Just shy of one year ago, I decided to focus on teaching other veterinarians about social media. In a hyper-connected world, I saw that clients were turning more often to "Dr. Google" instead of to their veterinarians. I saw a once-powerful relationship between a veterinarian and their clients diminishing, growing business difficulties among my profession, and most importantly, an abundance of pet health information presented online -- and not by veterinarians. To me, taking charge and making a serious effort to connect with our clients in the new ways that they preferred to communicate seemed the most plausible solution. And thus, The Social DVM was born. I soon realized there were other veterinarians who felt the same way -- who had taken that same step, forged ahead, learned the lingo, and succeeded in connecting with their clients. As many of you know, I love nothing more than to talk about veterinary medicine and social media. But there are more stories to tell. More experiences to draw upon, more successes to admire, and more sources of inspiration to help your clinic. I invited some of these talented veterinary professionals to share their story, and will be featuring each of them over the coming weeks. Each presents a unique practice, a unique approach, and a unique personality. I hope you can learn as much as I have from their stories.
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
Meet Dr. Ryan Llera
Our second guest blogger is a small animal veterinarian currently living and practicing in Kingston, Ontario. His wife Jennifer is also a small animal veterinarian. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and moved to Canada in 2009. I started following Ryan on social media after realizing (1) he was a U of I grad so obviously had to be awesome and (2) seeing how he was connecting with pet owners, not just specific veterinary clients, on social media by telling powerful stories. His website, articles and social media content conveys solid pet advice and information via a personal and empathetic story, sometimes about his own animals. This kind of human-animal bond storytelling is what pet owners love to read! His story begins:
Social Media....Not Contagious But It Should Be
-By Ryan Llera, DVM
Who are you? Are you new here? Did you just graduate? My dog is just getting old doc, I don't want to put him through anything. Is it true that tea tree oil can help with fleas? How do you handle euthanasia? I was looking around on the internet....
These are many of the questions or comments I get in the exam room. Yes, I'm sure you've been asked them as well. But what are you doing about it? Some of them are easy to answer in the exam room, others not so much. For a moment though, let’s stop and think about how much more we as vets could accomplish by making our presence known out in the world.
You know you hate those appointments where the client has waited several days to bring in their sick pet and they only did so after trying some things they found “on the internet.” Yes, good old Dr. Google who does not have a DVM or VMD. So why give them a chance to find the webpage of one person's experience that will make your job harder? Remember the raging firestorm this past summer with the post about ice cubes causing bloat that went viral? These are precisely the types of things we should be trying to pre-emptively avoid rather than arguing against the court of public opinion later. For some people, they might see us as just the “greedy veterinarian” trying to drum up business by saying the stuff on the internet is wrong.
I started blogging and using social media (mainly Facebook & Twitter) just at the beginning of this year. My purpose was 3 fold:
1) I wasn't happy with the lack of use or limited use by the clinic I work at.
2) I wanted to build my brand for the future.
3) The perception of veterinarians in the public and the periodic monotony of daytime practice were getting to me.
If we aren't harnessing the attention of clients locally, they will either go to another clinic, or even worse they may ignore getting pet care altogether. People will try home remedies they find randomly on the internet and delay treatment thereby making our job harder. For something like Facebook, you need a good mixture of fun and information. Cute memes will only get you so far but realize that people LOVE personal stories about real patients. They like to see the cute ones and wish other ones good luck after surgery or to see what other interesting things you might be up to.
I don't know what the future holds. Whether I get to buy in to the clinic I'm at, start a new one, or buy a different one in town, I don't want to not be known. Look, people have called me Doogie Howser and think I'm a new grad. I'm short and I age very well. My blog and use of social media are getting me out there. When the time comes, I will have a portfolio essentially that says, “I'm a professional. I know what I'm doing and I want to help you.” The possibilities of what I can do with a brand are endless.
It's been at least 10 years since veterinarians were perceived as these wonderful, loving, caring people as a whole. Yes, your “A” clients will think of you that way but in the age of the internet, rising costs, and poor economy, we are often seen now as “just in it for the money.” Heck, even my grandmother thought I made $180k a year (oh I wish...it would be easier to travel, support the horse habit, and do more goodwill). Part of this is what drove me to my first blog posts. My dog Charlie, who has an absolutely fascinating story that I've considered a book someday, had a bleeding splenic mass. I used this experience to show that I have a heart and am a pet owner too; I wanted to humanize myself. It also served as a creative outlet. Varying blog topics between medical topics as well as stories or topics that you can bring an opinion to are the types of things I strive for.
One of the exciting things I've had happen due to social media is joining up with internet celebrity on the rise Miss Edie the Pug. Edie & her human have over 5000 Twitter followers, 1500 Facebook fans, and a frequently updated blog. After connecting on Twitter and her reading my blog, I was asked to write a guest blog post every 3-4 weeks on something veterinary related. I've just started this but a few of the topic requests are submitted by her readers. The important thing to note about this is that I've been able to expand my reach and influence while making a new friend & ally in pet care.
Admittedly, starting on social media and then keeping up with it are scary things and can be difficult to stick with. It can also be time consuming...trust me on that one. I'd love to be as wildly popular as some of the other vets out there (Marty Becker, Andy Roark) who jumped on this train a while ago but I'm focused on building locally first. The important thing is to know that if you help just one pet or family, it's a positive difference in their life. Now is the time to focus on further building our professional relationships with our clients and potential clients.