We’ve come a long way since Chelsey Walters, social media manager, reported on the possibility of pharma using Instagram in 2013. More and more, Instagram is becoming a viable social channel for pharma, if used in the right way. So here are five reasons we believe pharmas should take a new look at Instagram.

1. Visual content is still on the rise
According to marketing.linkedin.com, visual is the new headline across all social channels. On average, 94% more total views occur on content with captivating images. Images with accompanying text are liked twice as often as posts containing only text. Visuals also generate more impactful influence. Of course, this trend parallels the ongoing growth of mobile use.

2. Facebook reach is falling
As stated by a recent L2 study on marketingland.com, many brands are shifting to Instagram because of falling Facebook organic reach. Facebook constantly tweaks its content ranking algorithm, which affects organic reach. Today, brands must practically pay for posts to see anything close to yesterday’s levels of engagement. This leaves the door wide open for Instagram to gain traction in the social world, as they offer better organic reach and do not require high advertising dollars to reach followers. And, as stated above, visual content has continued to become the preferred method of message delivery.

The L2 report found that the 250 brands it tracked posted an average of 9.3 times per week on Instagram and 8.8 times on Facebook in the fourth quarter of 2014. Posting frequency on Instagram is up 23% over the last five quarters.

3. New moderation capabilities
As pharma marketers know well, the lack of control in the social space can pose extra risk for brand discussions held there. However, Instagram now offers new moderation abilities, making compliant engagement on Instagram still possible in a regulated industry. While a user comment cannot be intercepted and deleted before it’s posted, it can be deleted afterward. This alleviates the hassle of deleting the entire post in order to remove any questionable associated comments.

As an extra precaution, there are even some apps you can download on iTunes, such as Spotless, which claim to delete unwanted, abusive, promotional or general spam comments on Instagram automatically.

4. Analytics
As with any social platform, there needs to be a reliable tool to measure performance and engagement. Iconosquare.com offers Instagram analytics on typical stats such as likes, comments and followers, along with a rolling monthly analysis, content and hashtag habits, engagement rates, and optimization insights, which allow you to target new photo posts to times when followers are most likely to engage.

5. Pharma is already testing the waters
There is certainly an abundance of disease state awareness activity on Instagram already, signifying healthcare conversations are happening there. A recent search showed 215,000 photos tagged with #cancerawareness; 713,000 with #cancersucks; 673,000 with #diabetes; and 143,000 with #arthritis.

According to an article by PM360, “… marketers, consumers and Instagram users, some of whom serve more than one of these roles, at the very least have their own health concerns in common. Opting to use the most effective, current, and trending tools available to reach each other with life-altering and, sometimes, life-saving solutions lets us add value where our audiences are.”

Consumer packaged goods in particular are all over Instagram — their audiences use Instagram, their brands have relevance there and, of course, they aren’t limited by the same regulations as Rx products. OlayObagi and CeraVe are a few CPGs effectively engaging in the space.

You might be surprised to learn that even some major pharmaceutical companies have embraced Instagram, including NovartisGenentechBayer HealthCare Animal Health and Eli LillyBoehringer Ingelheim was the first pharmaceutical company to join Instagram in September 2013, and they currently have 124 posts and 828 followers.

Taking a New Look at Instagram
Instagram is evolving every day, and new features are constantly being released. Instagram just announced a new app called Layout, which allows multiple photos to be displayed in a single post. The app is currently available on iOS only, but an Android version is on its way. Instagram posting capabilities were slightly restricted before, only allowing one square-shaped image per post. The new Layout app will give brands more flexibility and the opportunity to post a collage of varying image sizes in one succinct and engaging post.

Now more so than ever, there is an opportunity for pharma to welcome Instagram into their social ecosystem. While healthcare information is typically complex, images have been shown to further increase understanding. In fact, this study found the comprehension rates of medication labels increased from 70% to 95% when text was accompanied with a photo.

Instagram is a single social platform and just one of many, many options for communicating within today’s social sphere and the broader, integrated marketing mix. As always, brands should closely consider their own objectives to determine if Instagram is a strategic fit for their brand goals and audiences. With the popularity of visual content, the fall of Facebook reach, and new capabilities such as moderation and analytics, Instagram just might be right for brands wishing to connect in the visual social sphere.