Kids, it's been a week. The last seven days have been some of the most stressful many of us have ever experienced. As I've shifted from helping practices market and run ads to helping them figure out how to use telemedicine and make COVID-related posts on social media, we're all adapting. In my own practices, it's been a day-to-day change and rapid/forced adoption of new technologies and policies. I spent my last shift conscious not only about my distance from the tech and the client but the inevitable distraction that came when some one-anyone- so much as sniffled or cleared their throat. It's just...been a week.
And now that our teams are adjusting to a new normal-- for most of us, curbside care, dropoffs, non-essential/non-elective care-- many of my social media and consulting clients are asking- what the heck are we supposed to be posting? Our normal strategy of crafting a mix of promoting the practice, sharing fun photos, helpful articles and the occasional meme just doesn't seem right now. But social media is now so full of COVID-related posts making MORE of them hardly seems right either.
How do we balance? How do we provide value without adding to the stress and overload? Here's what I'd recommend sharing (examples at the end, and please share yours with us too!):
1. How your team is helping: if your practice has donated gowns, masks or medical supplies, share a picture of the team packing it up or making the donation. If you've shuttered your surgery room to conserve PPE, take a picture of the dark empty room and tell the story of why your team thinks it's important.
2. Support the community: if your neighboring businesses are offering new curbside, carryout or delivery options, give them some social media love by sharing it on your pages. Just this weekend I was able to order a curbside pickup kids art project kit from the craft store, a DIY pizza kit from the pizza place down the street and a carryout dinner (even beer!) from a restaurant near my clinic as they try to minimize the loss of business. These solutions and offerings are creative, supportive and frankly, a welcome distraction (especially since I don't cook!). If your team always gets lunch or coffee from a local establishment, consider sharing a post to support them.
3. Convenience offerings: pet owners will still need food, meds and potentially, their care questions answered. Most practices have options to help in some way, and you should share these!
4. The team (at home). By now, some teams have had to cut staff or reduce hours or may even be mandated to stay-in-place. That's ok. That means that people are safe. It's not great for business and paychecks- I get it-- but it means that people are staying safe. If your team is staying home or reducing their hours, share pictures of your team at home cuddling with their pets. This will help showcase your team PLUS the knowledge that pets are not going to be a source of COVID, and let's face it- they're basically the best part of staying home right now and essential to our mental health!
5. Share what's relatable- we're all stressed, we're all tired, and we're all ESPECIALLY tired of COVID. A funny meme, video or totally non-COVID social post is OK. Looking for some good, safe sources? Check out The Pet Effect, Meowingtons or Mutts Comics. Or maybe this particular social media video that I've watched and laughed at 30 times this week (best with sound).
6. Consider supporting those with two-legged kiddos too. Many are stuck at home WITH kids, looking for things to do. My personal feed has erupted with live videos, at-home exercises, and kid-friendly online activities. If your practice is up for doing some kid-centered live videos, like a tour of the practice, a pet exam, or even reading a pet-themed story- I guarantee you this will be a hit with parents EVERYWHERE and further bond your practice to your community. Stay tuned- I'm working on a two-legged veterinary resources kit to share!
It's a rough time to be a social media manager and this is an unprecedented experience that is continuing to evolve. Focus on your people and your practice first, and worry about social media if and when you can. Hopefully, these tips will give you a few ideas on keeping your page valuable to your practice and your followers. Stay safe!
-Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
A key step in claiming and personalizing your Facebook Business Page, as well as creating a unified brand identity, is claiming your Facebook handle, also known as a vanity URL.
This handle will allow your Page’s web address to be customized. Instead of the default jumble of numbers and letters like facebook.com/alkjsdlfkjwelkrjlkjf13lkj234, you’ll be able to direct your viewers to facebook.com/yourveterinaryclinic.
