I've been really serious about tracking client referral sources at my clinic for the last year. I was tired of the "online" generic response, and changed my clinic registration form to give our new clients more specific choices. I still had the "fill in the blank" spot in addition to checkboxes for the usual: Google, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, existing client, etc, etc.
For the first time, I started noticing more and more people writing "Nextdoor" in the empty blank. Then, we received a "Neighborhood Winner" sticker from Nextdoor and an invitation to claim our business page, so of course I did. So what the heck IS Nextdoor, anyway?
According to the platform themselves, Nextdoor is the world’s largest private communications platform for neighborhoods.
It launched in the fall of 2011, and has steadily been gaining traction. As of this writing, when I logged into my personal neighboorhood Nextdoor account, there were 186,000 neighborhoods established on the platform. My own little neighborhood has over 300 members, and when I searched for "veterinarian," more than a dozen clinics came up with little hearts next to them- indicating how many of my neighbors had "recommended" them, along with more than 2 dozen specific posts. I quietly trolled them all, making a mental note of my "neighbors" who had recommended or mentioned my practice in the posts.
I decided it was time to claim our practice's Nextdoor page. LIke many platforms, the good news it that establishing your profile can be a "set it and forget it" approach that needs little updating. Setting it up and enabling the proper notifications can allow you to be more accessible to your neighbors without the need to post frequently.
You'll recognize the process of claiming your business account as it's nearly identical to the process of other online registries like Yelp, Bing, Apple Maps, etc. It requires the typical practice contact info, history, hours, profile pictures, and verification by answering a phone call on the business number. You can see the screenshot slideshow below, or start the process at www.nextdoor.com/business.
Once you've established your clinic, you can share the word with your existing clientele via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Similarly, your profile will allow you to see recent neighbor comments and recommendations, and reply to them if you so choose.
Many of you may be thinking "Why do I need to do this? Do I really need one more thing to check or worry about?" I get it. I really do- in the day-to-day scheme of things, I don't think that Nextdoor is going to really make or break any vet clinic's reputation. But I DO think that if your clients are looking for you, you want to be found, and you want to be the first to know if your clinic is receiving any negative press. Without claiming your page, you'll have access to neither option.
To be truthful, I suspect this is more popular in urban and suburban areas. Small towns have many pros and cons, but not needing a digital platform to connect with your neighbors is often one of the pros.
In my community just outside St. Louis city lines, I could see where some of my clientele may be Facebook-averse and instead use Nexdoor as a smaller, more personal recommendation search engine. My own little neighboorhood group proved to be exactly where I turned when I needed a recommendation for a landscaping project, and the info I got from my post there far exceeded what I found on a similar Google search. Nextdoor is more akin to leaning over the fence and asking your real next door neighbor for advice- far more personable and trustworthy than a random search.
Bottom line- it takes just a few minutes to set up, and could be helpful in building your online reputation and bringing new clients in the door. Worth a few minutes of your time, in my opinion.
I'd love to hear how it goes at your practice- shoot me a Facebook message and let me know if your clinic was already getting mentioned, or if you've been seeing clients from Nextdoor's referrals.
With the holidays upon us and Cyber Monday deals launched, it's time to get crackin' on that gift list. 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 almost all of them! 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) We'lll earn a small fee if you follow the links below to order, but it doesn't change your price! This helps us continue to test out and report on new gadgets in the clinic! 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.
National Veterinary Technician week has ARRIVED! For the next seven days, it's time to put out some serious thanks and appreciation for the technicians that make this industry great!
Here are just a few ways to celebrate your vet techs on social media:
1. Individual staff profiles:
Sharing your technician's pictures and bios is a great way to give them a virtual shout-out, plus allowing your clients to get to know more about the team that cares for their pets on a daily basis. It also allows your clients to share their thanks, photos and memories in the comments! Post a candid or headshot photo of each technician scattered throughout the week, or make a specific graphic in Canva.
2. Group photo thanks:
This is a perfect excuse to get all your technicians together for a photo. We know it's hard to get everybody in one place at one time (and picture-ready!), but you'll be glad you did. Great way to identify, showcase and thank your whole team in just one post (but I think you can do even more!).
