I learned an important lesson early in life that I only fully understood when I became an adult and embarked on my journey to becoming a veterinarian. As a little league baseball player, I was terrified of failing at the plate. I didn’t want to swing and miss, become embarrassed. So how did I address this fear? I simply never swung the bat. You can imagine how far that got me. My point is you’ve got to swing the bat, even if you fail over and over. The only way you’re going to hit the ball is by making an attempt. If you have an idea, take a swing on it. Run with it and make it happen.
Why do you get up every day to go to work or school? What keeps you going back for more? And conversely, why do you leave situations that don’t make you happy? Is it the money? The sense of accomplishment? The recognition? The fluffy puppies and kittens we get to play with all day (sense sarcasm here)? In most cases, it’s the connections we make with our fellow peers, teammates, clients, and patients that make us excited to go to work each day. As a veterinary student I saw a need to build this connection amongst our student community and find an arena where we could interact. And thus, the Vet School Unleashed: Dissecting the DVM Podcast was born.
In my short two years as a veterinary student, I’ve found that there is plenty room for improvement in terms of the quality and quantity of our interactions with our peers and soon to be colleagues. Why isn’t there more collaboration amongst veterinary students at other institutions? Or between veterinary students and (human) medical students? I don’t know if there is a single, simple answer. However this podcast aims to improve the quality of our connections.
The goal of the podcast is to provide an outlet for candid discussions about any and all topics relating to veterinary school and veterinary medicine. According to my research, this type of environment has not existed in the podcast medium until now. Each episode features a special guest – a fellow veterinary student, veterinarian, consultant, veterinary technician, etc. – to share their experience and expertise on the topic at hand. The aim is to get us talking about important issues and for others to join in on the conversation. So far, we’ve been able to do just that.
The podcast was launched in October 2016 and since then we’ve released ten episodes. We’ve started with some of the most pressing topics: wellness, addressing imposter syndrome, how to be a more efficient learner, and networking just to name a few. One of the most influential episodes to me was an interview I conducted with friend and medical student, Clare Brady. We dove into what makes veterinary school and medical school similar and different. We talked about the struggles both of our cohorts experience in school and what we’re doing to combat them. We also helped open the doors to more connection between students in our two professions. Strikingly, we revealed to each other that our motivations to become doctors were nearly aligned. It showed that there’s much to learn from each other. Imagine what such insight from “the other side” could do for each of our careers.
In addition to providing a new place for these important discussions, I hope to influence and inspire my fellow veterinary student peers to transform their ideas into a reality. Each one of us has great ideas that will undoubtedly make great impacts in our career and lives. Unfortunately, many of these ideas will never get the chance to become a reality. But why? The fear of failure? Lack of time? While these are certainly valid reasons to delay or disregard putting your ideas into action, I can assure you two things: there is time for anything that is important enough to you. Even though you may fail at first, you will succeed in the end. If you have an idea, take a swing on it. Run with it and make it happen.
In the modern era of social media, mobile devices, and the rapidly decreasing necessity for human interaction in many of our daily tasks, it’s not surprising that my fellow millennials are finding it more challenging than our predecessors to build these ever-important personal connections. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a valuable tool for building connections. But there’s so much more to be had. More personal interactions not only energize us to do what we love but also play a major role in building our skills and moving our career forward. So let’s talk more. Interact more. Build more connection. It may not be easy at first, but I promise you that these connections you build and strengthen will help give you the tools and confidence to fulfill your dreams ahead.
Creating the Vet School Unleashed podcast has opened doors for me that wouldn’t have opened otherwise. It has helped me in my own communicating and networking skills. It’s given me the confidence to take a chance on my ideas and make them a reality. And most of all, it’s made me even more energized and excited to be a veterinarian.
If you’d like more information on the logistics of setting a podcast or want to discuss anything about the podcast or vet school in more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
Seth is a veterinary student at the University of Missouri and will graduate in 2019. He was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and hopes to build his career and family there after graduation. His dream is to become a companion animal veterinarian and a practice owner. When not flooding his brain with veterinary medicine knowledge, Seth enjoys spending time with his wife, Rebecca, and two dogs: Cane and Chase. Seth also enjoys spending time outdoors, cooking, both making and listening to music, and playing ice hockey.
Hey everybody: Just a quick review of the Polaroid Zip mobile printer, which I've been wanting to try out for a while! I love taking pictures of my patients and happenings in the clinic, but sometimes it's nice to actually have a "hard copy" of those images, right? Remember how we all used to print out photos and get our pictures developed all the time? I am super guilty of taking thousands of pictures, but I rarely get around to doing anything with them other than share on social media, both at the clinic and at home.
Enter the Polaroid Zip mobile printer. After researching a couple of mobile smartphone printers including the HP Sprocket and the Canon Selphy, I decided on the Polaroid Zip. The cost of the printer, the cost of the replacement printer sheets/stickers, and the overall size made this the winner for surviving life in a vet clinic.
Basically, this smartphone printer uses Bluetooth technology to connect with any iPhone or Android smartphone or tablet. Using the free app, SnapTouch, you can quickly edit a photo by pulling from your camera's photo library, and print wirelessly to the printer in under a minute.
