Social networking for your practice--why bother (Proceedings)


Before you jump into using all the tools social media has to offer your practice, its important to take a step back and develop your practices social media strategy.

Before you jump into using all the tools social media has to offer your practice, it's important to take a step back and develop your practice's social media strategy. What is a social media strategy? Like with any marketing strategy, you need to develop a plan for accomplishing the goals you set forth.

The first step in developing a social media strategy is to determine exactly what you hope to accomplish using social media. What are you hoping to accomplish with social media for your practice? Define your goals and objectives, and then write them down so they are concrete and can be revisited. Here are some examples of things you might be considering:

·         Attracting new clients

·         Boosting your presence in the community

·         Creating pet health awareness campaigns

·         Enhancing your practice's image

·         Getting news alerts and information to your clients as quickly as possible

·         Increasing traffic through your practice's door

·         Increasing retail sales

·         Decreasing your presence in the yellow pages while sustaining practice growth

·         Communicating more directly with your clients, or potential clients to build trust

It's important to determine exactly what your focus will be before jumping head first into any marketing or communications plan, or you may spin your wheels needlessly. Start with no more than two or three areas to incorporate into your strategy. Down the road, you can develop more ideas as you become proficient with the use of social media. Write them down, and be specific!

Your next step in the process needs to be to plan your next three months. Sit down with a calendar and your team to brainstorm the topics you need to write about in order to reach your goals and target audience. You can check within the industry for monthly health topics or focuses such as National Pet Insurance Month, or Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, etc. Looking to create health awareness campaigns and increase traffic through your practice's doors? You should plan a pet health topic to blog about each week. Write it on your calendar, preferably the same day each week, so you stay consistent and your readers start to “tune in” to see what's next.

If you do this each Monday, then on Thursdays plan to create a follow-up “call to action”, related to the original blog post for that week. This call to action should encourage members of your social network to come to the practice for something. If this week's blog post is about dental health, then your call to action might be a complimentary dental examination for your specific social media venues only. This way you not only make your audience feel “special” by offering them something outside the norm but you can easily track this to see if your social media strategy is working. You might just see a jump in the number of dental cleanings you perform in the following few weeks! This is what you should track in order to see how your strategy is working.

The third step in developing your social media plan is to develop your material. You want to find an appropriate balance between being educational, entertaining, and a news resource. You should also incorporate questions you ask of your audience, as frequently as possible. Keep in mind that this is a social venue. This means participation by everyone, not just you and your practice. You need to write and post material that stimulates conversation and encourages others to comment and ask questions. Think of it as a cocktail party. If you are the only one talking and talking, giving no one else chance, or simply not asking conversational questions, what happens? You end up standing in a room all by yourself! That will also happen in your social media efforts, as no one wants to continue to follow someone who just blasts information at them, with little or no opportunity to join in.

What do I mean by “be entertaining”? Get creative with your posts. Take funny photographs at work, cute animal photos, or even find an online resource that allows you to repost their cute photos and cartoons. Ask riddles or even tell jokes. Ask for your clients to tell their pet's stories. Clients love nothing more than to share and read about one another's pets. Your overall goal is to build an online community where your clients feel comfortable and enjoy sharing and interacting with not only you, but with one another.

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