3. Facebook Frame:
Facebook profile picture frames are fun ways for technicians (or their allies) to add a fun border to their Facebook profile. You can create your own using the Facebook Frames Studio and a design tool like PicMonkey or Canva, or search
"vet tech" in the
Frames library (facebook.com/profilepicframes).
Don't have time to design one? Dr. Andy Roark has two- one for techs and one for their allies now available!
Use social to help educate your followers about what your technicians actually do! Regardless of where you fall on the "technician vs nurse" title debate, it's safe to say that the general public only knows a small fraction of what their job duties actually entail. There's no way to improve on that if we're not giving credit where credit is due, and helping share the realities of the 9,453 things vet techs do every day. Try a slideshow showing your techs in their different job roles- from blood draws to surgery, x-ray to filling meds, medical records to monitoring anesthesia, and of course, patient care. Run a "who got" on some of your tech-specific services in your practice management software and put a number to exactly how many fecal exams or technician appointments were performed in the last year! Bottom line, do what you can to help illustrate and thank technicians for all the hard work they do.
5. Share great content from industry leaders.
It helps to reinforce our message when we're able to share similar content from trusted sources, especially when they've done a great job of crafting it! Here are a few of my favorites (as of posting this on Sunday, although I'm sure several more will pop up this week so stay tuned to my Facebook page for shares!
6. Say Thanks!
Last but not least, nothing goes further than a personal thank-you. Take a minute to record a quick video to share with your followers about your technicians. Talk about why you rely on them, why they are the best!!, and how they help your client's pets. Need some inspiration? Check out Dr. Jenn Wardlaw's post about her techs on her page @Gateway Veterinary Surgery.
Give your techs the recognition they deserve- it's the best gift of all.
Another new app. Another new feature of social media. Another opportunity, or another obligation?
Instagram shook the world of social media content once again last week when they dropped a totally new experience, IGTV.
IGTV, or Instagram TV, is a new app that offers long form, vertical video from Instagram creators. While the app itself is standalone, you can watch within the original Instagram app as well.
At first, I was simultaneously excited and bummed- Instagram video without the limits of 60 seconds, PLUS an opportunity to connect with pet owners and clients on one of the most popular platforms..... On the downside, I have been PREACHING about avoiding vertical video at all costs. No more double dipping to film video for multiple platforms..... but in reality, most people seem to have a natural tendency to film vertically anyway.
But again, with a platform of ONE BILLION users.....seems like a good place to invest some time and content, right?
The IGTV is easy and user-friendly. Open it up and it starts playing, just like, ya know, regular TV. There are "channels" that will bring you content from people you already follow on Insta, or find new content based on your interests. Just as with normal Instagram posts, followers can like, comment and send videos to friends via direct message.
So, how is this relevant to the veterinary practice? Can you imagine clients that would tune to your clinic's "channel" for specific shows and videos by you, their veterinarian? With IGTV notifications, your clients will get notified about new videos you release. Gone are the time constraints of traditional Instagram videos- take all the time you need to explain that procedure or give a tour of your practice. With Facebook for small businesses being a constant uphill battle in recent months, and social media user's affinity for video over all else growing every day, Instagram is quickly becoming my preferred platform for veterinary practices and groups.
It's new, and the "shiny" may wear off over coming weeks. I'm anxious to try it out in my clinic later today, and find out the opportunities to link my videos to other platforms or embed in blogs or website content. The possibility of an educational "channel" just for my clients, one in which we can refer clients to for helpful tutorials or for more info about our practice, all created for free, seems pretty appealing right now.
Move over Facebook, see ya later television. IGTV has arrived. Check out my first IGTV video on the platform, and let me know what you think with a DM or note here. Stay tuned tomorrow for a quick tutorial on setting up your channel, and download the app here:
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
We all spend a lot of time worrying about that one negative review- how to respond to it, how it will look to clients, the stress it will inflict on us and our teams. While that concern is valid and we do need a strategy for handling negative reviews, we need to put a similar emphasis on building that library of POSITIVE reviews. Think how much stronger our reputation could be if we spent the same amount of energy eliciting positive feedback from those who do support us and will likely continue to visit and advocate for our practice!
Positive reviews are just that- positive all the way around. Not only do they help bolster our reputation and earn client trust, but they can help us attract new clients, reinforce our ideals and give us feedback on what’s working well. They can brighten our spirits and help our teams remember why we do what we do. So why are we not trying to get that information? Here are my four tips to getting more reviews.