I'm hoping to incorporate this more into my practice as another way to personalize each patient's experience. We're toying with the ideas of using these 2x3 instantly printed little gems to:
1. Apply to the front of any puppy/kitten/new client folder (they actually print with a sticker back!).
2. Display in clinic (e.g. bulletin board)
3. Include in the welcome card we send to new clients after their first visit.
You can see my full review, pricing, and see the printer in action on my Facebook video. Here's a quick summary:
Pros: Small, portable, affordable. Printer cost: $115-130, protective case: under $10, Printer sheet refills depending on location/price: $0.35-0.50/each. No ink cartridges to mess with. Fun and unique.
Cons: The app (FREE) that corresponds, SnapTouch/Polaroid Print App, is a bit clunky. I was hoping to be able to write on the images, or include our logo, etc but no luck. There are some work arounds (e.g. editing the photo in PicsArt before uploading to the app), but I'm all about simplicity.
Have you tried one of these in your clinic? Let me know if so- I'd love to see what you create!
If you're interested, here are the links to each product I mentioned in the Amazon store. We will earn a small percentage of any sales, but that just helps us continue to test and try out new products to use in veterinary practices!
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
March is a busy month: March Madness, the first day of spring, National Puppy Day and, my favorite: Pet Poison Prevention Week.
It's not my favorite because I love using calculating toxic doses or spinning an apomorphine dose on the "Wheel of Vomit." It's my favorite because we have a HUGE opportunity to educate our clients, and ultimately help save some pets.
Pet Poison Prevention Week provides a unique mix of client familiarity, pet owner interest, and quick, educational bites that can actually do some good. While other educational health topics can require more lengthy discussions, pet toxins are straightforward. Few, if any, owners are going to quiz you on the toxic mechanism of action of a particular product. There's hard science and well-known institutions also publishing info online, reinforcing your recommendations. Educating pet owners that something in their house- be it grapes, D-con, or the xylitol-laden gum they just set down on the coffee table- could harm their pet, and they're likely to take notice and hopefully commit that factoid to memory.
So how can you use social media to get these nuggets of info to pet owners? Luckily, we have LOADS of resources at our fingertips, put together by some very experienced and talented groups. Quality, interesting and varied content types (articles, infographics, videos and podcasts) are waiting for you to share them. Or, you can go the extra mile and create your own!
I've got too many to count graphics, animated posts and educational graphics scheduled for my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram this week, and you're more than welcome to use them. I've also put together a Pinterest board of my favorite resources and articles all in one place, so check it out: https://www.pinterest.com/thesocialdvm/pet-poison-prevention-week-resources/.
In the meantime, here are my go-to resources to make Pet Poison Prevention Week a success at your clinic:
Resources for Clients:
There are hundreds out there, and I have found several on the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center's page, as well as the Pet Poison Helpline. Pet Health Network and Vetstreet had multiple client-friendly articles as well. Here are some of my favorites I'll be posting on my clinic's page this year.
Looking to share a fair amount of info all in one place? Check out these infographics for a more complete, yet still concise resource to share with your clients.
ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center's App: one of the few apps I recommend to clients, this free app puts 1) trustworthy info and 2) immediate 24/7 access to ASPCA's Poison Control hotline in the event of an emergency. Owners can look up medications, plants, foods, household hazards and more on this app for quick, concise toxicity info. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/apcc-mobile-app
Sharing these websites on your social media, or adding to your "trusted links" page on your website will help clients easily access reliable information. To share on social media, simply paste the website and say "Bookmark This!" so clients can save it instantly to their phone or computer.
Everybody loves freebies, so share that owners can get a free Pet Safety Window Cling as well as a Pet Poison Control Magnet featuring the APCC's hotline number here: https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack.
Resources for Veterinarians to Use in the Clinic:
Don't forget, you can find all of these links and more in my Pet Poison Prevention Week Pinterest Board (https://www.pinterest.com/thesocialdvm/pet-poison-prevention-week-resources/) or by following me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram all week! What are you doing in your practice for Pet Poison Prevention Week?
Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
Developing and implementing a successful social media strategy for your practice can be overwhelming. It takes a fair amount of research, planning, and creativity to make it work. A social media calendar can help you organize your content, marketing goals, and overall strategy in one place, as well as making maximum use of your scheduling time.
For my clinics, I create a social media calendar a month at a time, and have the bulk of my content scheduled before the month even begins. This frees me up for other tasks throughout the month, while still leaving space for photos and shareables as they happen. Before the month even begins, however, I know that I've met my goals of promoting my practice, educating my clients, and having a consistent appearance on social media. When the inevitable emergency comes in during my "social media time" at the clinic or I unexpectedly get sick (seriously, winter, when WILL you end?!?), I know my page is covered.
Here are my seven steps to create your social media calendar:
1. Start with an online template or print out a blank calendar page:
When I first started, I just printed out a blank month from Microsoft Word or a general Google search, and filled it all in by hand. I got a little wiser and created an online spreadsheet I save in my Google drive so I can come back to it easily, anytime, from any device. Having it online has even helped me plan a bit more ahead. For instance, if we decide in February that we're going to have a clinic event in April, I can go ahead and put that on my calendar now. Added bonus? You may even be able to pull ideas next year!
