Social media has caused a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.
Social media has caused a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. When most people think of social media, they think of Facebook…and they should. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world, right behind China and India.
· According to Socialnomics, by Erik Qualman, Facebook added 200 million users in less than a year!
· There are more than 60 million status updates on Facebook everyday.
· Word of mouth is now world of mouth.
If more people are using Facebook than any other site on the Internet, it only makes sense that you have a presence. Your presence can be a personal one, a professional one, or a business one. When I say personal or professional, I mean that as an individual you need to give some thought to the way you interact and portray yourself as an individual on Facebook. Whether you are a veterinarian, practice manager, technician or any other support staff member, you are part of a professional veterinary team. You need to make some choices and think things through before you post things online. You should also learn about privacy settings and make sure yours are set the way you want them.
If you are a veterinarian, should you “friend” staff members? That is completely up to you. However, you should avoid problems by either “friending” everyone or deciding to friend no one from the workplace. As a leader in the practice, you can't appear to play favorites or take sides. Personally, I don't request staff as friends on Facebook, but I always accept friend requests made by staff members. As a result, about 50% of my current staff are friends with me through Facebook.
Your clinic Facebook page should be set-up as a business page. Until recently, Facebook users could become Fans of businesses and celebrities. Facebook changed the Fan setting to a “like” setting, so that Facebook users now “like” businesses and celebrities. Apparently, Facebook felt there was less commitment involved in liking something than becoming a Fan, and felt this change would increase the number of people following specific businesses and celebrities in their personal news feeds.
Now that your clinic has a presence on Facebook, let's look at some “best practices” that will stimulate interactions with people. After all, social media is first and foremost about being social…this means stimulating conversation!
· A great thing to do is ask questions. By posting questions like “What was the name of your first pet?” you will get an incredible response from people. People love to tell stories and when you ask the name of their first pet, this brings back wonderful memories they like to share.
· Posting pet-friendly photos with a comment are another way to get interactive with your fans. Be careful, though…your demographic is by and large women who love their pets. Photos of a dog that has faced a porcupine or a nature shot of a snake striking a mouse are not appealing to your demographic, no matter how cool you think they might be!
· Post links to your latest blog post. This will drive traffic to your practice website and keep your clients informed.
· Post news about your staff, along with photos taken in the clinic. Your fans want to feel a part of your practice, and learning more about the people who work there goes a long way in building that relationship.
When you first explore the world of social media, you might begin with Twitter. After all, Twitter has been mentioned over and over again by the mainstream media over the past few years, as in “follow us on Twitter” for more information. Twitter was huge during the last presidential election, and has continued to be widely used by news programs and celebrities worldwide.
So what is Twitter, really? It is technically a form of micro-blogging in a short format, using 140 or less characters to answer the question, “What's happening?” This is where a lot of people begin to wonder what the point really is. Who cares what's happening in someone else's world? Well, Twitter is much more than just a bunch of random answers to that single question. Twitter is actually a conversation. To be more precise, Twitter is made up of millions of conversations streaming through a single online portal.
Once you start following “tweeps”, you'll begin to piece those conversations together. Why is that important? Follow this thread:
Sims: Our new family member is home from @IndyHumane! http://tweetphoto.com/9392466
(This was a real post by one of our clients on a Saturday afternoon. By clicking the link, I was able to go and look at the client's photo of his new dog! I was then able to reply)
BRACpet: @Sims How cute!!! Little boy or girl…and what's the name?
(By using the @ symbol in front of my client's Twitter handle, he was able to quickly see that I was speaking directly to him. He responded several minutes later with this response)
Sims: Girl and her name is Kaia. @BRACpet: @Sims How cute!!! Little boy or girl…and what's the name?
(Here you can see the client reposted my question and answered it. This effectively let others know what question he was answering. It also did something very special….it showed all his followers that his veterinary clinic was having a conversation with him and was interested in his new dog!)
BRACpet: @Sims Bring Kaia in real soon….we'd love to meet herJ Have a fun weekend with her!
There were a few more cute photos posted within the thread and some more conversing back and forth. Once you realize people are actually talking to one another, the conversations are fairly easy to follow! When I showed this thread to members of our team in our weekly staff meeting, I had one client service representative exclaim: “You mean you talk to our clients through Twitter?!” Yes, I do! And when I do, hundreds (or thousands) of others can see that conversation and hopefully, they will think to themselves, “WOW! There's a veterinary practice that really cares about their clients and patients. That's what I'm looking for!”
In addition to conversations, Twitter is the perfect forum for releasing new information about your practice by way of links. Due to the limitations (140 characters) of tweets, tweeting links to your practice's website, blog articles or even Facebook posts will drive readers to your information by way of your posted links. This will drive more traffic to your blog and website, and hopefully through your front door.