Social Media Survival Guide for Vet Hospitals
So you think social media (Facebook, Instagram and the like) are only good for gossiping teens, washed-up celebrities, and documenting the excellent meal you had at that local taco place last night? Think again.
In our upcoming series, Danielle Lambert, a social media guru from SNOUTschool.com promises to bring you up to speed on the ins and outs of all things social media and veterinary practice.
Enjoy Danielle’s first installment: The Veterinary Social Media Survival Guide!
Surviving veterinary business can be tricky, but a strong social media presence can help make or break an animal hospital.
As a veterinarian, you aim to help clients understand pet health to ensure their compliance (after all, their pet will be healthier if they follow your guidance). You spend years building relationships with pet parents so that they trust your professional recommendations. Veterinarians sometimes wrongly assume that their degree ensures that clients will listen to them. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in the age of “Dr. Google”.
What can you do to combat this truth?
Social media, like Facebook or Twitter, can help you continue client bonds outside of your veterinary clinic’s exam room. Establishing a strong presence on several social media platforms will help you connect 365 days a year, rather than during 15-minute annual visits. Before you know it, clients will see you as the source for pet health information online, not their buddy Dr. Google (where did that guy go to veterinary school, anyway?).
This veterinary social media survival guide will help you learn the ins and outs of the current top social media platforms. There are a whole lot of other options, but these 5 will help you start on your quest to survive social media.
The quintessential “social network”, Facebook is likely the social media platform you’re the most aware of. A Facebook business page, different from a personal Facebook profile, is the bread and butter of a veterinary hospital’s social media presence.
From your Facebook business page, your animal hospital can post photos, videos, website links and text-based “status updates”. Even better? Your clients will be able to befriend and follow your veterinary hospital’s Facebook page by “liking” it. By doing so, they’ll see your practice’s updates right in their feed! They can show their interest in a post by “liking” it, commenting on it or sharing it on their own personal page.
Planning on venturing into Facebook? Proceed with caution, because there’s a big catch many businesses miss about having a Facebook page.
Survival on the Facebook frontier requires a little bit of finesse – you can’t just post whatever you want, whenever you want. If your veterinary hospital continually posts status updates or information that pet parents don’t care about, Facebook will not show it in clients’ feeds. The Facebook feed is where most veterinary clients read updates, rather than individually visiting each business page that they “like.” If your practice isn’t showing up in that feed, your precious time is being wasted. Veterinarians and veterinary professionals don’t have time to spare, so make your veterinary Facebook page a great one.
How can you do that? Facebook is all about survival of the most engaging. Think and post like a client, not a veterinarian, when using it. Keep Facebook fun, personal and interesting. Avoid the super technical or overly “eww!” Make the majority of your posts photos or images, and actually respond to your clients’ posts on your page.
For tips on the types of Facebook posts pet parents find engaging – based on my 3 years managing a small animal practice’s Facebook page – read The 3 Veterinary Facebook Posts That Engage.
Not sure if you have a Facebook business page or a personal one? There are posts on my site, SNOUTschool.com to help you find out the difference between the two, how to create a veterinary Facebook business page and tips on navigating your Facebook business page.
Want some final techy tips? There’s a Facebook Pages app, different from the general Facebook app, which helps you specifically manage your veterinary business page. Oh, and that business page will have plenty of analytics data for the nerdy-at-heart.
The newest social media platform veterinary hospitals should be venturing into is Pinterest. Essentially a virtual bulletin board, Pinterest allows users to “pin” images to various boards. The pinned images can be of just about anything- products, animal photos, text graphics of blog post titles, “infographics” full of facts, etc. Little known fact? You can also “pin” videos from YouTube.
Not sure why your veterinary practice needs a Pinterest account? The argument for starting a Pinterest for your animal hospital comes down to three things: Demographics, website traffic, and the “life” of a Pinterest pin.
First the demographics: Pinterest is absolutely dominated by women. Think about your veterinary practice’s clients. If your experience is anything like mine, you have found that women are the majority demographic bringing pets to your clinic and interacting with you on Facebook. Since Facebook can be tricky to master, as explained above, try catching your clients when they’re spending time on Pinterest.
Need more reasons? Let’s talk website traffic.
Pinterest pins can be linked (aka “sourced”) to a website, helping you to drive traffic to your veterinary hospital’s website or blog posts. When sourced properly, a user can click one of your pins and be brought right to your site. (Watch: Video Tutorial on Sourcing a Pin)
Not only that, but many users now utilize Pinterest to search for things instead of Google. Personally, I use it as a search engine of choice for recipes instead of using Google. Why? I like photos, and Pinterest has a lot of them. Pinterest has stated that it is trying to get more involved in search, so your veterinary business is wise to have a profile there.
Just like you have a website so that Google can find you, having a Pinterest account full of informative and fun boards can help current and potential clients find your practice. This is especially true when clients “re-pin” (the term for sharing on Pinterest) your content for their friends to see! Using Pinterest as a search engine is a new trend, but it is one that is growing rapidly.
