Hashtags aren’t as frivolous as you may think. Although they may seem to be a practice solely used by teenagers on social media, incorporating hashtags into your Instagram posts can help potential customers find you online.
Before we dig into how your medical practice can use hashtags to strengthen your Instagram strategy, let’s break down the basics of what is a hashtag.
A hashtag is comprised of a pound symbol (#) followed by a word or a phrase. Primarily used on social media, hashtags allow users to tag their content and create a unique index of posts identified with that hashtag. Many users forget hashtags are a way of indexing content, so they are often used incorrectly. When used the right way, you can connect with an audience that shares similar interests or is looking for something specific.
According to an infographic by Hubspot, “hashtags make it easier for people to find and follow discussions about brands, events, and promotions.” We use hashtags to broaden our audience and categorize our social media posts. For example, on Instagram, people can search by hashtags. So if someone was searching for #PlasticSurgery, they could type that in and every post tagged with that particular hashtag would come up. People use hashtags to do research, to find new accounts to follow, and to find information on specific topics or campaigns.
Now that we’ve clarified what a hashtag is, let’s take a closer look at why your medical hashtags matter on Instagram.
Hashtags Make Your Content Easier to Find
In recent posts, we’ve talked about why your medical practice needs to be on Instagram and how to get started successfully, but the whole point of being on Instagram is to build relationships, provide value, and inspire your ideal patients to contact you. To do that, your target audience must first be able to find you. That’s where hashtags come in.
Hashtags are used for a wide variety of things - events, conferences, disasters or emergencies, holidays, and even general topics or interests. There are even multiple hashtags for every day of the week! Let’s dig into the types of hashtags you can use for your practice.
Events or Conferences: Most likely any event or conference you attend today will have a unique hashtag associated with it. The host’s hope is attendees will use the hashtag on their personal/business social media accounts to share that they are attending. The goal is that people will create a buzz around the event, be able to find information easily, and create a sense of comradery among attendees.
We recently attended Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing conference, and their hashtag was #Inbound16. Since the event, there are more than 9,700 posts tied to that hashtag on Instagram alone.
Holidays or Celebrations: Part of creating an engaging Instagram account is to include a mix of product/service information as well as fun and more personable content. Holiday or celebration hashtags can be a fun way to do this. There is practically a holiday for every day of the year - like #WorldNutellaDay or #NationalDonutDay. While these days are not entirely relevant to your practice, they give you a way to post something other than medical-focused information. This helps you share your personality with your patients.
General Interest Topics: While we encourage you to use specific and unique hashtags, it’s still a good idea to include more general/broad hashtags like #PlasticSurgery on your posts. These hashtags don’t have to be entirely focused on your practice, however. You can do fun hashtags like #WinterWonderland, for example, if you wanted to show the outside of your office during a beautiful snowstorm. These types of posts again show your audience more about your practice than just the services you offer.
Popular/Standard Hashtags: There are some hashtags that have become so popular, they are considered to be standard. For example, #tbt references “Throwback Thursday.” Every week on Thursdays, people post pictures of themselves when they were younger or events from years past. Another popular one is #MotivationMonday - when business owners or medical practices will showcase what they are working on and how they are tackling the week. There are dozens of hashtags for each day of the week you could choose from!
Hashtags Increase Your Reach & Patient Engagement
As we’ve mentioned before, hashtags are a way to index your content and make it easier for people to search for you. What this really means is you will be able to reach a broader audience. You never know what type of hashtags people will be searching for, and if you used that hashtag, you would come up! Not to mention, when people are searching for something specific, and they find it on your page, they are much more likely to comment and engage in your content. Here are two ways to get the most out of your hashtags.
Start a Conversation: Whenever you can, we highly encourage you to start a conversation on Instagram. Have a beautiful photo paired with an insightful description and well thought out hashtags. At the end of every post, ask a question.
This format will encourage potential and current patients to read your post and comment. It will also help you attract people who are searching for those hashtags. If they see a quality picture, they will be more likely to click on it. Once they are looking at your picture, if they read an enticing caption and a thought-provoking question, they are more likely to join in the conversation and answer your question.
Join a Conversation: Social media is one of those things that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. As important as it is for you to use hashtags, it is also important for you to search via hashtags and look at other people’s accounts.
As an industry leader, search hashtags relevant to your field and find other people who are making strides. This doesn’t mean you have to have conversations with your competition, but it does mean you should pay attention to what is going on around you. You can also see if potential customers are using hashtags relevant to your business - who knows, they may have posted a question you can answer as the expert!
Hashtags are Easy to Use on Instagram
While all of this talk of hashtags may seem a bit confusing or overwhelming, it is quite easy to use hashtags on Instagram. The question we get asked most often is how to come up with meaningful hashtags and second, where to search for them on Instagram.
How to Come up with Hashtags: The first step is to make a list of the different types of posts you think you’d like to share on Instagram. Make it a good mix of topics - everything from about your team to plastic surgery services to products to success stories. Then, branch out to community events, fun holidays, and other topics you and your customers care about.
Under each category, list phrases that would be relevant to your audience. If you have a list of keywords you used on your website copy, this is a great place to start. What kinds of things do you think your audience will search for? Try to make these specific, but not too unique that people won’t search for them.
Here's what your search could look like:
How to Test Your Hashtags: When you are creating your list of hashtags, it is important to test them and make sure people are actually searching for those tags. A great way to do this is directly within Instagram. Here’s what you need to do:
Login to Instagram
On the bottom bar, you will see a magnifying glass. Click on that.
A search bar will appear at the top of the window, click on it.
Four options will appear: Top, People, Tags, Places. Select “Tags”
Type your potential hashtag within that window. As you are typing, related hashtags will come up as well. This is a great way to add more ideas to your list.
Under each suggested hashtag it will also identify posts associated with that hashtag. While it is fun to come up with your own hashtag, you want to make sure most of your hashtags are being used/have interest. But you also want to stay away from the hashtags that have millions of posts - your content will be hard to find!
While some people may be afraid of using hashtags, we hope this information has helped you better understand this aspect of social media. Hashtags are an easy way to get yourself out there and market your medical practice strategically (and for free!). The key is to use hashtags correctly and take the time to research which ones are the most optimized and appropriate for your practice.
Ready to create an Instagram strategy? Contact Outlet Creative Group today!