8 tips for implementing social media in your veterinary practice

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Now's the time to get social with your clients. Here's how to get started.

If you're struggling to implement social media in your practice, Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Ernest Ward Jr., owner of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., can help. Here are his tips for launching your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

1. Remember that it's not about the numbers. Amassing thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook friends doesn't help you if they're not clients or potential clients. Your goal, Dr. Ward says, is to connect with your client base. So a few hundred local friends are a lot more valuable than 1,000 people across the country.

2. Set your goals. Dr. Ward says his practice has two goals. The first is to provide up-to-date information like the practice's current specials or pet food recalls. He also encourages doctors to post updates about unusual cases they see. The second goal is to raise awareness of products and services. Dr. Ward says that some of his clients still don't know he offers pet weight loss services. Social media offers him the chance to remind clients that his practice provides treadmills and other services to keep pooches' paunches in line.

3. Market your services. Dr. Ward says effective online marketing can potentially change clients' buying habits. Over the years he's used contests on Facebook and Twitter to promote his practice. Just remember, before you plan a contest check with Facebook's legal guidelines (Visit dvm360.com/facebookcontest for more on these guidelines).

4. Engage readers. When you post a link, retweet, or share a page, don't forget to pose a question that asks the reader's opinion and solicits a response. Questions like "What do you think?" or "Have you ever seen this?" encourage the reader to get involved.

5. Create a crew to manage your media. Dr. Ward recommends making all of your practice's doctors administrators of your social media efforts. You may also appoint additional key personnel as needed to help distribute the workload. While social media efforts take only a few minutes a day, make it a team effort so no one gets burned out.

6. Plan regular updates. For Facebook, Dr. Ward says to shoot for no more than one post a day and no less than one post a week.

7. Follow people you respect. If you're just getting started, Dr. Ward recommends following people you respect who post interesting things. Then you can simply repost things clients need to know.

8. Make sure it's worth sharing. Dr. Ward says the easy out is to post the cute pet video. But sharing the news that helps clients will help you create a strong reputation in your community.

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