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.
By now, you have probably seen that new button on the top of your vet clinic's Facebook Page: "Create Call-to-Action." Another one of Facebook's seemingly ever-changing options, this new button is to the left of your "Like" button in the area of your cover photo. Only visible to page administrators until activated, Facebook started rolling these out to businesses in late December (official release here). Nearly every clinic I work with has now had this button pop up as an option for their page, so I wanted to walk you through how to set it up! While I don't anticipate that this tool will be of major value to clinics, it's yet another opportunity for clients to connect with you in many cases. As far as I'm concerned, an opportunity to connect should never be wasted. This task is well worth your next five minutes. Let's get started:
Step 1: Click the "Call-to-Action" button
Don't worry. It's safe. You know you've been wanting to. The purpose of this button is to "add a button to get people to take action from your Page such as shop or sign up." While this is more helpful for businesses selling products online, don't worry- there are more options!
Step 2: Choose Your Button
There are seven options, five of which are likely to be beneficial to veterinary clinics. The options are 1) Book Now, 2) Contact Us, 3) Use App, 4) Play Game, 5) Shop Now, 6) Sign Up or 7) Watch Video.
My favorite is the "Contact Us" button, and every clinic can utilize this. Depending on your practice, you may also be able to use the "Book Now" button if your website has online scheduling, or perhaps the "Sign Up" feature for your clinic newsletter. Based on the button you choose, you'll be prompted for the specific address you want your visitors to go to (e.g. newsletter registration page on your website, online scheduler, contact form, etc).
If you choose the "Contact Us" option, enter your website in the text box indicated. If you have a specific page on your website in which clients can contact you directly, copy and paste that address into this box. For this clinic, we simply used the clinic's main homepage. Click "Next."
Step 3: Choose a Destination for People Using iOS
This is simply asking where do you want people to go when they're accessing your clinic Facebook Page from their Apple (iOS) device. The options are either website or app, so unless your clinic has it's own app, select "Website." The text below will confirm the website address you entered in the previous step. Click "Next."
Step 4: Choose a Destination for People Using an Android
This is exactly the same step as above, only setting the option for those accessing your Page from their Android device. Again, unless your clinic has an app, select "Website." Then hit "Create."
Step 5: You're done!
A screen should pop up stating "Your Call-to-Action Button is Ready." Your button is now active! Hit "Next" on the popup. You can view your results, or number of people that actually click this button, on the right hand tool bar.
Find this helpful? Use any different call to action options? I'd love to hear what your clinic tried, and what worked.
The "Cat Crisis" in veterinary medicine, or the drastic discrepancy between the numbers of cats and dogs seen in our clinics, is a hot topic. While the phrase itself may be a little panic-inducing, the statistics don't lie. Cat visits have decreased more than 30% in the last decade. Compared to dog visits in the previous year alone, three times as many cats did not receive any veterinary care.
There are many theories, studies and ongoing campaigns to identify and correct this issue. Many like to blame cat owners themselves and economic woes. In my opinion, billions of dollars are being spent on cat products, toys and hilarious feline themed videos each year-- so it doesn't seem like money is the only issue. I think too many owners just don't understand why regular exams are important, or how to even get their cats to the vet in a safe and minimally-stressed manner. We know the care we provide our feline patients is important, we understand cat behavior, and it's our job to help cats whether they are in our clinic or not. It's up to us to change the public perception on the necessity of preventative care, and I think social media can help.
Here are a few simple ideas to get started:
10. Share Information to Make Coming in Easier
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, 38% of cat owners report being stressed just THINKING about getting their cat to the vet. No wonder we can't get cats in the door! As veterinarians, we need to educate owners before they even get into the exam room. Share helpful tips on how to load cats into carriers, travel safely with cats in the car, and tips to minimize stress throughout their visit.
Consider writing a blog, or making quick posts and graphics to share. Here's an example of a quick graphic you could put along with a blog post!
Need more ideas for cat travel and transportation trips? Check out http://www.haveweseenyourcatlately.com/Visiting_Your_Vet.html.
9. Show off Your Cat Patients
Most of the clinics on social media for have a 90% bias toward dog photos. I'll admit I'm guilty of forgetting to snap pics of my cat patients too. It's so easy to get great pictures of dogs in our exam rooms sitting patiently for a treat, eyes focused on the camera and still happy at the end of the exam. I think we all know that the minute the feline exam is over we quickly usher the kitties back into their carrier. Take an extra minute and get a photo of your cat patients in the clinic, or at least ask your owners to share their photos of their cats from home!
8. Talk about Ways You're Changing Healthcare
Emphasize that there is more to feline exams than just vaccines. Run a daily series for a week showcasing a different aspect of your feline exam- each with a photo and brief description of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Educate owners with posts about your vaccine protocols, especially using AAFP info if you follow the three year recommendations, etc. Highlight a new cat wellness package with routine bloodwork. All of these options can educate your clients about cat health, your commitment to the most recent healthcare trends, and get more patients in the door.
7. Connect with Industry Experts
This is an easy one! There are great groups out there sharing really helpful cat-friendly tips. Connect with them online and share their information. In addition to providing your clients with helpful tips, it reinforces your message and shows that you're "in the know" and connected with these feline oriented organizations. Check out the AAFP/Cat Friendly Practice groups and CATalyst Council to start.
6. Showcase Cats in Need
Another easy win-win-win for the cat, the client, and your practice. Sharing photos from area rescues and shelters can increase adoptions! With any luck, you'll help find a kitty a new home, make a new owner very happy, and see them for care in your clinic.