To customize, you’ll need to be an admin on your practice’s Facebook Page. This process is easiest done on a desktop, where you’ll
Having trouble? Check out Facebook’s username guidelines here, or shoot us an email!
-The Social DVM Team
One word. VERY.
Simply put, a social media handle is a “username,” preferenced by the “@” AKA “at symbol” and used on social media channels. Your handle allows others to find your business on social media by adding it to the tail end of any platform’s web address. For instance, the handle @thesocialdvm can be added to facebook.com/thesocialdvm, instagram.com/thesocialdvm or twitter.com/thesocialdvm and properly direct you to our pages. You may also see this referred to as claiming a “vanity URL.”
So why is it so important to have consistent handles across all social media platforms? Your social media handle is a huge part of your branding when it comes to online marketing. It creates a clear, unique identifier of your practice and brand. Ideally, a strong and memorable handle will be easy for your clients and customers to remember and tie back to your business, no matter where they are searching.
In addition, having a single unique handle will allow you to market more effectively. Simply add the “@yourvetclinic” to business cards, brochures and client materials for a universal result!
Some things to consider when creating your social handle:
The bottom line? When creating a social media handle, it is important to try, whenever possible, to be consistent across channels that allow you to customize- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and even Google Business. Be creative, but be concise! In some cases, a username you want may already be taken, and you can then decide if you want to have multiple handles or choose a new one that will apply across all channels.
Have questions? Need help coming up with a social handle? We are just an email away!
-The Social DVM Team
I’m a big believer in practices having a social media/digital “team.”
A team approach:
Let’s focus on that last bit for a second. When I say “safer,” I’m not just talking about protecting it from a disgruntled employee. I’m also talking about, ya know, that thing I do like three times a week, which is forgetting a password or getting locked out of an account.
To be fair, the first possibility is also just that- a possibility. Having multiple admins means that if someone does leave, on good terms or not, the practice won’t suffer and can still access their accounts without that awkward transition.
I think this is particularly important for practice owners who often don’t actually manage their accounts day-to-day. Even if you have no intention of ever logging into your Facebook, Yelp, or other accounts- it is THE online representation of your business, and you should own it the same way you own your client list, blood work machines or inventory.
So? How do you do that?
I’ve rounded up the “how to’s” for all accounts that allow multiple admin or manager roles.
For the accounts that don’t yet offer this feature but still need multiple people to access (looking at you, Instagram and Nextdoor), I would recommend using a password manager like Last Pass owned by the practice owner.
Happy account securing!
Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
Technology can be a beautiful thing. If you're managing your clinic's social media presence on the go, having a few of the right apps on your phone can make the process even more efficient. Since inspiration strikes me all hours of the day and night, having these apps on my phone allows me to act quickly to implement ideas. That said, I am a huge believer in work-life balance and normally do most of my work at my desk during my normal "hours." Still, these apps have all been lifesavers when I'm traveling, and many of you have indicated that you like to work on clinic or personal phones and tablets.
So here we go- my top 10 social media management apps (I use iOS devices, but I'm pretty sure these are all Android friendly as well). I'll be doing a similar blog next week of my top 10 photo editing/design apps, so stay tuned! And remember, there is no right or wrong way-- just like different veterinarians prescribe different treatment plans, different social media managers use different social tools. You do what works for you, and your practice!
The countdown begins, Letterman style!
10. Google Drive: I save all of my clinic's logos and photos into files on Google Drive. That way I can access them anytime I want to brand a picture or need to pull up an old photo- without taking space on my own phone. I have access to all of our "media" across devices this way, and can save items directly to it from a text or email too!
9. Tweets Nearby: If you're not sure if your clinic should use Twitter, Tweets Nearby identifies tweets that have been sent from your geographic location in a map viewfinder. If there's not a lot of Twitter activity in the few miles around your clinic, it may not be the right demographic for you and therefore not worth your time. For instance, if I open up Tweets Nearby in some of the outer suburbs of St. Louis, it's crickets in the Twitterverse. But if I'm downtown in the city, I practically can't see the map because of all the activity.