#1 Make It EASY!
We can’t assume that our clients know that we’re on Facebook. Or Yelp. Or that we even want reviews. We need to make it as easy as possible for our clients to GET to our review sites and as easy as possible to leave a review. Here are a few tips to make it easy for both your clients AND for you to access your reviews.
If we’re not asking for feedback, we’re much less likely to get it. While an in-person direct request can seem pretty awkward, there are many ways to elicit feedback indirectly. Here are a few ideas:
Be careful not to offer incentives for reviews, or overtly tell clients that you need more reviews. This can violate the terms of service of some platforms, especially Yelp. Leave the trail of breadcrumbs so they are prompted to and can easily share their experience.
#3 Don’t Forget About the Visual Reminders
Don’t forget about the power of a visual image. Here are some ways that simply providing signage in your hospital can increase client awareness about your review sites.
#4 Follow Through
Just like any relationship, nurturing your online connections with your customer and your community takes some work on your end.
Get to work, and get those reviews!
As veterinarians, one of our biggest concerns with social media is dealing with online reviews.
While the threat of a negative review looms supreme, research shows us that the good reviews are integral to our “social proof,” our ability to attract and retain new clients, and for us to get the feedback our team needs to know they’re doing a great job.
I want to make it AS EASY AS POSSIBLE for my clients to leave reviews. The fewer clicks, the better. Here’s how to get a direct, one-click link to drive your clients to your practice’s Google review window.
Step One: Open a New Tab
Step Two: Get Your Practice’s Google Place ID
Step Three: Create the Link
Step Four: Test the Link
You now have a great, one-click link to drive your clients to easily leave a Google review. Copy and paste this into a location that you can store and access easily. Want to make it a little shorter? Try pasting it into bitly.com, a URL shortening tool.
Incorporate your new link into your client emails, clickable links in your newsletter or website, or even paste it in the text of a Facebook post. Stay tuned to next week’s blogs for more ways to integrate and encourage reviews!
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
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 onFacebook, Twitter or Instagram all week! What are you doing in your practice for Pet Poison Prevention Week?
Coming in as the #2 search engine, it's worth ensuring that your practice is well represented on Bing. Though it pales in comparison to the business listings and options offered by the Google powerhouse, you want to make sure that your practice information is correct wherever your clients are searching. Other benefits? It's free, quick to setup, and requires little to no maintenance. Establishing a Bing Places for Business profile is simple, and gives you control over the practice information (hours/address/contact info), as well as giving you control to add practice logos and photos. In 15 minutes, you can scratch this off the to-do list of getting your practice found online. Scroll to the bottom of this tutorial for step-by-step screenshots!
1. Visit www.bingplaces.com and click “Get Started."
2. Search for your business via name, phone number or address.
3. Verify their result, and then click “Claim and edit details.”
4. You’ll need to sign up for Bing Places using an existing account, or you can create one.
5. Verify/update basic info. You’ll need:
6. Click “Next” to enter Category Information. In this area, you’ll need to enter your:
8. Click next to add up to 10 photos of your business.
11. Once verified, you’ll receive an email to confirm that your listing is complete and live on Bing.com!
2017 brought the worlds of social media and marketing some great new tools and toys. To name a few, I saw veterinary professionals have success utilizing new strategies like Facebook live, side-by-side video capability, customized Facebook and Snapchat filters, and automatic “bot” marketing tools to connect with clients via Facebook messenger. The standard methods of sharing photos, videos and blogs continue to be effective as well.
I’m excited and hopeful for what 2018 will bring us in our ever-changing digital space. No one can argue that social media is without its challenges, pitfalls and headaches, but it continues to offer us opportunities to connect with our clients and improve pet health. Here are my predictions for what veterinary social media will see in 2018:
1. Video Becomes Essential
We’ve already seen an organic reach drop over the past few years, and it’s widely known that content without attention-grabbing imagery (still photo, animation or video) has a slim chance of winning the battle in the newsfeed. That said, I think that the Facebook algorithms are skewing even more, and will continue to do so, in favor of video.