If you'd like to try my template, access it here:
2. Mark off any traditional holidays, clinic events, closings, etc.
March 2017 isn't too exciting, at least in my part of the country. We've got Daylight Savings Time and St. Patrick's Day, but no other major events. I added these two holidays and color coded them.
I generally do a quick google search for "March 2017 holidays" to make sure I also don't miss any other important "unusual" holidays, and found I would have forgotten about Dr. Seuss Day. When the opportunity arises to post a picture of a cat in a hat, you take it. There are, of course, lots of the other weird holidays, like National Potato Chip Day, Submarine Day and Corn Dog Day...I just can't make those relatable to veterinary clients, and we have plenty of other stuff to share, anyway!
For each of the events, plan a photo, article or graphic to represent that day. I have a great Daylight Savings Time reminder graphic we made a year or so ago of our clinic cat lounging on a clock. A quick search of one of my most trusted resources, PetHealthNetwork.com, rewards me with a timely article called "How Does Daylight Savings Time Affect Your Dog?" (http://pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-behavior/how-does-daylight-savings-time-affect-your-dog). Boom! Now I've got two pieces of content already planned for that day. Repeat as needed for the other holidays.
3. Hit up my favorite resource for true animal related events, the AVMA's Pet Health Awareness Events Page:
I love this resource. Not only does it remind me of all the animal-friendly holidays, it also often has resources linked to them that are great for sharing.
Plug these events into your calendar and now we've got several other ideas for content on days like National Puppy Day and Poison Prevention Week. I may not end up using them all (it's pretty hard to come up with something for your clinic National Manatee Day when you live in St. Louis), but I like to make sure I'm aware of them and use them as a springboard for content.
Again, I'll look into my photo library to see if I have anything pertinent. I know I'll want to share several articles about Pet Poison Prevention week, and I'm going to make a new infographic to share from my clinic. I hit up ASPCA Poison Control (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control) for a mix of articles and resources (Top household toxins, poisonous plant database, sharing info about the app, etc) and plan one a day. Moving on to National Puppy Day, I know we'll want to share a photo of a doctor at the practice with a puppy, so I make a note in the clinic schedule to take a photo with the doctor of any new puppies in the few days before, and also plan to create a graphic asking our clients to share pictures of their dogs as puppies!
4. Holidays are covered...now what?
Now that we've gotten a good start on our calendar and covered any major "events," it's time to plan for the rest of the month. I like to next stick in one "reminder" post each week: one heartworm reminder, one website reminder, one Google reminder, and one referral program reminder. I vary these on the day and the time of day. For example, I always put our heartworm/flea prevention reminder on the first of every month, which in March falls on a Wednesday. I usually schedule this at night when I know people are more likely to be home and able to give their pets their heartworm prevention. For the second week, I'll plug in our website reminder onto a Tuesday morning. The third week, our Google page reminder goes onto a Thursday evening. And finally, our client referral program reminder lands on a Friday morning. There's no real rhyme or reason, other than to try to catch different segments of your viewers without seeming desperate for feedback or too "salesy."
Why do I post these reminders? Let's break each one down:
-Heartworm reminders: We speak to every client, every day about heartworm prevention and other parasite protection. Why limit that conversation to one day a year during annual exams? Not only is it good medicine, it's a great and free service you can offer your clients (and patients) to help remind them! My clinic's clients now know to look for it, and almost every month, we get a comment thanking us for the reminder on our Facebook page. I generally try to create a fun and seasonally-appropriate cute picture to go along with it.
-Website reminders: How often do existing clients visit your website? Not nearly as often as you'd like, I'm afraid. Your practice undoubtedly spent a lot of money and time developing a great website that has a ton of information about your practice, your services, and often, client resources like pet portals, education articles, online prescription sales, scheduling options, etc. Make sure your clients know about these resources, and build their loyalty to your practice. Try to remind them of some of the interesting things you have on your site with a graphic or descriptive post listing the items of interest in bullet points.
-Google reminders: Let's face it. We could all use feedback, and we all love those 5 star reviews. Make it easier for your clients to give you a great review by casually posting your Google + page, which should have photos, clinic info, and oh, by the way, the place they leave reviews. I am purposefully vague in these posts and don't specifically ask for reviews. I generally post a screenshot of the page, or create a graphic of the Google page in a cool laptop image (placeit.net is great for these!), and say "Have you visited our Google page? We'd love your feedback!" and leave it at that. Not always, but often we'll land a new review. That's worth a post to me!
-Word of Mouth/Referral program reminder: Most clinics have some sort of referral program, and often times have special cards made up. Why not remind your clients to help spread the word? I find that many clients aren't even aware that the practice offers them a discount. Sharing a simple photo of your referral card is an easy post you can recycle each month. Again, not a surefire way to get new clients, but I frequently see clients tag their friends in the post.
