Why Advocate Health Care is on Instagram

Less than two months after joining Instagram, a popular photo-sharing site, Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care has more than 670 followers. Stephanie Johnson, Advocate's director of public affairs, isn't surprised.

"Looking at the data we had on hand, it became clear that you see the most engagement when people have the least amount of work to do," she says. "Often people don't want to write something, just share an image. They don't want to read a post, just see photos."

The health system had already seen success with a Pinterest account, another social media site based around image-sharing, and Instagram seemed like the next logical platform to add to Advocate's social media presence, she says.

Mrs. Johnson's observations about Instagram use is mirrored in Pew Research findings. According to Pew Internet, 12 percent of adult Internet users report using Instagram. The number of users is poised to grow, as 27 percent of Internet users between ages 18 and 29 report using Instagram. Additionally, 46 percent of adult Internet users post original photos or videos online, showing the habit of taking and then uploading photos is native to almost half of Americans.

"Instagram is both very popular and allows us to get a strong visual out there," says Mrs. Johnson. "It also literally allows our audience to engage with us in an instant."

Advocate's first major Instagram campaign, #StoriesoftheGirls, coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and encourages women to upload photos of their "best girl moments" using the hashtag for chances to win prizes. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of breast cancer care and prevention as well as Advocate's services.

"We knew being on Instagram would be an easy way to get women to share their pictures," says Mrs. Johnson. "So far, it's been working great," noting more than 100 women have uploaded photos in conjunction with the contest.

All these photos allow Advocate to get a literal picture of their patient population. "It really tells us a lot, in terms of marketing," says Mrs. Johnson. Citing market research that has found women make a majority of a family's medical decisions, she says the contest and the system's presence on Instagram has allowed Advocate to see the passions and priorities of health care consumers in the system's service area. "It's a really good way to see the diversity of the people we serve and see what's important to them," she says.

The contest and Instagram also allow the system's patient population to connect with one another, says Mrs. Johnson, and fosters a sense of community among Advocate patients. "The photos from the [#StoriesoftheGirls] campaign have all been really touching and sweet," she says, "and they allow other users to see other like-minded people who are also served by Advocate."

Advocate plans to continue contests similar to #StoriesoftheGirls over the coming months to continue to engage its community. Upcoming campaigns will revolve around military appreciation, giving back during the holidays and heart health awareness, says Mrs. Johnson, topics selected to continue the trend of focusing on what is important to Advocate's patient population.

Mrs. Johnson expects to see similar levels of engagement throughout the upcoming campaigns and ultimately views such marketing and consumer engagement techniques as a crucial part of brand-building. "It's about and will continue to be about meeting consumers where they are," she says. "Giving them options on how to engage — that's the best strategic approach to engage consumers, now and in the future."

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