016/07/9-social-media-tips-for-community-pharmacies
5 King, Cindy. “13 Instagram Marketing Tips from the Experts.” Social Media Examiner. July 22, 2015. Web. 6 April 2017. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/13-instagram-marketing-tips-from-the-experts
6-7 Gausepohl, Shannon. “Instagram for Business: Everything You Need to Know.” Business News Daily. Jan. 3, 2017. Web. 6 April 2017. http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7662-instagram-business-guide.html
8 Linn, Michele. “Use Visual Content to Engage Your Audience: 9 Tips and 25 Examples.” Content Marketing Institute. April 24, 2014. Web. 6 April 2017. http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2014/04/visual-content-engage-audience-tips-examples