5. Promoting Practice Products & Services
Now that our reminders and events are plugged in, I focus on educating our clients on ONE product and ONE service each month. Again, I don't want to come off as too "salesy," or too promotional. However, I'm a big believer that 1/3 of the content you publish on social media should be content that PROMOTES your practice.
So, I'll choose one product- with spring around the corner think your favorite flea preventative or shampoo. Often, these products have their own social media channels or websites- I'll hit those up to see if there is anything valuable to share like an instructional video or a special offer/rebate.
Moving on to the service, your website is a great resource here. Simply sharing the link from your practice's website about a particular service is a quick and easy post that can give your clients a bit more info into some of your lesser known offerings (think laser therapy, acupuncture, digital radiography, ultrasound, etc). Make sure the link populates with a picture, and simply use the text "Did you know that we offer ____? Check out our website for more info, or call us today at 555-5555."
6. Time for some original graphics
We HAVE to differentiate ourselves online and publish content that is unique to our individual clinics. Luckily it's getting easier and easier to do so. I'm a big fan of creating even simple quotes, and better yet, infographics or educational "snippets" in graphic form. Try hitting up Canva.com, Picmonkey.com or the WordSwag app to overlay a simple animal-related quote over a cute image. For more advanced designers, infographics are huge and often become big "shareables," therefore getting out the client education AND your brand all over social media. I have a bank of these I've created and will rotate one or two in each month.
7. Educational articles
We all know these are not going to be the bread and butter of making you a social media rockstar. Too often, articles are overlooked and often underliked. However, I'm still committed to sharing trustworthy, valuable information with my clients. I really feel that as a veterinarian, I have the obligation to be THE resource of pet health info. If a client is interested in gaining more knowledge on a particular topic, I want them to have a good place to turn. If I consistently publish material, or share from reputable sources, they'll start to have some competition from all the more sensational, non-veterinary pet info sources out there.
So, each month I think about what timely topics might be pertinent.
In an ideal world, I'd have a blog or two written, and hopefully I'll have time to do so. But just in case, I want to find some trustworthy articles.
Vetstreet.com and PetHealthNetwork.com are often my go-tos here. Simply typing in the word "Spring" lands me the following articles:
-Spring Exercise and Safety (http://pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-checkups-preventive-care/spring-exercise-and-safety)
-Nine Spring Time Pet Hazards (http://pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-toxins-poisons/9-spring-time-pet-hazards)
-Can Dogs Have Spring Allergies? (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/can-dogs-have-spring-allergies)
-Eight Spring Cleaning Tips for Pet Owners (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/8-spring-cleaning-tips-for-pet-owners).
Bonus: They also had plenty of funny ones like these:
-Celebrate Spring with Adorable Videos of Puppies Enjoying the Great Outdoors (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/celebrate-spring-with-adorable-videos-of-puppies-enjoying-the-great-outdoors)
-Five Adorable Dog Videos to Make You Ache for Spring: (http://pethealthnetwork.com/news-blogs/a-pets-life/five-adorable-dog-videos-make-you-ache-spring)
I pick a few of these and scatter throughout the month on days I don't have other content planned.
And now you're done! Your calendar should be satisfyingly full of content and ready to schedule! You'll notice there isn't something EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Why? Because you need to leave room for patient and clinic photos, which should be a regular part of your social strategy as well. And you know there will be a hilarious meme or video you'll want to share when you see it, and you should (like this one http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/19/golden-retriever-dog-fails-obedience-test-video_n_6186890.html). Clients love that, and love seeing that you love it too, and often end up sharing it from your page. Triple win.
Finish up your productiveness by getting this scheduled on your Facebook (and/or Twitter, other social outlets). It's far more effective to sit down and schedule 20 posts at once than doing one or two every few days. Now you have more time for coming up with other creative marketing ideas like new videos, graphics or promotions....or one of the other 13,798 things that seem to always need getting done in a vet clinic. Happy scheduling!
Remember, you can get my blank calendar template and the completed March template at this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/132bI5-bXXMJtOD_zO_eKJJKQJNyeYVjqz-U538wd1kw/edit?usp=sharing
To use, simply click File > Make a Copy and edit away to fit your clinic's schedule and goals!
-C. DeWilde, DVM
I had no intention of writing a blog this morning. I woke up early, and sat down to check my email and peruse Facebook with my morning coffee. And there it was in my inbox...AGAIN. Another pet food recall. Another brand that I've actually heard of, one that clients tell me they feed their pets. To be honest, I'm a little disappointed, a little worried, and a lot mad.
I'm a *relatively* young veterinarian. I've been practicing for eight years, but have worked in the industry for more than half of my life. In those past eight years however, I have completely lost the ability to keep track of all of the pet food brands. When I first graduated, I could name just about every pet food brand in the store. It helped that my first job was a hospital inside a major pet food chain, but hey. Every year, the number of brands and formulas increases exponentially. Every day, I have clients tell me they're feeding their pet a food that I've never heard of. In a busy practice, it's hard to stay on top of all of the brands, the science behind their formulas, and whatever latest gluten/grain/protein source fad has been determined "the latest" by the pet food company's marketing department.
