Socially Acceptable columnist Caitlin DeWilde, DVM, is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm helping veterinary professionals learn to manage and grow their social media, online reputation and marketing strategies. She earned her DVM from the University of Illinois and is a recipient of its Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Before stepping back to focus on her marketing passion, she served as medical director for a large hospital in St. Louis. Today, she divides her time between practice, consulting and writing. She is the author of the “Social Media and Marketing for Veterinary Professionals” textbook.Read Articles Written by Caitlin DeWilde
An essential non-medical addition to your vocabulary should be ROI, the acronym for return on investment. In the context of social media, ROI is the value your veterinary practice gets out of all the posts, videos and blogs you publish. What’s important to remember is that value isn’t just dollars and cents. Sometimes, value also depends on your objective.
If your objective (your practice’s reason for using social media) is getting appointments booked, then each click on your Facebook ad is worth a standard exam fee. But what about less tangible or less quantifiable objectives? Things like improving client loyalty or brand awareness? They still have value, but the exact dollar amount is harder to correlate.
The issue has two solutions:
- Assign a dollar amount to your objective’s goal. For instance, if your goal is to improve brand awareness, you might decide that a 20% increase in your page’s reach to potential clients might be worth $5,000.
- Acknowledge that you don’t need to put a monetary number on your objective’s goal. In the above example, hitting a 20% page-reach goal is valuable in and of itself.
Regardless of your choice, you can gain valuable data on what’s working and what’s not, which money is best spent, and what resonates with existing and potential clients.
Tracking your practice’s marketing ROI is crucial for several reasons. Financial accountability is an obvious motivator. Meanwhile, calculating ROI can help veterinary practices identify where their efforts are being used or wasted. Quantifying the success of your marketing will demonstrate its impact on your business and help prove the concept to the team and management, which, in turn, improves staff buy-in and overall success. Finally, quantifying ROI can help you better understand your audience, from its demographics to its interests.
Before You Get Started
Here’s how to make an ROI assessment in an organized, manageable way.
- Look at all the costs: Remember that you’re not just investing money in a paid social media ad. You’re also investing in how much you pay your social media manager and the tools or software they used to create, curate and schedule the content. Get a handle on your social media manager’s wages, how long the person spends on a particular project and the technical costs — all money spent before content is ever published.
- Know your “why”: Clearly defining the objective is a vital part of any social media success, and it’s imperative when calculating ROI. Having multiple objectives is OK, and they can change. Examples include increasing revenue, improving brand awareness and client loyalty, getting more appointments from existing clients, and gaining new clients.
- Set a goal: When success is difficult to quantify, looking back to your “why” and initial goal can help put the data and results in perspective. Think of these as SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based). For example, a practice might want to increase the number of senior dog visits. While it’s a laudable goal, quantifying it can be difficult. Using a SMART goal allows the practice to define and track its success.
Compare these two examples:
- Traditional goal: Increase the number of senior dog visits.
- SMART goal: Increase the number of visits by current senior canine patients (older than age 8) by 15% compared with the same period last quarter. Track the results by running a report on senior canine exam service codes in the practice information management system. The goal is attainable because the practice hasn’t been marketed to the owners of senior dogs, so any new appointments booked will be an instant improvement. The goal is relevant because your data shows that 34% of dogs over age 10 aren’t seen at the practice in the 18 months before their euthanasia. Revenue from patients seen over the last year of their life averages $660. Surely the practice can help these patients and improve revenue while doing so. You set a three-month deadline for achieving the goal.
Remember to start with a baseline. You can’t calculate ROI or progress without knowing where you began. So whenever possible, run a baseline report or download your initial social media statistics so that you can best track your success.
Also, involve everyone. When your team members know your practice’s goals and understand the “why,” they’re more likely to help you succeed. This is especially true when your receptionist enters new clients and the referral source into your practice management system. When team members understand how the practice uses the data, compliance improves.
An Easy First Project
Look at your new-client registration form. Is social media driving business to your practice? More importantly, do you ask about your social media? If the registration form doesn’t specifically ask new clients how they heard about your practice, you’re missing critical information that could help you better spend your time and energy.
An open-ended “Where did you hear about us?” question followed by a blank line is unrewarding. Instead, list specific social media platforms, put a checkbox next to each and document the referrals in your PIMS. Then, run a baseline report and repeat each quarter to see where your new clients originate.
Advanced ROI Tracking
If you’re tracking how clients find your practice, high-five yourself and then spend time identifying your practice’s primary marketing objective. Once you’ve identified it, you can employ additional tracking measures to get an even better handle on your ROI.
- Facebook Ads Manager gives much more information than the ad center available on your practice’s page, allowing you to dive deeply into the Facebook and Instagram advertising metrics. It also allows for more advertising options and split testing to refine an ad’s success and lower the costs over time.
- Facebook Pixel is a small piece of code that can be embedded on your practice’s website to track users and their activity when they arrive via a Facebook post or ad. In addition, the code can help create a custom audience so that you can retarget people on their social feeds. An excellent analogy for how it works is you shop for a particular item online and then it miraculously appears as an ad in your feed the next day.
- Google Analytics helps you track visits to specific pages of your website so that you can make sure your new Instagram ad drove pet owners to the new-client page and see which social platform is the biggest overall driver of traffic. If your objective is to increase your page followers or overall social media engagement, Facebook’s Business Suite or third-party tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can reveal your social media statistics over a particular period.
Using the Information
Making sense of all the numbers, graphs, clicks and metrics can be difficult. Most of the tools mentioned and your practice management software might produce more data than you’d ever need. Start with your “why” (your social media objective) and look at your goals. Then, identify one or two key metrics that will help answer “Are we meeting our objective?” For example, if your objective is to attract more new clients through a Facebook and Instagram ad campaign, the primary assessment will be your Facebook and Instagram referral numbers. If you aimed to reach more potential clients, ignore all the engagements, impressions, likes and clicks. Just look at reach. Don’t get bogged down in the metrics when you’re starting out.
Calculating your practice’s social media ROI can be tedious but is very valuable. By setting a SMART goal, establishing a baseline and establishing a system to track and analyze the data, you’ll learn the actual value of the time and money your practice puts into social media, and you’ll be able to refine the process. All this will lead to a more cost-efficient social media strategy, reduced team workload, better insights about your clients and a social media presence that works.
WHAT’S YOUR ROI NUMBER?
According to the multinational company Marketing Evolution, the rule of thumb for a marketing return on investment “is typically a 5-to-1 ratio, with exceptional ROI being considered at around a 10-to-1 ratio.”
“Anything below a 2-to-1 ratio is considered not profitable,” Marketing Evolution stated, “as the costs to produce and distribute goods/services often mean organizations will break even with their spend and returns.”
Learn more at bit.ly/3C9LiwM.
These social media return-on-investment calculators will appeal to data nerds and novices: