10: It's FREE (mostly). Vets are a frugal bunch, and we've got better things to spend our money on, right? Other than the time it takes to post your content, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and the rest of the social media gang are free. No cover charge. Just BYOP (Bring your own posts!)
9. It's targeted. No more blanket ads to the world of yellow pages and bus benches in the hopes that someone will *happen* to see it. People are only going to follow you if they are looking for a veterinarian (you), they're interested in what you have to say, or they already patronize your clinic. Now meet them half way and give them what they want! And by "what they want," I mean adorable puppy photos.
8. Keep an eye on your competition. Let's face it- you want to know what services your competitors are offering, if they're expanding, or if they got the newest flea and tick product. They're on social media, and if you're not, you may miss out on knowing what's going on down the street, and why your clients are going there instead.
7. If you don't claim it, it will claim you. Your information, your reviews, your practice- it's all already on the internet whether you like it or not, and whether you have taken ownership of that info or not. Don't you want to make sure that what's out there is a) correct, b) positive, and c) creates the illusion that you're not stuck in the 18th century?
An example: once upon a time, when working for a technophobe boss, I decided to surprise him by creating a clinic website, business Google+, business Yelp and Pinterest pages (I know, I'm a nerd). Here's the thing: I was able to create ALL of those media forms...without him knowing. Now, granted, I was vested in promoting the practice and knew that being present online would only increase the clinic's profitability and character. But who's to say that I wasn't a disgruntled former client or employee doing the same thing but with sinister intentions? If you haven't taken ownership of your clinic's online presence, someone else can.
6. Ummm...have you guys ever seen a YouTube cat video? Look- dogs and cats are one of the most popular search topics on image and video searches BY FAR, unless the Olympics are on or Justin Bieber has done something ridiculous again. We don't even have to try to find this stuff- it's literally waiting in the exam room for you to bring to your adoring online fans. Probably while you're reading this. Go check out that ear infection and come back for the second half of the countdown.
5. You can stay up to date and relevant- in 30 seconds. I once attended a lecture on social media, and an internationally known veterinarian stood up and said "If you're not on social media, you're missing part of the conversation." I joined Twitter that day, after years of avoidance. And that veterinarian was right- just by following the AVMA alone- I was almost instantly more aware of what was happening in the veterinary community- simply because the tweets were basically "headlines" of what was happening in our world. No more digging through the journals to find the one article that actually interested me, and no more being blissfully unaware of what's affecting our profession. By following a few other veterinarians with similar interests (like social media in practice), I picked up quick tips and ideas that were pertinent to my workday. 30 seconds between exam rooms can go a long way to keep you in the know. It's better than TMZ, anyway.
4. It motivates and ingratiates your staff. One of the basic principles of management is to allow staff members to personalize- so allow their personalities be part of your practice's social image. Featuring a staff profile on your Facebook during National Vet Tech week, posting a comment on your pages for their birthday, or featuring their pets or staff "product picks" on your Pinterest page shows your staff that you value them, their skills and their knowledge. What's more- they'll likely pick up some likes and praise from your followers and clients. They'll likely then share all this on their own social media- further promoting your practice and your reputation as a caring employer.
3. Connect with your community as a whole- veterinary and otherwise. "Friending" other local businesses and organizations can be a great source of referrals, local information and events, and is a great way to foster a true sense of community, without having to hit those boring Chamber of Commerce meetings.
2. You'll create an undeniably personal connection- I don't know about you, but if I saw a picture of my accountant lovingly calculating out my depressing tax return, or my mechanic doing a great job of pouring in some oil into my lemon of a car, I wouldn't exactly feel warm and fuzzy inside. But seeing someone post a picture and showing off my old lady pooch or cuddly feline son on their page? LOVE IT! After all, my dog Maple is the cutest dog in the Western hemisphere. I'm a veterinarian and I'm writing this article- but I would still totally fall for this. I'm totally going to "like" that post, share it onto my wall, tweet it out, add it to my Google+ and Pinterest pages, tag my husband in it, and email it to my grandma. Before you know it 862 people have seen that post with your clinic's name on it. #TotesAdorbs
1. Our job is awesome! It's easy to forget that we have one of the best jobs in the entire world. Student loans, long hours, angry clients, the evil 20/20 segment, and getting peed on AGAIN can make us forget that we fought tooth and nail to get to this job- we attained the dream almost every kid has had at some point. Remember that we get to play with puppies and kittens. EVERY. DAY. People want to see what we do. They want to see the cute furry faces, the heartwarming stories, and the weird foreign objects. More importantly, they want to see that we love what we do. Let's show them.
Caitlin DeWilde, DVM