How We Stayed Social in 2016

Marketing Assistant at atdove.org, Emily Bachelder, gives tips on how to best engage clients through social media outlets.

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Social media isn’t going away. It’s growing at exponential rates around the world, and this is good news for veterinary medicine! A new avenue to educate clients and create growth opportunities? Yes, please. Social media can deliver more clients, informed clients, and clients that trust you. But all of this depends on understanding the various platforms and knowing what to post online. Read on to learn what’s new in 2016, what’s the same, and what’s important for veterinary medicine.

A few things before we get started:

  1. For this article, I’m going to assume a moderate level of familiarity with social media. If you’re fairly new, I recommend the RACE-approved lecture ‘Grow your practice with social media’. This is a great primer for atdove.org members, and I suggest starting there. Once you’re up and running, come back to this article and we can talk turkey.
  2. Social media is constantly evolving. This article may not be the most up to date by the time you read this. Please refer to specific social channels for the most current information.
  3. This article contains many pictures of my dog. You have been warned.

Dog in computer chair

What’s new in 2016?

There have been a lot of changes in the past year but most notably the rise of video.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest all have native video support built into their platforms. We saw Instagram add ‘Stories’ and Facebook add live streaming to keep up with new kid on the block Snapchat.

Let’s talk more about changes on Facebook.  Many of you use a Facebook business page, and heard about June’s algorithm change. The new algorithm promotes content posted by friends and family over companies and pages. This means you’ll definitely see photos from your cousin’s wedding, but may miss teasers for your favorite TV show.

As a user, this sounded great! A more relevant news feed full of things I care about! As a business page admin, this sounded bad. A more exclusive news feed makes it harder to reach clients I care about...

It’s now a few months in and I’ve made some adjustments. Here’s the biggest takeaway: the new algorithm favors shareable content. What does that mean? Let’s say you post about your clinic’s new Fall hours. That’s important and informative, but it doesn’t reach a lot of people. That same post accompanied by a cute animal picture will reach more people, because viewers will be more inclined to share the post (for either the information OR the image). These are referred to as ‘organic shares’, as opposed to sponsored ads.  This share is visible to sharer’s network, folks you might not know how to reach on your own, who are often regionally based. That share created better visibility for you, reaches new clients and bolsters your reputation. It’s challenging to create informative posts that are also shareable, and may take some trial and error to figure out what’s right for you.

Dog in raincoat

Pro tip: Make sure you have photo consent.  ALWAYS protect client and patient confidentiality. That means removing identifiers on cool radiographs, and asking if it’s okay to post a cute pic of a patient. When in doubt, ask.

What’s the same?

As much as social media has evolved, there are still plenty of constants. First, it’s still a valuable marketing tool for big and small businesses. An active, engaged social media presence yields higher placement in online searches. Do prospective clients a favor and make your practice easier to find online!

Social media still works to reinforce your website.  For example, Facebook is the dominant platform (for the US). This social network might not be the right fit for everyone, but for the majority it is an absolute must. Why? Because a Facebook page can provide the same information as your website while also building a community. You can pick and choose which client testimonials to put on your website, but social media is more transparent. Users vet you with reviews or share their success stories, recommending your staff and clinic to other pet owners.

But it’s not always so rosy, right? Users can praise and endorse you, or post a wild fabricated story. Either way, it gets posted on your page. But! Negative comments are an opportunity to publically respond and demonstrate great customer service. Managing your online reputation is increasingly important as social networks grow.  

What’s important for veterinary medicine?

A big lesson for new adopters is to choose a few outlets and do them well. Regular, engaging content on two platforms will beat occasional posts across every platform. Choose are few that are right for you and your audience. It’s all about quality over quantity!

Once you’ve really hit your stride, it’s time to be consistent. Create regular habits of posting, and set aside time to respond to comments. This sounds like asking for the impossible from a vetmed professional, but bear with me! It’s worth it. If you don’t regularly monitor your profiles you’ll miss helpful feedback, or worse, have an angry review sitting on your wall for weeks without a response (which doesn’t look great).  You’ve probably noticed big companies using their social media as a customer service outlet. It’s a public and awesome way to show how you work with clients to address concerns and accept feedback.  So carve out time or create a recurring event to manage your social media: schedule a post, say ‘Thanks’ to some positive comments, and handle any negative communications. It’ll pay off. It’s your reputation you are actively managing, and that’s a massive ROI in itself.

Ready to engage with clients and support your practice’s growth? Here’s a short list of ideas to inspire your next post:

showcase client stories, baby animals, recognize staff achievements, interesting cases, cautionary tales, happy customers, events, seasonal advice, educate about a common preventable illness, clinic updates, fundraisers, holiday hour changes, pets reunited with owners, fun holidays and awareness days, contests, giveaways, and video updates

If you want even more ideas, you can always ask! Ask your fans and friends what they want to see. More pictures? More tips and advice? They can let you know in the comments.

Remember the Facebook algorithm in that first section – how sharable content helps you reach more people? The internet was made for animal pictures, and posts with photos do significantly better than those that are only text. It’s a visual medium, use it to your advantage.

One final note as you embark on your social media journey is to match your online tone to your real-life tone.  Your online presence is a reflection of your offline business. So, if your clinic prides itself on top notch expert care, share about complex cases, advice for owners, or staff credentials. If your clinic is known for making clients feel a ‘part of the family’, share about life-long patients, spotlight new staff and events. Every practice has its own personality, and your social media can show just that!

Summary

If you are active on social media you know how important it is for #vetmed. These platforms give us the chance to connect with peers across the world, to commiserate and celebrate our industry. But social media is also a powerful tool to attract clients and keep the trust of repeat customers.

If nothing else I hope you’ll remember:

  • Socialization is important for clinics and practices too
  • Social media is a 2-way street that requires your participation 
  • Incorporate images and videos to reach more people
  • You don’t need to do it all - choose 1 or 2 platforms and be consistent

Happy posting!

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