Five Questions for a

Social Media Guru

WA Veterinarian Magazine

by Eric Garcia

Jan/Feb 2015

1Why should a veterinary hospital use social media?

The real question should be, “Why wouldn’t veterinary practices use social media?”
Social media is the form of communi­cation that gives your message the largest reach, one that includes not only your clients, but your prospects, too.
What happens when you mail out post­cards or give your business card to people who don’t need your services right away?

We all like to think they save the infor­mation, but the reality is that when they do need you, that card is nowhere to be found. So they go to the Internet, and you can only hope they find you there.

If your practice has a social media (which you also listed on that business card), the prospective client can follow it or subscribe to its feed, and that puts your practice name in front of them sev­eral times a week.

This can help stimulate reminders about refilling heartworm and flea medications, coming in for annual vaccines and other things. Seeing your name is a reminder of the services you offer, and when they need those services, they can easily find you by logging into social media.

Used correctly, social media can actu­ally increase compliance with pet owners.

2What’s the best way to use social media to stimulate business?

Most consultants will tell you not to use social media as a place to sell. I agree—the minute you start to sell to clients in “their” space, which is where they want to avoid advertising, they’ll unsubscribe from your feed.

This was what businesses did when social media first took off, and they learned the repercussions quickly. But you can market services to clients through social media if you do it correctly.

I always tell people there are three parts to using social media successfully:

  • A mention of a service you want to market
  • Some sort of fun and engaging fact
  • The most important thing: the social part

Here’s an example: “Wow, we just received Penny’s DNA results back from the Mars Veterinary Lab, and it turns out she’s 40% Yorkie and 60% Maltese. What do you think your mixed breed is made of?”

You can easily see the service we’re trying to market, but we made it cute. People look at the photo of Penny, think about her breed and socialize back with you. And then, they might call you to ask more about DNA testing, maybe schedule an appointment outside of a routine visit or share it on their neighbor’s page or their own wall. And what’s attached to that posting? The practice name and page, so now everyone can see the services you offer.

The average Facebook user has 140 friends. Say your practice has 100 followers, and three of those people share one of your posts. One hundred of your followers, plus 140 friends of each of those users equals a reach of 520 people! The possibilities are endless.

3How do you ensure that social media messages are on-point and appropriate?

The best way to do that is make sure that a few people on your team go through training. Visit a conference and spend a little extra for the all-day social media lab, or hire a consultant to come in for one-on-one training. You may have a technician or receptionist who knows how to use social media, but knowing how to use it and how to communicate properly and effectively with clients are two totally different things.

I don’t suggest outsourcing social media, by the way. When you outsource social media, it becomes an argument about return on investment. If you spend a few hundred dollars a month having another company communicate on your behalf, at some point you’re going to start questioning the value of that communication.

It also makes no sense to outsource social media because the whole point is to honestly engage in conversation with your clients. How does it look if your clients find out you’ve hired an outside company to do that? It becomes fake social media—it’s a lie.

4How often should a veterinary practice post to social media? Which channels are best to focus on?

If you’re just getting into social media, I suggest two postings per week. It’s a realistic number. Start small and work your way up. If you’ve been doing this for a while, ramp up to three to five postings per week—not too few, but not overwhelming.

As far as the social channels:

Facebook: Use it. Most users log on multiple times a day.

Twitter: Use this, too. There are many users and you can easily link to Facebook if you don’t have the number of followers to engage in true Twitter talk.

Pinterest: This is still too new to be effective for veterinary practices. If you’re an advanced social media user and want to dabble in this, go for it. If you don’t have the time or are new to this, then hold off. Don’t rush to be part of every new channel—you’ll burn out.

Google + : This is also still very new, plus there are many spammers. Here’s how I gauge whether this channel is worth it or not: If Dr. Marty Becker has 881 people in his Google + circles and he’s on top news channels and travels the nation to spread the good veterinary word. What would this look like for a veterinary practice? One distinct difference between Google+ and Facebook is Facebook appeals to every demographic with strong numbers. Google + can’t say that yet. However, Google itself is an unstoppable force and you do not want to miss out on the opportunity to be part of the world’s largest search engine’s social network. I suggest mastering Facebook first then tap into Google+.

5What’s your 30-minute a week strategy for social media?

The real question should be, “Why wouldn’t veterinary practices use social media?”
Make sure you preplan your market­ing. This should include what your focus is (such as dental care, laser therapy, senior care).

Pinpoint the dates you want to post and put them on a calendar. Finally, plan your resources for each topic: Visit a few websites in advance and copy/paste those links into a Word document. This way, you’ll know when you will post, what you will post, and where to get a good reference to share when you do.

Most practices stop posting on social media because they wind up sitting there, trying to think of something productive to say. They waste time and lose sight of effective postings.

Interview By: Kim Fernandez
Interview With: Eric Garcia

– Eric Garda is owner of Simply Done Tech Solutions (www.simplydonetechsolutions.com) and is a frequent speaker and contributor to veterinary conferences, publications, and events on the topic of social media.

“The average Facebook user has 140 friends. Say your practice has 100 followers, and three of those people share one of your posts. One hundred of your followers, plus 140 friends of each of those users equals a reach of 520 people! The possibilities are endless.”

“It also makes no sense to outsource social media because the whole point is to honestly engage in conversation with your clients. How does it look if your clients find out you’ve hired an outside company to do that? It becomes fake social media—it’s a lie.”