It's frustrating, and as a veterinarian, I want to be able to give my clients the best possible information and the best possible nutrition recommendation for their pet. Daily, I recommend 4-5 trusted brands based on my patient's needs. Brands I know are for sure AAFCO-certified, have a veterinary nutritionist on staff whom I can consult with on medical cases, and whose reputation for health and safety has not only been established by years in the industry but by published and tested science. Those are the companies that I buy my pet's food from, and those are the companies I recommend.
Conversely, it's possible that some of these newer brands may also offer the same quality and nutrition. But it's just not possible for every veterinarian to know every brand or formula out there on the shelves. We can't know it all, and that makes many of us worried for what our clients are putting into their pets. Frequent recalls, like the FOUR I've seen in the last two weeks, give us even more cause for alarm.
So, what can we do?
Of course, I'm usually writing about veterinary use of social media: how to best represent your practice online, how to use the latest app or take the best photos and videos in the clinic. Luckily, I can still tie this issue in. There is something we as veterinarians can do to help keep our patients safe and fed well, even on Facebook: educating them on pet food nutrition, and keeping them informed of pet food recalls.
By sharing the latest information on recalls, we can establish ourselves as a reputable source of IMPORTANT pet information. In addition, we have an obligation to do a better job of sharing with our clients WHY we recommend certain brands and formulas. Here are a few tips to incorporate this into your practice:
#1: Sign Up for Pet Food Recall Alerts
I don't expect you to troll the interwebs every morning for the latest pet food recall news. Instead, sign up for pet food recall alerts and follow.
The FDA maintains a list of current pet food recalls,
available online: http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/recallswithdrawals/.
You can also sign up for these recalls via email by entering your email and hitting "Subscribe" at the bottom. You have options for immediate, daily or weekly notifications, but I chose immediate. It may also be a good idea to subscribe your front desk/reception's email address, so they will have a heads up should there be any clients who call with questions.
You can also check out the AVMA's Pet Food Recall page: https://www.avma.org/news/issues/recalls-alerts/pages/pet-food-safety-recalls-alerts.aspx
This site is also helpful because you can search all alerts from the past 365 days. If you're not sure about a particular food when a client asks about it, I'd run a quick search on the name to see if they've had any recalls in the last year.
#2: Follow @AVMARecallWatch on Twitter.
If you're a Twitter user, follow this channel and enable mobile notifications so you always are up to date on the latest recalls. Added benefit: they're sharing the press release from reputable sources, not just the notification from "CatsPurrever" or other random social media account.
#3: Share Pet Food Recall Info, ASAP.
If you're like me, your personal social media accounts are filled with news from your friends, often also veterinary colleagues. Several of my friends and/or their clinic pages I follow had shared information about the latest recall this morning. In addition, I had an email waiting from the above sources, so I was able to quickly share something on my clinic pages. Obviously, the sooner we can get this info out to our patients the better. However, if we're the last to jump on the bandwagon, your clients may have already turned to another source. BE THE SOURCE!
#4: Turn this news into a blog:
Since today's recall marked the fourth in just two weeks (Wellness, Evanger's, Grreat Choice and 9Lives), I combined all of this information into a blog post for my clinic. Incorporate the official recall links from FDA, and if available, the manufacturer's website and info, so owners know what serial/product numbers to look for and who to contact for refunds or returns.
This way, I don't even have to share someone else's post or do any work vetting the source (see reference to the "CatsPurrever"). I know it's accurate, pertinent and helpful. It's established our practice as the source, and this is of great benefit to our clients.
#5: Embed the AVMA's Pet Food Recall Widgets into your website:
AVMA has multiple widgets that you can embed into your website so your clients can easily access the most up-to-date info, without you having to do a thing! They even have feline-only practice options and several designs/sizes to choose from. Send this link over to your web designer for incorporation into your website's "resources" or "helpful links" pages, or even into the page footer itself.
Learn more here: https://www.avma.org/PracticeManagement/Administration/Pages/Pet-Food-Recall-Widgets.aspx.
#6: Make a commitment to start educating your clients about nutrition online:
If we've learned nothing from the past year, it's that fear and sensational news can muddy the waters of information. While I'm obviously passionate about getting the recall info out to owners ASAP, it does nothing for my patients or my practice if I'm not also balancing this "scandalous" news with solid, trusted, science-based recommendations. I think that will have to be a blog for another day, but I'm now more committed than ever to sharing GOOD pet food info too, so stay tuned for some tips on that end. For now, start by researching your trusted brands for client-friendly shareable information, and consider blogs or videos on topics like AAFCO Certification, calorie counts, your personal recommendations and dispelling some of the common pet food myths out there. Compile a list of resources to share on your social media accounts. In many cases, clients don't know where to turn to get trusted information about their pet's food or other products. You know that all of the food and treat companies are out there sharing it online and in the pet stores, and it's time we step from the exam room and provide a trusted, educated alternative.