It also lets you see what's trending around you- great for conventions, concerts, etc.
8. Facebook Ads Manager: While not as powerful as actual desktop Ads Manager, this app will definitely let you manage the ads you've created from your phone. I use it as a quick way to check in on my ads and see how many people they've reached. You can also allow it to notify you're reaching a spending limit or they're about to expire. Editing features give you the ability to fix typos, alter budgets, schedule and audiences. The app does allow you to create ads, but I'm apparently getting old and like to see those in a larger screen size.
7. Repost: Think of this as the Facebook "share" button feature for Instagram. This app allows you to post other people's Instagram photos on your own Instagram feed. No need to screenshot if you'd like to reuse a popular photo or meme, plus this way you're allowed to give credit to the original Instagramer- great for building those relationships with your clients and your community. This is great if you have a client post a photo tagged at your location, and you want to share this on your clinic's Instagram feed. Or if you want to repost photos from my feed of my adorable dog Maple, either way :-)
6. Yelp for Business: a handier version of the website, you can set this up for your clinic in order to respond to reviews or questions right from your phone, track visitor traffic, and upload photos. For those who want regular and instant access to what's happening on their clinic Yelp page, this is the best way to do it, since you can enable it to send you a notification with each new review.
5. Pocket: Pocket lets you save articles, videos, links in a convenient spot that you can access anywhere. Think of it like using the Facebook "Saved" feature but from literally any website or social media device on your phone. Instead of emailing yourself links or keeping the browser window open forever, I find it easy to come back to these articles later. I use this for animal stories throughout the week, and then when I need something to share, I've got several already saved and ready to go. It will also suggest articles based on your interests/previous saved content (so for me, um....cat videos, basically).
4. IFTTT (IF): This stands for "If This, Then That" and is one of my favorite apps (and websites) of all time. This app allows you to create "recipes" using more than 60 different connected apps- including Facebook, Twitter Instagram, Gmail, FitBit, Dropbox, etc. For a non-social media example, you can create a recipe that if rain is forecasted tomorrow, you'll get a text reminding you to bring an example. My favorite social media use of this is a receipt that takes photos I post on Instagram and then automatically posts it on Twitter too (but it look like a native photo, not just a link to Instagram). Shhhh...it's a little bit of a secret, but I can't post everywhere all the time! :-) I also like the option to save all your photos from Instagram or Facebook to a Dropbox or Gmail folder, or the recipe to get a notification if a specific person posts on Instagram (great if you have those famous four-legged patients with their own Instagram accounts)! There are literally a billion other combos and recipes already out there- so check them out and streamline your stuff!
3. Bitly: Another app and website combo, Bitly allows you to shorten a link quickly, and if you want, share to Twitter, Facebook, text or email directly from the app. As you can imagine, this is most handy if you want to tweet an article with a super long web address. It also saves your recent links and tracks how many people have clicked then, which can be handy too!
2. Hootsuite: This app is a great sidekick to the website service, which allows you to share and schedule posts from your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin Accounts all from one place. It's free for up to 3 social network accounts. I use the website every day, but the app is handy if I have a last minute message I want to schedule to post in the morning before my day begins. It also has a built-in link shortener as well!
And my number one app is.....Drumroll....
1. Facebook Pages Manager: This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are TONS of people who aren't using this app. If you're managing any sort of Facebook page from your phone, ever, you absolutely need this app. Pages Manager lets admins post and respond to comments AS YOUR PAGE, and prevents you from accidentally doing so as your personal account. You can also view and reply to private messages your Page receives (if you've enabled that feature), view your page insights, schedule future content, and get pushed notifications on comments, reviews, etc. While I have mixed feelings on getting notifications on your phone (again, work-life balance here), if nothing else you should use it so you can't mix up your personal profile with your business page.
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.