If you aren’t on Facebook, does your business even exist? What about Instagram? LinkedIn? Here’s how social media can help your business grow. By Lynne Testoni
For most vets, the reason they entered the profession (and trained for all those years) was because they loved animals and wanted to help them stay healthy and happy.
However, once you are running your own veterinary practice, you become so much more than a vet—you are a business owner. And that means you have to learn new skills and take on different roles; including roles that you may not be prepared for or trained in.
This is where things such as marketing come into play—and social media. While your 16-year-old daughter might be pushing you to get the practice on Instagram and Facebook, is she right? Does a modern veterinary practice need to be active on social media? Or is it best left to teenagers?
Matt Pearce, a senior strategist at creative agency, We Are Social, says that it’s becoming more expected for even small businesses such as veterinary practices to have some level of social media presence.
“You don’t have to be on every single channel, creating multiple updates all of the time,” he says. “But people are increasingly spending more and more time on social media and there’s a bit of an expectation that the brands and the businesses that they engage with are on there. They use social media as a way to stay up to date and get the latest news.”
Time needed for social media
Odette Barry of Odette & Co. agrees that it might be useful to have some sort of social presence but says that you don’t need to invest a lot of time maintaining your social feeds. She does say, however, that social platforms can help get you found on Google and other search engines, which might have more long-term benefits for your practice.
“I think that, given how well optimised social media platforms are for search ability, you absolutely must have an account that contains the keywords for your brand,” she explains. She adds it’s also important to include your geographical location in all your social media profiles.
“It’s often going to be your location that’s going to be the primary driver of how people find you.”
Co-director of digital agency The Bubble Co., Renee Francis, says that one of the best things about social media is that it puts businesses on a level playing field, allowing smaller businesses such as veterinary clinics the same access as a large multi-national corporation.
“If you set up social media, you can target the same 10,000 or 100,000 people that really big businesses are targeting.” she says. “Because when you’re online, you can represent yourself any way you want to. So you can look a lot bigger than you are.”
Francis says that social media provides lots of data on your customers too, so you know who you are targeting and exactly how they are responding to your content.
“All the data is there,” she explains. “It’s all measurable and you know exactly what’s going on. It’s actually the perfect avenue, with really small startup costs and set-up fees. So it’s perfect for small businesses.”
Where should you start?
All experts say that while it’s good to have a profile on a few social media platforms, you don’t need to be active on all of them. “If you are talking to consumers, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are your top three,” says Francis. “So if you’re covering at least two of those, then that’s a good place to start.”
Odette Barry includes Google on that list. “Make sure the key platforms of Google My Business, Facebook and Instagram are set up so that people can search and find you,” she adds. “However, when it comes to managing a content calendar, and regularly updating it, I would say that is less of a priority.”
What should you post?
Another co-director at The Bubble Co., Sarah Jones, says that vets are in an ideal position to access the most popular (read: animal) posts on any social media. “That engagement and connection between customers and animals is quite emotive, so you get the brand awareness and engagement, especially with Facebook,” she says.
“A lot of people like Facebook because it can create a community of animal lovers and engagement that gives you long-term brand loyalty.”
Controlling your own database
But what about those all-important algorithms that people talk about? Facebook, in particular, is famous for changing the rules all the time, making it hard to keep up. The key, says Odette Barry, is to use social media mostly as a way of encouraging people back to your own website and onto an email list, so you can maintain direct contact away from social media through newsletters and the like.
“While social media can be tempting, it’s important to keep the conversation between a veterinary clinic and their customers to email as much as possible, where you can control the message and you are not beholden to the algorithms used by the likes of Facebook and Instagram,” she says.
“People are so much more responsive on their email. And if you haven’t been really active on social media, it’s quite likely that people are not going to see your content, because of those algorithms. So you’re better off working on building your email database, so that you can send out essential things such as, ‘It’s tick season’, or ‘There’s a local virus outbreak’.”