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
If your clinic’s 2021 social media strategy didn’t achieve its goals, get your marketing efforts back on track by considering the common reasons for the downfall and some actionable solutions.
The first question any marketing leader should answer is, “What’s the why?” Why is your practice using social media? You cannot create an effective social media strategy if you’re unsure why. So, spend time clarifying your goals. Examples might include:
- Booking more appointments through online scheduling.
- Driving more visits to the practice website.
- Increasing social media engagement or the number of followers to improve brand awareness.
- Earning more positive reviews.
Your why might differ based on your practice’s commitment to social media and the budget. You might have multiple whys, or they might change every few months. The important thing is to drill into the current why and keep it at the forefront of your marketing efforts.
Next, think about the workflow. Does managing social media take too much time and energy? When done well, social media can require both.
Generally, clinics should define and stick to this four-step workflow process:
1. Craft a Social Media Plan
Schedule time each month to plan the next month’s social media calendar and store it digitally. (I like Google Sheets and Facebook Business Suite’s new option.) Resources such as the American Veterinary Medical Association’s pet health and veterinary awareness events list (bit.ly/3JbnUUb) and online toolkits from organizations like the American Animal Hospital Association, Fear Free and the American Association of Feline Practitioners can put seasonal ideas at your fingertips.
2. Collect and Create Graphics, Videos and Blogs
Lots of time is wasted on this step. In many practices, one or two employees are responsible for most social media content, yet the entire team collects patient photos and videos and sends everything via text, email or another communication tool. Practices need a centralized repository for photos and detailed caption information. This way, the social media team doesn’t waste time searching for images received on multiple platforms or tracking down a pet’s name and other helpful information.
A practical solution for improving the workflow is to create a #socialmedia channel on Slack. Imagine having a week’s worth of patient photos (with details) waiting for you in one spot.
Similarly, the team can use the storage site to share ideas, articles and website links, keeping smartphones and email accounts free of work stuff.
3. Publish Content
Daily posts are inefficient and unlikely to reach your target audience. The greatest social media traffic at most practices occurs during prime-time evening hours. (Check your platform’s analytics to confirm.)
Scheduling content lets you create the posts during business hours and pick the posting times that work best. In addition, scheduling multiple posts saves time. The native scheduling options on Facebook and Instagram (via Facebook Business Suite) permit you to plan two to three months out.
4. Analyze the Results
If you feel like killing several hours or lulling yourself to sleep, dive into your practice’s Facebook metrics. You’ll find myriad measurements on individual posts, paid ads, activity and followers. In general, only a few of them matter, so return to “What’s your why?” Do you want more followers? Great, then focus on that metric. Need more engagement? Cool, look at the comments and shares. More appointment bookings? Awesome, check out link clicks and don’t stress over the rest. Spend 10 to 15 minutes a month (or better yet, five minutes every two weeks) seeing how recent posts performed.
If engagement is lacking and you’ve tried everything else, go back to the basics and check in with your peeps. What do your most loyal clients want to see? Better yet, what do they not want? Which platforms do they use?
Consider contacting 20 top clients by phone or email. Or you can email the entire database or ask a single platform’s followers what they like. You might be surprised by what people want. Sharing the insights with your team gets everyone on board with content that matches client preferences.
After surveying clients and checking the analytics, you might find that you need more frequent posts, additional videos and fewer website links. Changing the content or format can breathe new life into your pages.
For example, try animated posts, short stories or videos instead of static pictures. Don’t be afraid to hire a vendor to clean up short video clips if you hate editing or a graphic designer who can create an infographic to replace an old blog post. Companies like Fiverr and Upwork can connect you with affordable freelancers, while free online tools like Canva and Facebook Business Suite can help turn text into an animated video. Experiment with a few posts before totally revamping your strategy.
If you’re still not getting the desired results, your practice might be spread too thin. Posting two or three times a day on Facebook and Instagram, producing a few TikTok videos each week, and launching a new Snapchat filter might be too much work. Instead, go back to your why and what you learned from clients. Choose quality over quantity and eliminate platforms that aren’t delivering.
I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that spending cold, hard cash is one of the fastest ways to improve your practice’s social media presence. Allocating money for ad purchases and post boosts is often a successful strategy, but you need a solid foundation to get the most bang for the buck. Why pay for posts that don’t resonate with pet owners or drive business to your practice?
As a test, spend $10 to $20 to boost your most important posts for a month, targeting the ideal pet-owning demographic within a short geographic range. If the exercise is effective, build the cost into the budget and amplify your marketing efforts.
Social media is evolving. While keeping up with platform changes can be difficult, focus on your practice’s goals and pet owner needs. Then, take advantage of analytics, online scheduling programs, in-house communication tools and client surveys to make digital marketing work for you.
HOW TO SURVEY CLIENTS
Pet owners can provide worthwhile insight into your practice’s social media performance. Here’s one way to ask for input:
We would love to hear your thoughts on how we can provide you with valuable information and fun content on XYZ Animal Hospital’s social media pages. Which of the following do you want to see on our social channels? Please check all that apply.
- Patient photos.
- Interesting cases: stories and photos.
- Behind-the-scenes photos.
- Educational articles from trusted outside sources.
- More information about our doctors, veterinary technicians and staff.
- Educational videos from the XYZ Animal Hospital team, such as Dr. Smith explaining dental disease and veterinary technician Amy demonstrating how to clean your dog’s ears.
- Rebates, discounts and special offers.
- XYZ team blogs on topics such as recommended pet trainers and how to crate-train your dog.
- Fun stuff such as memes and cartoons.
- Heartworm, flea and tick prevention.
Now, looking back at your answers, what is your top pick? (Repeat the list.)
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