One of the best ways Pinterest can help your veterinary clinic survive social media, is the fact that your Pinterest pins have a “long lifespan.” Think about Facebook, where your posts fade away down a feed really quickly. Pinterest pins always live on the board where they were posted originally. A client can stumble upon your Pinterest and learn a lot more about your practice than they would from any other social media platform. Why? Because it’s all out there, nicely organized onto boards. Pins I added months ago are still getting attention on my practice’s Pinterest. If you don’t have a lot of time for social media, Pinterest is the platform for you.
Pinner beware: If you choose to re-pin posts from others, check the source. Make sure you aren’t driving traffic to, say, a certain online pharmacy most veterinary businesses don’t want their traffic going to!
No idea what I’m talking about? Check out my post, 5 Pinterest Questions Answered for Veterinarians.
The microblogging site, Twitter, challenges all of you veterinary professionals to send
your message in 140 characters or less. Twitter is comprised of these messages, which post publicly to a feed, that are called “tweets.” Twitter leverages the “@” and “#” symbols prevalently as you may already know (more on this in future posts).
You can tweet generally to anyone who follows you, or you can tweet specifically to another user. Arguably the most social of all social media platforms, Twitter is a great communication tool. You can send simple, text-based tweet messages, or you can include photos and links.
Surviving Twitter will involve a l ittle extra dedication. If your practice is interested in using Twitter, be sure you have a staff member dedicated to regularly checking it. Responding to a tweet sent to your hospital is as important as picking up the phone. I’m not joking. More and more people are starting to see response time on social media as part of their customer service experience, so busy veterinary hospitals beware!
I only recently started to feel like I could give enough attention to Twitter at my practice, and I am currently testing the kind of “surgical patient status update” tweets that Azzore Veterinary Specialists (Twitter: @Azzore) uses. Azzore Veterinary Specialists do an amazing job of communicating with clients about patients in hospital via their Twitter. If this piques your interest, check out the post I wrote about Azzore’s social media work after speaking with their awesome practice manager, Cheryl.
Don’t think your veterinary practice is quite ready for Twitter? Make your own personal account and start connecting (“following”) with other veterinarians around the world. This will give you a chance to check it out before diving right in! Be sure to follow @VMDTechnology and I (@DanielleSNOUT).
Chances are that your animal hospital already has a Google+ account.
Confused? Google connects their local map listings to their Google+ accounts now. If your practice’s location was indexed on Google Maps, you likely already have a profile page to go work on! Investigate this by Googling your practice & seeing if there’s anything you need to be claiming.
Google+ is like a Facebook and Pinterest hybrid, combining the search power of Google with added social benefits. You can follow people or other businesses on Google+ by adding them to different groups, called “circles.” (Add me: +DanielleKLambert) Google+ has some cool, unique features to it. For example, Google Hangouts allow you to video chat with multiple people at once!
If your practice blogs at all, Google+ is a must have social media platform for you. The website pages you link and share on Google+ get cataloged by Google. This helps search engines to find your blog posts, and that’s never a bad thing! Whenever I create a blog post on SNOUTschool.com, I immediately list it to the things I’m an author of on Google+. Extra bonus? If you have a YouTube account, Google can easily connect your videos to be shared on Google+, too!
Admittedly, I currently do not actively try to be social on my veterinary practice’s Google+, but that’s one of my veterinary New Year’s Resolutions! A lot of social media lovers hoped Google+ would go away, but adapting to it is becoming more and more critical to Internet survival.
Google is king of the Internet, so it would be wise for us veterinary hospitals to play along if we want to keep up!
I mentioned the opportunities Twitter can offer for networking with other veterinary professionals, but LinkedIn is the ultimate online networking tool.
This social media platform, which allows you to have a resume-style profile, is a fantastic way to befriend other veterinary industry members. You can start out by connecting with people like myself or VMD Technology “head techy”, Dr. Caleb Frankel.
With LinkedIn, you can directly connect with individuals or join groups that focus on specific subjects. For example, I recently started a Veterinary Social Media Group on LinkedIn. If you’re looking to find other veterinarians interested in using social media, that new group will be growing into a great resource.
Employers also list job postings on LinkedIn. If you’re a new veterinarian (or just in need of a little career change), creating a great profile on LinkedIn and actively searching listings might help you land your next veterinary dream job!
Finally, don’t survive, thrive!
Surviving veterinary social media sure takes a lot of learning and testing, but the payoff is great when it’s done correctly. Getting new clients, educating current clients, increasing compliance on your recommendations and client retention are all possible through a strong social media presence.
If you haven’t started with social media, I hope this post motivates you to do so. If your veterinary practice has a Facebook page, start increasing your presence online with other platforms. The more places you are online, the more you will stay top-of-mind and prevent clients from switching to Dr. Google.
If you need any help along the way, check out the tutorial videos and step-by-step social media posts that I’ve created at SNOUTschool.com. Have more questions? Reach out to me on the social media platform of your choice!
About the Author
Danielle K. Lambert is a social media coach and founder of SNOUTSchool.com, the only social media tutorial site created by a veterinary professional, for veterinary professionals. Danielle bases her coaching on experience gathered as a veterinary practice manager at Quinebaug Valley Veterinary Hospital in Danielson, CT. In her spare time, she enjoys taking too many iPhone photos of her Brussels Griffon, Archer, and screaming at Tom Brady every Sunday. You can find Danielle on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn (Archer, however, prefers Instagram).