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
I had the pleasure of meeting Samantha Palmer at the recent AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC). If her impressive Instagram account (nearly 5,000 followers) wasn't enough, it was inspiring to meet a young veterinary professional so enthusiastic, innovative and creative! Samantha and I had the opportunity to speak again as she was wrapping up her externship with AVMA Headquarters (Membership Division), and it's even more clear that this girl has some serious skill that will benefit her career journey as well as our profession. Be sure to follow her Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/i.am.a.vet.student/.
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
“Sam, why won’t you get an Instagram, everyone has one” my friends asked me throughout my senior year of undergrad. My response was always the same, “I have a Facebook, why do I need an Instagram.”
I simply didn’t see the point of Instagram when I could just as easily post photos on my Facebook account. That was, until April of my senior year when I finally caved and started my own personal account. After following my friends, I began exploring all the other thousands maybe millions of accounts out there. I quickly realized that although there was a plethora of animal accounts, these days everyone’s family dog and cat has their own Instagram, and a few accounts specific to veterinary medicine like @vetgirlontherun and @vetsnobiety, there were not really any dedicated to veterinary school. This new found void gave me the idea to start another Instagram account that would be open to the public called @i.am.a.vet.student.
I chose the name out of simplicity-there would be no mistaking the purpose of this account by using this handle. I began my account five days before I started veterinary school at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in August of 2015, and I have posted one photo a day of my journey since then. I haven’t missed a day yet!
At the time that I started the account, I believed that I would use this platform to increase public awareness of the vigorous and academically challenging process of becoming a veterinarian. While that mission has been a huge part of the account’s success, it was not until I got my first direct message (private correspondence) a month after starting my account from a prospective veterinary student that I realized my account could also be a resource.
Prospective pre-vet students began to ask questions about the process of applying to veterinary school, high school students interested in veterinary medicine inquired about what they could be doing now to explore this field, and current veterinary students wanted to exchange study tips especially those entering their first year. As I have watched my account grow from my first followers, my siblings, to almost 5000 followers, I am elated by comments about how my account is inspiring the next generation of veterinarians and that makes this project one of the most rewarding tasks that I have undertaken.
I have learned many lessons in communication through this project. Taking photos of animals, research or client owned, was the first obstacle, although I had anticipated this one. I spoke to my veterinary school within the first week of starting classes about their social media policy to ensure that I was not breaking any rules in the student handbook with my account. I have had to tread lightly through this process.
Although students were initially given permission to take photos with the teaching animals including dogs, cows, and horses, this rule seemed to change depending on the class. It was clear that photos from wildlife labs or anatomy dissection were not permitted and that pictures of client-owned animals could not be posted unless we asked for permission.
While some social media rules make common sense, others appear arbitrary. This inconsistency is not uncommon in veterinary schools across the country as many schools have yet to write down a clear social media policy for their students or worse, in my opinion, have decided that no photos of any animals in the veterinary school can be posted online.
To complicate veterinary school social media policies further, the veterinary teaching hospital at a veterinary school can have its own social media policy, but that policy might not extend to classes or labs. In which case, permission is often left to the discretion of the professors- who may or may not address this at all. Issues like these are part of the reason that I have begun to urge my school to clarify this policy because I am a huge advocate for social media and its benefits. I worry that veterinary schools might begin to implement a “no photos on social media policy” rather than one that clearly states what content is or is not allowed. I strongly believe that the public should be able to share in the experience that is veterinary school.
An unforeseen obstacle from this social media experience was a need to learn about all the photo apps available. In fact, there are so many editing apps to download that it was overwhelming at first. I currently have six apps that I use on a regular basis and developers are always coming out with more.
Usually I need to edit a photo to keep the whole image in the frame without it getting cropped when I upload it to Instagram, and unlike the celebrities who have every photo edited to the extreme, I mostly add a filter or change the brightness to make the image stand out. In contrast to many Instagram accounts that are about the glamorous life of the blogger, veterinary school is anything but glamorous, as you all know, and I am dedicated to posting photos that represent the truth- the good, the tiring, and the dirty!
Sometimes I find myself with a great photo opportunity and no one to act as the photographer and then I must come up with a creative solution to capture the moment. In dire situations like these, I’ve learned to rely on the good, ol’ fashioned timer setting or the modern “selfie” timer. Fortunately, I often have a friend around to take my photo. I’m well known as “InstagramSam” around the vet school.
Ultimately, this Instagram account is a lesson in the importance of marketing yourself. With photos that can be misconstrued or taken out of context, I give each a post the appropriate forethought before posting. Although this task can be tiresome, I believe that my account will make me standout. When I graduate from Cornell in 2019, I want my future employer to pick up my job application and notice me. I hope that my social media skills will provide me with a unique niche to fill as the benefits of a social media presence become more well-known over the next few years. I look forward to seeing how my account and interactions with my peers, mentors, and the public continue to evolve.
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
DVM Candidate, Class of 2019
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
A few days ago, I visited a clinic that had moved last April. Having absolutely no concept of direction or navigational skills, I typed in the clinic name into my Maps app on my iPhone. A short time later, I found myself in an empty parking lot in front of a deserted building.
