A Practical Veterinary Social Media Strategy – Why? What? How?
Facebook. Instagram. Pinterest. Twitter. Snapchat. It seems like each day a new social media platform sprouts up and vaults to the top of the list. With each promising a unique offering to help us better connect to each other, it can be difficult to know what the true value of each platform is, and what differentiates them.
In the world of a busy veterinary professional, this can be challenging and frustrating. We are often told how we need to “stay with the times” and employ new, modern tools to communicate with our clients. However, when the tools are changing and evolving so rapidly, it can be difficult to know which ones are worth devoting time to.
Separating fluff from function in the social media space has never been easy. We are going to touch on a few timeless principles to help make your social strategy resilient and effective in the face of change.
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Connected Content Your clinic is full of stories. Each person and patient who passes through the door brings in a unique perspective and experience to the hospital. Consider capturing and sharing those stories.
One of the questions we often hear from practitioners is “What should I be posting on my social media sites?” Though there is a time and a place for funny cat pictures, don’t dilute your practice’s online assets with generic media when you can be showcasing elements of what makes your practice unique.
From pictures of the newest litter of golden retrievers to seasonal pet tips, these types of stories are often entertaining and engaging for your audience. Keep in mind, the majority of your viewers don’t spend 40 hours a week around animals, so things that seem to be a daily occurrence for you will be intriguing and exciting for them.
A couple of important things to consider if you are sharing stories from within your practice:
Client permission and transparency is critical. Have an upfront conversation with your client about what you would like to use and how you would like to use it.
Create consistency. If your clinic decides to post an interesting case every week, ensure that this actually happens! Communicating responsibility within your team is something we will touch on later.
Use common sense when selecting media pieces. A photo of a pet having a physical exam is one thing and a picture of a gory wound is another. When in doubt, stay away from images that you feel might make your audience uncomfortable.
It will be frustrating to put a lot of effort into social media if your client base is not connected with you. You need to build and maintain a robust online presence to ensure you will have the effect you want.
Having an informative and useful website is a critical first step since you want to link clients back to your website directly from social media. The combination of a great website and effective social media keeps your clients connected between visits to your practice. However, in order to foster this connection, clients must be aware of your social presence.
Here are a few questions to ask to see if you are maintaining that connection:
Do you have information and links to your online properties on practice signage, brochures and business cards?
Does your team talk about your website and social media sites when clients enter and leave the practice?
Are your social media links visible on your practice website and easily accessible from a number of different pages?
How do you respond to client queries on your social media pages? Who is responsible for doing this? What is the policy for addressing medical questions?
Do you post clinic activities, updates, and news on your social sites? Do you engage in any cross-marketing activities?
It is best to think of your online followers as an extended part of your practice community. Much like you wouldn’t leave a patient callback unattended or unanswered, it is important to engage with that community so that they feel they are valued members.
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Connected Practice Your practice is only as good as your team and this extends into the online space as well. Using social media requires buy-in from the entire practice to be successful and a clinic-wide commitment will make things easier for you in the long run.
Here are some final tips to encourage clinic members to participate in your social activities.
Hold a Kick-off Meeting Set some time aside to explain to the team what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how they can be involved.
Set Transparent Objectives Don’t be vague here. Create accountability by setting clear targets. For example, we want 25 of our clients to become our Facebook followers this week and intend to accomplish this by having a picture contest hosted on our page.
Make it a Part of Daily Responsibilities One of the most common mistakes I have seen is that clinicians will simply layer this on top of the existing responsibilities of a receptionist or other team member. While it is important to have a point person, there must be consideration and clarity around the commitment and expectations.
Incentivize Action Why not get your team to nominate their favorite case of the week and the clinician/technician team responsible for the care receives a small gift card or other token of recognition? Simple things can go a long way.
Lead by Example Yes, you are busy practitioners, but setting a good example goes a long way to show your team that this is a priority. Even something as simple as a “case of the week” post will demonstrate to the team that social media presence is an area that is important to the practice.
About the Author
Dr. Adam Little is a veterinarian and entrepreneur whose passion is to work on creative solutions addressing human and animal health issues. He is a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph and the Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University. Dr. Little has founded multiple ventures at the nexus of technology and the human-animal bond. He now serves as Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships within LifeLearn where he looks at the fastest moving technologies and how they can be applied to animal health. Follow Dr. Little on Twitter or reach out over email.