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
Most of us use social media personally and professionally. But how can we do it safely and effectively and not crash our work-life balance? Here are three strategies for keeping your use of social media in a healthy balance on the job and at home.
1. Be Aware
Knowing how long you spend on social media is one of the first steps in better managing your time. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok allow you to check the time spent on their platforms and, in some cases, set a daily reminder of when you hit a predefined limit.
For veterinary team members whose duties include managing their practices’ social media accounts, the time required to post content and monitor online review platforms isn’t tracked often. Generating content and making graphics or ads look “just so” can take hours. So, start the stopwatch the next time you produce and schedule your practice’s posts for the week or month and see how much time passes.
A veterinary practice should have transparent policies regarding social media time and activity. The guidelines are essential for setting expectations. For instance, your policy might state that a team member isn’t expected to monitor comments and messages on the weekend. Or it might note that the practice manager will respond to client reviews twice a week during a scheduled marketing time slot. When the team knows that someone dedicates an hour every Tuesday to work on posts, for example, they’re more respectful of the person’s time and will cause fewer (ideally no) distractions.
Similarly, be aware of when and how social media grabs your attention. Push notifications are notorious for pulling you in when you might not need or want to be. For instance, you’re focused on a patient, but the push notification dings your phone, and you quickly log in with one tap. Most push notifications relay a simple “like” or “thumbs up” on a post or image, yet they suck us back into the platform, causing us to lose precious time. I recommend checking the notifications you receive and from where (push, text or email) and disabling what you don’t want.
From the clinic perspective, I don’t need to know every time someone likes a cute picture of a team member with a patient. But I want a notification when someone reviews the practice, tags us in a post or sends a message. Even better, the notifications can be set to arrive in a daily digest instead of as they happen.
What might be best is to send notifications to the team’s Slack channel or social media manager’s email account for handling while on the clock. When notifications come to our phones, separating our work and personal life is difficult.
The easy solution is to navigate to your practice pages’ settings, evaluate the notifications and choose where they go and when.
2. Define Your Goals
Understanding the average time you spend on social media when away from work might be the wake-up call you need to impose a limit. Consider how much time you want to spend and how it might change depending on your daily or weekly goals and schedule. Maybe you’re picking up an extra shift this week, so you’ll have less time for social media, or perhaps an hour of TikTok videos is exactly the activity you need to decompress. There is no right or wrong answer, but consider setting goals.
At the practice level, determine the appropriate amount of time based on the return on investment. I could spend hours creating the perfect infographic in Canva, but the payoff often isn’t there when you use the artwork in a single post. Being cognizant of the time constraints and needs is critical.
When it comes to marketing, work with your practice’s leaders to determine the primary goals. For example, how much are they willing to invest in marketing as far as labor, paid advertising and software?
If you’re a marketing team member, make sure your job description and social media time commitment are well-defined. Ideally, look at the who, what, when, where and why. For example:
- Who is responsible for the social media platforms?
- What are they expected to achieve?
- When do they work on social media? Can they do it outside the practice or only when on the clock?
- What electronic devices can they use?
If the policies and goals aren’t clearly defined, now is the time to do it. Remember that you don’t want team members working on content that doesn’t perform, isn’t appreciated by the practice team or clients, or isn’t in the budget.
3. Utilize the Resources
Many third-party tools and software, as well as general principles, can make the time spent working on social media more efficient and effective. I’ve written about some of them in other articles.
One of the best time-management strategies involves the Pomodoro Technique, which has been around forever and is something I wish I learned in veterinary school. It involves focusing on a task for a set period, say 25 minutes, rewarding yourself with a different activity for a shorter period (perhaps five minutes), and then repeating. Subsequent breaks, managed with an app or traditional clock, are often longer. More techy apps include Forest, Be Focused and Pomodoro. I’ve found that the Pomodoro Technique helps me get my work done.
My advice to hospital and social media leaders is to model the behavior you want your team members to embrace. For example, if your clinic decides to respond to social media comments and messages during business hours only, stick to the policy and don’t jump on a notification that arrives at 10:30 p.m. Setting boundaries with staff members and clients has a trickle-down effect. If clients are used to contacting a particular team member online or getting a response on the weekend, the expectation is set.
The same goes for team communications. If you don’t want to deal with a text message on your day off or in the evening, don’t answer it until the appropriate time, and don’t message other team members when they’re off the clock. I love Slack for that reason. When I think of something I need to share with the team or a post I’d like to make (even at midnight, because I’m a night owl), I send the message on Slack. No team members are expected to stay logged into Slack when not at work, so I know my message will be read at the appropriate time. Slack also allows users to schedule messages.
5 Quick Tips
Here are five additional ways to streamline and improve the time spent on a veterinary practice’s social media:
- Create a dedicated team: Not only does a social media team allow for a collection of voices representing the practice, but it’s also a great way to divide the workload. If you have enough interested employees, they will generate new ideas and complete the work more efficiently.
- Use Facebook Messenger: Invest an hour in setting up instant message replies, away notifications and automated responses to frequently asked questions. Clients will appreciate the prompt customer service and establish expectations, such as your practice will only respond to messages during the next day’s business hours.
- Build content calendars: Planning and scheduling a month’s worth of social media content is far more efficient than haphazardly posting something every day or two. The strategy also helps you use evergreen content more likely to achieve your practice’s goals — for example, educating clients about your online pharmacy. In addition, a calendar approach leaves space for fresh content and photos as they occur.
- Use Meta Business Suite, Buffer or Planoly: They are lifesavers when scheduling social media content and possibly recycling posts.
- Develop a workflow: Our practice’s team spent two hours looking at how we created, deployed, monitored and analyzed content. Of course, what works for one team might not work for another, so be open to regularly redefining the workflow.
Finally, remember that connectivity isn’t the same as availability. Every once in a while, temporarily unplugging can be good for the personal and professional soul.
HOOKED ON SOCIAL MEDIA
A Global Web Index survey discovered how much time the average internet user, aged 16 to 64, spent connected to social networks each day in 2021:
- Nigeria: 4 hours, 7 minutes
- Philippines: 4 hours, 6 minutes
- India: 2 hours, 36 minutes
- United States: 2 hours, 14 minutes
- China: 1 hour, 57 minutes
- Germany: 1 hour, 29 minutes
- Japan: 51 minutes