If you've followed my previous blogs, you know I'm a huge fan of verifying your clinic's social media accounts, review sites and really anything that could give you more control over your online presence. Previously, I had assumed that verifying your clinic information in your Google Business settings (which encompassess Google Maps), was all anyone needed to do.
While I eventually figured out how to get to the new location (by checking their website and typing in their actual address instead of searching by the business name alone), this got me thinking. How many people use Apple Maps (the default map service on iPhones) as opposed to Google Maps? According to a quick online search, more than three times as many people use Apple Maps compared to Google Maps, and there are more than 5 billion map related requests every week! And sure enough, there's a way to update your business address, info and more for Apple Maps too.
This will likely only be a necessary issue for clinics that have experienced a move, as Apple initially pulled any web info to create your location and map. However, it doesn't hurt to check, and the process was simple and painless.
I verified my clinic's location, which was correct, and we've been in our current location for 8 years. However, knowing that we have access to make any changes in the future (including the phone number, website, Yelp profile and hours), and be sure our clients can find us was reassuring.
Here's the how-to. If you're more visual, I have screenshots of each step in the slideshow below!
1. Visit https://mapsconnect.apple.com/.
2. Sign in with your Apple ID (I would recommend a practice manager or owner sign in, or creating a new free Apple ID for your clinic).
3. Click "Add My Business."
5. Type in your clinic name; if it doesn't pop up you'll need to add your address as well. Click on your business.
6. Here's where it get's interesting. Apple Maps Connect will pull your clinic information, including your phone number, hours, website, address and photos, from your Yelp.com profile. Assuming it's found the right business, click "Claim This Place." Note: I was surprised to see this, but even more evidence for setting up your clinic's Yelp page with the most current info. For help on claiming your Yelp page, check out my tutorial blog here.
7. I would again review all the info: your website, Yelp profile, hours and phone number. Luckily, it had pulled all of my clinic's info correctly. Make notes of what you'd like to change after you have completed gaining access to your business profile.
8. Next, you'll have to choose if the business is open or closed, and also if you accept Apple Pay. While convenient, I haven't heard of any clinics offering that yet! I picked "This business is open" from the drop down menu and no on the Apple Pay.
9. Now you'll have to "answer a call" to officially verify your business. You'll have to be at your clinic and able to answer the phone of the main number for your business. This was a bummer for me since I was initially doing this at home after hours, but I finished it up the next day, so you can skip this step if needed. When you're at the clinic and ready, click the "call me now" button and be ready to answer. Literally just a second later, we received the call and a 4 digit code to enter. Enter your code and click "done."
10. Here's where you will be given a chance to edit any location/address information. Hopefully, they've already gotten it all correct, but if not, make any necessary changes.
11. This was pretty fun- you can actually drag and drop the pin closest to your clinic's front door on a satellite view of your clinic. Mine was a little off, but they had it pretty close!
12. Next up is your daily hours. Again, if you've already set this up in Yelp you should be set! If not, make any necessary changes.
13. The next step was the only step I needed to make changes to: here you're able to add other social media profiles. In addition to verifying your website and your clinic's Yelp page address, you can also input your address for Facebook, Twitter and even add your app link if you have one. Click "next" after you've completed this section.
14. Finally, you can click "Submit for Review." You're done!
15. You should receive an email confirming that you have submitted your info properly, and another when your edits are confirmed.
The entire process took me about 10 minutes, so I think that's well worth a quick review and claiming access. In my opinion, it's NEVER a bad idea to simplify how potential clients can find your business. Check out the step by step screenshots below, or email me if you have any trouble!
Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
With the holidays less than two weeks away, it's time to get crackin' on those last minute gifts. If you need a few more ideas for your favorite veterinary lovin' social media nerd, look no further. I know these are good, because I actually own all of them (except for the "bonus" ideas at the end). Some are fun, some are super handy, and some are downright essential. Whether these are gifts for a friend, colleague or yourself, they promise to make social media even more fun.
Happy holidays! -CD
DISCLAIMER: You'll notice that these are almost all Amazon links for a few reasons: 1) Who doesn't love and need Amazon 2 day shipping right now?! and 2) I'll earn a small fee if you follow the links below to order. However, I will be donating any and all affiliate link proceeds to a St. Louis Spay/Neuter program!
TheSocialDVM is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Still hunting for more ideas? I've got tons, but here are the two I'm most hoping Santa will deliver. Disclaimer: I haven't personally tried these out, but if I get the chance, I'll let you know how they work! Report back yourself if these make it under your tree!
Part 1: Logo Design and Digital Update
As our practices rely increasingly upon our online presence and marketing becomes more essential, establishing a consistent, clear brand for your veterinary practice is necessary.
What Is Branding?
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
In other words, branding encompasses more than just a logo; it also involves a consistent font, color scheme and overall feel. It visually represents the personality of your veterinary practice and is essential to convey your identity to your clients.
Here are my recommendations for getting a handle on your clinic’s brand, and how to revitalize it to create a consistent “brand kit.”
In each of the next few blogs, I’ll be sharing information and resources for you to either improve your existing brand kit, or create one with an existing logo or even starting from scratch.
