If social media marketing hasn’t boosted your practice’s profile, it’s time to re-think and revitalise your online presence, reports Kerryn Ramsey.
If you’ve spent valuable time getting your social networking up and running but it isn’t working, it’s time to rethink your strategy. There are direct and measurable results from social media, such as traffic directed to your website, keeping clients satisfied and loyal, and using it to advertise events, specials and programs that will bring people into the practice. Here are 10 tips to revitalise your social media marketing.
1. Who’s your audience?
Prospective customers used to turn to the Yellow Pages, but now they search online, googling vets in their suburb. Convenience is a priority but they also check testimonials and referrals. “The old concept of word of mouth now operates in a digital space,” says Mark Brown, chief content strategist of Engage Content*. “If a customer can look at a vet’s social media channels and see they are active, engaged with their patients and have great outcomes, that’s very convincing.”
2. What topics should you cover?
While it’s important that your practice is seen as professional, vets have access to some of the most popular and shared subject matter across the internet—pets and animals.
“People don’t engage with seriously academic material and that is what a lot of vets tend to write,” says Dallas McMillan, a Queensland vet now running Influential: The Digital Agency for Professionals. “What gets traction on social media is pictures, whether they’re cute puppies, the team, your favourite client or the staff working at a charity dog wash.”
3.When are you posting?
Timing can be critical. “The best way to know when your target audience are online and what it is they want from you on social media is to ask them. A quick survey in your practice or via email will give you some very valuable insights.”
Mark Brown suggests handy software—the popular Hootsuite, and CoSchedule, the calendar format of which makes it easy to use. “CoSchedule has some good analytics that let you know what resonated a month or even a year ago,” he says.
4. How do you get more followers?
Collecting followers is more than a simple numbers game. Followers who are active and involved are much more valuable than followers who never engage. “Your current customers and supporters lead you to your next best customer,” says Kate vanderVoort, founder and CEO of Social Mediology. “Make it easy for everyone who comes to your practice to connect with you on social media. If you post engaging content that adds value, then their engagement with that content will be seen by their networks. People tend to be connected to others like them. This is how you grow an organic community of people who care about your practice, your products and your services.”
5. What’s the best social platform?
There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube—and that’s just the main ones! There aren’t enough hours in the day to maintain a presence on every one so choose two or three and focus your efforts there. “Start with Facebook, then if you have time and want to go one step further, try Pinterest,” says Brown. “Make sure that every six months, you check what’s around and ask your patients and clients what they’re using.”
Dallas McMillan notes that photo sharing sites, such as Instagram and Pinterest, are increasingly important. “Pictures of animals are almost a secret weapon for vets,” he says.
6. How much time should it take?
Maintaining your social media can be time consuming but you don’t have to do it all on your own. Spread out the duties among different staff members.
There are also scheduling tools that can make posting to social media quick and easy. Brown suggests it can be as basic as an Excel spreadsheet. “This is where you put in each piece of content you’ve posted and have columns for how many times it was liked and how many times it was shared. Take note which ones received comments and what was shared. Take a snapshot of the content that worked.”
7. How do you share posts through social media?
Once you’ve posted a blog on your website, are running a special offer, organising a fundraiser or have some exciting news, post it on your website and use social media to encourage people to read it.
“It’s important to post great content and interesting blogs, then use social media to amplify it,” says Brown. “Just post the link from the blog over onto Facebook, then Facebook will post any picture that’s associated with it in the headline. You may need to tweak the headline so it’s posed as a question. That way you’re engaging people and inviting them to comment.”
It’s also important to monitor your social media. “People will assume it’s the official communication channel,” says McMillan. “While most vets wouldn’t dream their clients would send them anything urgent as a Facebook message, they will. A lot of people use Facebook Messenger like an email account.”
8. How do you measure results?
There are various ways to measure your results, says vanderVoort: “Be clear about what behaviour you want to influence, then do social media advertising and use conversion pixels. This is a code you can embed in your website to track exactly what happens on your website once people get there. Then you know which ads are effective and which drive the best results.”
9. Is it well written?
“Google rewards well written, well-structured content,” says Brown, “but producing content can take a lot of time.” If that’s the case, try content services, such as Engage Media’s Your Blog Posts (yourblogposts.com). “We’ll interview a vet for an hour and after that, we will generate 12 professionally written blog posts,” he says. “The client then has a year’s worth of blogs that can be published once a month. Seeing patients and putting money on the bottom line is a better use of a vet’s time rather than spending hours writing content. Somebody who writes for a living will produce better copy faster.”
10. How do you fix mistakes?
Do some research and prepare for mishaps. Decide whether to delete abusive posts, determine what to say to angry customers, and create a social media policy for your clinic.
“You want to avoid any public displays of dissatisfaction and immediately move toward a more intimate personalised situation,” says McMillan. “You can say, ‘Oh Wendy, I’m really sorry to hear that’s happened. I’ll give you a call or come into the office so we can work this out.’
“This publicly shows that you’re taking it seriously and you’re addressing it in a positive manner. At the same time, you’re moving the grievance from the public sphere to the private.”
*Engage Content is a boutique content marketing agency owned by Engage Media, publisher of this magazine.