Facebook has launched Facebook Watch (a TV-like option) for big brands and pages, and I suspect that it will eventually be available to all pages. They’ve also spent a major effort on the development and recent launch of Facebook for Creators, a new website and app with more video-specific resources and tools for those who want to use video.
2. Increased Use of Facebook Messenger
Messenger use blew up in 2017—in general, Facebook has reported a 67% increase in use of the Facebook Messenger app over the last two years. More importantly, in just 2017 alone, 330 million people connected with a small business on Messenger for the first time. I suspect this will continue to be the case, especially because Facebook has now launched an option to embed the Facebook messenger on your website. Your clients will now have the ability to contact you through Facebook, even if they don’t find your Facebook page! This is great news, IF and only IF, you’ve set up your Facebook Messenger settings well, and you’re actually checking and responding to your Facebook messages. Give your Messenger settings, away messages and instant replies a second look, and while you’re at it, take a look at the messages you’ve received over the past year. If any of them brought you business or bonded you to an existing client, it’s a platform worth using. For those of you who haven’t utilized Messenger in the past, time to give it a shot. My prediction is that you’ll see clients turn to this increasingly over emails and phone calls in the coming year.
3. Wider Use of Chatbots
I’ve previously written about chatbots, which are basically computer programs that simulate a conversation. Often, they're designed to do their job so well, they imitate how a human would behave in having a conversation via text, or for the purposes of this article, Facebook Messenger. These automatic tools that allow us to communicate with clients who opt-in via Facebook Messenger. I believe we’ll continue to see growth in the functionality and how frequently all brands, veterinary or not, use these tools. From heartworm reminders to clinic announcements, these tools give us a more immediate access to our clients where they’re already spending time – Facebook. Early studies show that these communications have a higher open rate than emails, and may even trump text messages for notifications! I’ll be interested to see if veterinarians – and other businesses too—start using them as a scheduling and/or reminder tool.
4. Instagram Hashtags Become Your Friend
In addition to being able to find content that used a specific hashtag by searching for it in the “Explore” section of Instagram, or finding it by by clicking the hashtag in a post that used it, Instagram recently launched a new feature that allows you to actually follow a specific hashtag, much as you would follow a specific individual. This content will now appear in your Instagram feed, eliminating your manual efforts! For instance, I’m always interested in content that uses the #veterinary hashtag, so I would randomly remember once or twice a week to search “veterinary” in the Explore section. Now, after “following” the #veterinary hashtag, this content appears in my feed, and has introduced me to several new cool veterinary-related accounts that I wouldn't have found otherwise.
Second bonus: you can see what hashtags an individual user is following.
Why is this important for clinics? Having a clinic-specific hashtag will mean even more than before, as will using any popular community hashtags. You may attract new followers this way, in addition to ensuring your content is seen by the people who want to see it! Their friends and followers can take note of their follow your hashtag as well, so consider that like another public endorsement!
5. Growth from "Stories"
Especially for those practices/professionals using Instagram, utilizing the “story” feature will give business followers more behind-the-scenes access, something our veterinary clients often love! This kind of transparency can improve our trust level, and remove some of the stigma and stress associated with veterinary visits (e.g. seeing “the back,” the kennel area, etc). Adding quick photos and/or video to your “story” on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat are some of the highest reward:lowest time/creation investment content, especially as these platforms give more screentime and perks to story content. For instance, you can add URL links that will appear as a “See More” button on the bottom of any Instagram story, so this could be a great way to drive content to your website or other site that you don’t have within regular posts.
6. It's Pay to Play
This isn’t anything necessarily new to 2018, as it’s been increasingly true over the last few years. I’ll keep this last one short and sweet. If you haven’t been paying for Facebook ads, boosted posts, or other social media advertising, you’re missing out. If you’ve noticed a major drop in your reach or effectiveness, there’s a reason. Gone are the days of truly “free” marketing on social media, and businesses are going to have to fork out the dough if they want to succeed. However, at no point in the history of marketing did you have such an amazing opportunity to connect, in a razor-sharp targeted manner, to your ideal clientele. Don’t miss out.
That's my list, so it will be fun to revisit this in January 2019 and see how it shook out. I'm using all of these opportunities this year, with real focus on more video content for both my practice and my consulting. What are your social media goals and plans for the year? --Dr. DeWilde