Perhaps the most important component of a brand, your veterinary clinic should have a consistent, clear logo. Ideally, you should have this available in multiple digital formats (think .jpeg, .png, .pdf). I find that many clinics, especially those lucky enough to have a long-standing history, do not have access to a digital form of their logo and/or it lacks clarity.
If you need a new logo……
If your clinic doesn’t have a consistent logo, or it’s time to update, now is the time. Expect to pay a decent amount for a brand new logo, however. You may want to reach out to a local graphic designer, make a post on your Facebook page to ask for opinions and/or recommendations, or use a logo design service such as those on 99designs.com and/or graphic artists on www.fiverr.com.
Regardless of who you choose to design your logo, poll your clients. What would they like to see? What type of images resonate with them? Regardless of what designer(s) you choose, insist on a few variations of your logo. Share these with your clients- consider a Facebook vote and/or display the choices in your front lobby and encourage client feedback. You may love a particular design, but if your clients all hate it, you have a problem.
Pro Tip: If you end up creating a brand new logo that includes any text, be sure to ask the designer to tell you which font(s) and/or colors (hex or RGB) were used.
If you need an update or digital version of a logo…..
To remedy this, I would recommend having your logo “vectorized.” A vector image is the best possible quality of image, and is scalable to any size and detail. If you have a vectorized image it will look great whether you’re putting your logo on something tiny like a business card, or blowing it up to billboard size.
If you’re happy with your current logo, this can be established easily and relatively inexpensively with any graphic designer or many online services. It does require a graphic design program like Adobe Illustrator, but this is an easy task for many graphic designers, or for those of you with access to the software. Other alternatives include again looking on multiple online websites and/or sellers from www.fiverr.com.
In my experience, I’ve been able to send a scan of an old logo, even from an old business card in for vectorization. In just a few days and usually for less than $30, your logo will be returned to you in a digital format. Fuzzy lines are sharpened, colors are recolored, and your old logo should be restored to its once glamorous self.
If you plan to apply this logo to any other materials or images, it’s important that you also ask for a logo in a .png transparent background format. This will allow you to overlay your logo onto your social media images, new marketing materials, etc. without having to worry about the background color and any excessive white space.
I generally try to find a seller that offer to send the file in multiple formats: .jpeg, .png, and .pdf. This essentially ensures that no matter your marketing needs, you’ll have the format you need.
Next, I also try to ask for full color, black and white, and inverted logos. This can increase the overall cost, but if you’re up for the challenge these tasks are easy to complete yourself in PicMonkey.com using their free service. Stay tuned for my next blog to learn how to do it yourself.
Have questions? Need a new logo or vectorized image? Send me a note and I’ll connect you with my designers and get you on your way to a new, more useable part of your brand!
Note: I have long been fascinated with all aspects of veterinary business, and the many career paths our DVM degree can provide. When I had the chance to speak with Dr. Charlotte Lacroix, owner of Veterinary Business Advisors, Inc., I jumped. Dr. Lacroix is both a DVM AND a JD! How cool is that?!? She graciously provided us with not one, but FOUR blogs about the legal aspects of social media use in the veterinary world. Stay tuned as we feature one each week in August. Be sure to learn more about Veterinary Business Advisors Dr. Lacroix and Kellie Olah, PHR, on their website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Happy learning! --Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
Guest Blog by Veterinary Business Advisors, Inc.
As of October 2015, says Pew Research Center, 76% of adults in the United States who have access to the Internet use Facebook – and, with the abundance of smartphones, people are connected to the Internet with just a finger tap. This trend is unlikely to decrease – mobile phone usage OR social media participation – so it just makes good sense for veterinary practices to establish social media policies for their employees.
Important note: It also makes sense to consult with an attorney when creating your policy. This is an ever-changing social phenomenon and issues are not always clear-cut.
Social Media Policies
First, how do you define social media? You’re almost certainly considering platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and the like to be social media. But, what about an employee’s personal blog? Comments he or she makes on someone else’s blog?
It’s important that your policy clearly outlines what’s permissible and what isn’t, but you should first share the following context:
Policies should state that the practice respects the rights of its employees to use social media as a method of self-expression and public conversation. State that the practice does not discriminate against employees who use social media to communicate personal interests and affiliations, or any other lawful purposes.
A 2012 memorandum by the Office of the General Counsel (OM 12-59) uses phrases like this in their sample policy:
You will likely want to prohibit non-work-related social media posting while an employee is on the clock.
An Entrepreneur.com article by Arkady Bukh, a New York federal defense attorney, sums up social media policies this way: “Ultimately they [social media policies] should be about educating workers to use common sense when they use social media.”
Pros and Cons
As you craft your policy, keep in mind both the benefits and challenges associated with social media. On the plus side, social media can be used as a powerful marketing and branding tool. So, if your employees are perceived as likeable, friendly and trustworthy people on social media, then this can only benefit your practice when people are looking for a new veterinarian.
Spread the Word
It’s not enough to simply create a social media policy. You need to share this policy with all employees regularly, perhaps at an annual meeting where you review all company policies. Allow time for your staff to ask questions and gain clarity.