Social media – from Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram and beyond – can be a complex and seemingly unnavigable landscape. And I’m certainly not going to pretend to know all the answers or possess the keys to unlocking the secrets to social media success; however, particularly within the veterinary industry, there are a few rules of the road that can help guide your practice’s social media experience and make it a more effectual one.
If you haven’t noticed by now, customer service and the client experience are central to creating a great veterinary practice. We always want to make our clients happy, and although that may not happen every time, we still strive to provide that excellent level of care. This approach to customer service can translate to your social media presence, as well. Practices sometimes make the mistake of only generating social media content when they have a sale going on or want their clients to buy something, whether that be a service or new product, etc. Instead, generate content that engages with your clients. Engaging with your clients can mean posting tips on how to prepare their pets for colder weather, or sharing an article from AVMA on a health warning for a certain medication, or even simply sharing a funny pet video. Remember, your clients are human, they always have questions, concerns, or even doubts about their pets every day. And they also love their pets unconditionally. So, when you are generating social media content that engages your followers, you are ultimately engaging their humanity and connecting with them on a personal level that transcends the practice-client relationship. Don’t be afraid to post or share content that you connect with, because chances are your followers will connect with that content, too.
Speaking of followers, DO NOT stress about the number of followers your practice has on Facebook, Twitter, etc. As far back as 2010, the Harvard Business Review was posting articles challenging the impact and importance of follower numbers on Twitter. It is important to keep in mind that, as a veterinary practice, you should ultimately be concerned with reaching your clients first, and potential new clients second. The number of followers you have may not necessarily generate similar levels of engagement and exposure. What is more important in engaging with your existing followers and maximizing the number of likes, comments, and shares you generate from your actual followers. A practice may have 5,000 followers on Facebook, but only generate 1-5 shares and 20-30 likes per post. Another practice may have 450 followers, but is generating 10-20 shares and 100-200 likes per post. The practice with 450 followers is ultimately the more effective of the two, because they are connecting with and engaging more of their followers, and their followers are responding in greater numbers. So, don’t stress if your follower numbers aren’t where you think they should be. The emphasis should be on engaging with your existing followers with the maximum effect, generating likes, comments and shares. Remember, if a client likes, comments, or shares your post, that client’s friends will be able to see your post (and therein you find the very nature of social media).
PRO TIP: Do not be afraid to invest a little extra and ‘Boost’ your posts on Facebook. Practice owners are often wary of spending that extra dollar or two on ‘Boosting’ their post because they don’t feel it will actually work. But, ‘boosting’ your post will help it appear more frequently on your existing followers’ News Feeds and the News Feeds of potential clients in your area, allowing for more views and more frequent engagement with your posts. (This can be especially helpful if you generate a particularly engaging post that you want to have greater viewership to promote your practice. Selectively ‘Boosting’ certain posts is a great way to test the feature and see if helps your social media engagement)
So, if there’s one thing to take away from all of this, it is a message I have been returning to a number of times throughout this blog: customer service. You can never do enough to engage with your clients and strengthen the bond between practitioner and client. Social media, when used correctly, can extend your customer service platform beyond the brick and mortar of your practice and help to connect your with your clients on a more personal and human level. The key, I believe, is not being afraid to give your practice a distinctly human quality when it comes to social media and generating content. Don’t be afraid to celebrate holidays, share laughs, and provide a little extra service or help beyond the confines of a scheduled appointment. Your clients might just love you a little more for it.
Here’s that Harvard Business Review article back in 2010, a fascinating read on how to potentially impact your Twitter presence: https://hbr.org/2010/05/influence-and-twitter
 I know it says “rules” here, but think of them more as guidelines, rather than steadfast and unbendable truths