Before you jump into using social media, it's important to take a step back and develop a plan.
Editor's note: This is the third in a 12-article series.
The first step in developing a social media strategy is deciding what you hope to accomplish by using Facebook, Twitter, and so on for your practice. Here are some examples of goals to consider:
> Attract new clients
> Boost your presence in the community
> Create pet health awareness campaigns
> Enhance your practice's image
> Get news alerts and information to your clients as quickly as possible
> Increase traffic through your practice's door
> Increase retail sales
Start by choosing just two or three goals to incorporate into your strategy. This narrows your focus and helps you avoid spinning your wheels. (You can add more ideas as you become proficient using social media.) Then write down the results you hope to achieve and the people you hope to reach-and be specific.
Next, you should outline your plan for the following three months. Sit down with your team-and a calendar-and brainstorm the topics you need to write about in order to achieve your goals and connect with your target audience.
For example, are you looking to create health awareness campaigns and increase traffic through your practice's doors? Then plan a pet health topic to blog about each week. Write each topic on your calendar, preferably scheduling the blog for the same day each week so your readers (aka, clients) start to “tune in” to see what's next. (Don't have a blog yet-or not even sure what one is? Don't worry. We'll focus on blogs in a more in-depth article in the next few weeks. Remember, we're just building strategy now.)
If you blog every Monday, then on Thursdays you should create a follow-up “call to action” that encourages members of your social network to visit the practice. For example, if this week's blog post is about dental health, then your call to action might be a complimentary dental examination for your Facebook fans or Twitter followers only. Then you can track how many of these people came in your doors-did you see a jump in the number of dental cleanings?-so you'll know how your strategy is working. Whatever call to action you decide on, make your audience feel special by offering them something outside the norm.
Take the next week to lay the groundwork of your practice's social media strategy with your team. The next few articles will help you refine your plan by explaining the finer points of listening to your network, as well as developing your clinic's blog and other social media tools.
Brenda Tassava, CVPM, CVJ, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and author of "Social Media for Veterinary Professionals." She's been a social media enthusiast since her teenage daughter introduced her to Facebook in late 2008. Tassava quickly saw the enormous potential and began learning all she could about the social media world. Today, she manages multiple Twitter and Facebook fan pages, including those for Broad Ripple Animal Clinic and Wellness Center, Bark Tutor School for Dogs, and Canine Colors. She also volunteers her time to assist in managing the VHMA and CVPM Facebook Fan pages. She will present on social media at the 2011 CVC in San Diego.
Also in this series
Making social media worth the time and effort
5 basic rules of social media
Creating a social media strategy: Step 1-set goals
Hush up to cut through the social-media chatter
Join the conversation, start with Twitter and Facebook
Converse with clients through Twitter
6 tips for blogging to clients
4 keys to Facebook for veterinary practices
Want Facebook success? Use data to know your fans
Put your practice on YouTube. Here's why-and how
Mobile apps-the future is now for your practice
Social media: You're doing it, but are you managing it?