Based on guest post by Sophie, Onswitch.

It’s a fair bet that everyone reading this knows exactly what social media is. It’s also pretty certain that most of you are regular users…

As of January, 2018:

  • 6 in 10 Australians use Facebook
  • 1 in 2 Australians use Facebook on a daily basis
  • 1 in 2 Australians use YouTube
  • 1 in 3 Australians use Instagram
  • 1 in 6 Australians use Snapchat
  • Facebook is the number 1 social media channel – 15,000,000 Monthly Active Australian User

Source: Vivid Social

Given the enormous influence that social media has on every aspect of our lives, it’s simply inconceivable that a practice would not use this platform for communicating with clients; especially when you consider that as a medium it’s fast, free and highly effective.

Making the most of your social media presence

So your practice has a Facebook page, but how and when should you use it? Let’s take a look at some simple tips to help you do it right:

  • Allocate somebody specific responsibility for keeping Facebook up to date and checking in several times a day
  • Add new content daily (but not more than three times a day!) It can be helpful to create a running monthly calendar of topics to feature.
  • Put plenty of photos and videos up – people love to look at pictures of funny or cute animals
  • Do make sure you get written permission from clients to publish images and details of their pets. You can easily add some standard words to the bottom of all your practice literature saying something like “I am happy for images of my pet to be used for practice marketing, which will include social media: YES or NO”, and the vast majority will be more than happy to oblige.
  • Ask clients to leave testimonials and reviews on your Facebook page – these will feature in a potential client’s Google search for your practice. If you receive a poor review, address the issues raised professionally, with a polite reply
  • Aim to create a vibrant social media community for your practice – direct clients to your website and feature links there to blogs, related content and back to your social media pages
  • Steer clear of politics and really contentious issues (hunting, animal testing etc.)
  • Create a library of ‘how to’ videos and post one to your page each month. How to.. worm a cat, de-flea a dog etc. All done with warmth and humour as appropriate to show that your practice understands what it’s like to share your life with a pet
  • Make sure that the tone and messages featuring throughout your Facebook page are consistent with your practice ethos and branding
  • Using correct spelling and grammar ensures a professional feel
  • Get a practice smartphone for updating statuses and adding photos quickly and with minimal disruption to the reception desk
  • Check the practice page three or four times a day so you can reply quickly to any questions or messages. Equally, if anyone has left any inappropriate content, you can respond to it swiftly
  • If negative comments are posted, don’t delete them, deal with them. If there is a genuine issue, detail what you are doing to rectify the situation. If it’s just griping, ask the poster to come in and have a chat with you
  • Don’t tolerate bad language or spiteful comments. You can delete persistent offenders’ posts after you’ve warned them you will do so. And always report trolls or truly nasty comments direct to Facebook
  • Facebook advertising is a great way to drive word of mouth recommendations and boost client numbers. It’s very cost effective as you can specify the location, age and gender of your target audience, so you can be sure that your message will be delivered to people in your area who are ready and willing to spend money with you
  • Aim for 1,000 Facebook friends for every Full Time Equivalent vet at the practice

I’ve got a Facebook page, what next?

Given its expansive reach, Facebook is undoubtedly the best place for your practice to start with social media. Once you’ve created an engaged community of Facebook friends, then Twitter is a good second step – with its 140-character maximum it’s great for sending quick messages and reminders. Twitter is most useful for promoting real-time events and messages: drop-in clinic starting now (posted at the end of the working day to remind owners they can call in after work), reduced price flea treatments for the first ten replies etc. It’s also extremely useful for following veterinary bodies, pet stories and local media, for immediate notification of news and relevant issues.
Increasing numbers of practices are featuring blogs on their websites, but if you’re going to commit to this, do make sure it becomes a regular post. Nothing says ‘average practice who’s trying to be relevant, but really doesn’t get it’ like a blog that’s a year old. On the other hand, a short piece recent featuring an interesting case or characterful patient demonstrates that you are truly passionate about pets and love what you do.

Of course there are plenty of other social media platforms: Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram and so on, each with their own demographic and unique appeal. Given that these are predominantly designed to deliver instant messaging and visual imagery however, they are generally less useful for client communications. Google+ is potentially more useful for veterinary practices – an online social media platform that connects users with others with similar interests and passions, through a series of distinct circles and communities. So work colleagues don’t see your sister’s baby photos and clients don’t know that you turned 40 at the weekend with a particularly messy party! However, despite its potential to become an extremely powerful platform for owners seeking professional veterinary advice (it does not feature adverts) Google+ is not widely used by practices; and that’s probably unlikely to change.

It’s time to fully embrace Facebook!

The arguments for using Facebook as an effective, engaging, free, quick and simple communication tool are clear.

If your practice is not using Facebook, quite simply you’re not only missing a huge opportunity to connect with owners but you’re showing potential clients that your practice is backwards in its outlook (and they won’t fail to infer that your approach to customer service and clinical care way well be the same).

Let’s face it – right now at least, Facebook is it!