5. Show off Your Cat-friendly Practice
Even if your practice hasn't been officially certified as a cat-friendly practice, you can still showcase your clinic's more feline friendly features. If you have a special waiting area, cat-only exam room, or special cat-only office hours, post pictures to share this info with your clients. If you need a quick logo-free graphic to share, you can right-click on the image here to download.
4. Promote the Initiative
There are HUNDREDS of statistics on cats, cat ownership, cat health, and the general disparity between cat and dog visits. Try some clever posts and graphics to demonstrate that you're aware of the discrepancy. Emphasize that you're sharing this info with owners because you want their cats to be as healthy as possible, not because you're trying to rake in their exam fees. The "Have We Seen Your Cat Lately" website, as well as Partners for Healthy Pets website (http://www.partnersforhealthypets.org/) have great info and tips.
3. Show a Success Story
Have a successfully-managed diabetic or hyperthyroid cat? A patient you're treating or have cured based on something you found at a routine exam? Try showcasing before and after photos of interesting cases, weigh ins for management of that obese cat (ok all of them), or even just post a photo of a cat when they are in for their exam and bloodwork- and explain why.
Bottom line- share photos and stories. Ask the owner to share what they learned by bringing their cat in- hearing it from another non-vet can sometimes reach even the toughest skeptic.
2. Show off a Service/Procedure
Does your clinic offer dental cleanings for cats? I can't think of how many times I've had owners shocked that this was an option- the services many owners consider standard for dogs are available for cats too- make sure your owners know! If your clinic has the special "kitty condos" for boarding or hospitalization, this can also go a long way into easing owner's concerns about leaving their cat in your clinic even for inpatient procedures.
1. Share the Bond
How many veterinarians and veterinary staff members DON'T have cats? And better yet, how many of us have cats that we actively sought out? I’m guessing the answers to these questions are “few" and "far between.” Our houses are loaded with cats with great stories- from being dumped at the clinic to being saved by our amazing medical skills in their hour of need. They wriggled their way into our houses and hearts, now show off their pics and stories!
Don’t forget the fun stuff too- while dog shaming photos have taken off, internet cat videos still rule. I can’t even start listing my favorites or we’ll be here all week, but a Google cat video search won’t disappoint. Share fun tips, toys and games you’ve used with your own cats, or find them online. There is an entire website on IKEA furniture hacks to create fun environments and cat furniture. AN ENTIRE WEBSITE. Pinterest is literally brimming with cat-friendly material too!
Sharing fun feline photos, tips and ideas can help convey to your audience that you love cats just as much as dogs, even when off the clock. Don’t worry, my friends assure me it DOES NOT make you look like a crazy cat lady.....
May your scrubs be ever covered in cat hair and your Facebook brimming with likes,
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So you're ready to make the plunge into social media! For some of you, the Facebook or Pinterest page may be your first. For others, your personal accounts are brimming with retweets and likes, but you haven't yet made your business "social." And for many, you started this endeavor once or twice before....and ran out of time.
It happens! As a practicing veterinarian, I understand. Our days are full of to-do lists, busy waiting rooms, clients to call and pets to care for. Posting a picture of that cool foreign body you took out yesterday or setting up that Pinterest board of helpful links seems trivial when you have calls to make, stacks of journals to read and files to write up.
With so many distractions and obligations, it's imperative that you prepare for your endeavor. You wouldn't walk into an abdominal exploratory without having done bloodwork and radiographs, or without your surgical pack and suture. Why jump into social media without diagnostics and digital tools of the trade? Glove up, friends, and let's talk about your practice's social media prep, procedure and success.
10. Have your logo handy. No--you can't use the 1 cm square you scanned off your business card. Ideally, you should have a high resolution digital image in color, in black and white, and one with a transparent background. If a graphics company created a logo for you initially, this should be no problem. If not, you may want to ask for their help, or spending some time on the logo in Photoshop or other editing software yourself. Nearly every social media platform will provide an opportunity to upload your logo as a part of your profile. You can also use your logo to "brand" the photos you share--increasing your exposure and giving them a polished look. Having a variety of options, including your icon (graphic picture alone), your icon and clinic name together, +/- your address or phone number, etc will all come in handy.
These photos are all actual posts that show different ways to use your logo for branding purposes:
9. Gather your data. When setting up social media and online review platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Yelp, you'll need all your pertinent data handy. You probably know the address, hours and website address like the back of your hand. But do you have a copy of your clinic's mission statement, the owner bio or the history of the business? In addition, you'll need both a brief (1-2 sentence) and detailed (1-2 paragraph) description of the clinic and the services it offers for many of these pages, particularly Facebook.
8. Delegate. This step is crucial. Social media, like many tasks in a veterinary hospital, cannot survive on the efforts of one person alone. Involve your team. Social media is fun, and many will want to participate. It is important, however, to restrict the actual act of posting to trusted employees. Every photo you post, every article you share and every statement you make on social media will represent your practice. Posts need to be medically appropriate, grammatically and factually correct, and if humor is involved- tasteful and free of any potentially sensitive topics. Make sure any administrators you delegate can be trusted to represent your practice in the same way you would. My personal Facebook-specific recommendation is that the practice owner retain sole "Admin" rights, and make all other employees "Editors." Taking this step leaves owners the ability to monitor and remove any employees from Facebook should their professional relationship end. For more information on Facebook roles, check out: https://www.facebook.com/help/323502271070625
7. Schedule time. It seems so easy to post a quick photo or retweet a quick article-- and sometimes it can take seconds. Sometimes it doesn't. As we all know, without setting time aside, the likelihood of a "quick, easy job" getting done in a veterinary clinic is slim to none. Blocking off 30 minutes one or two times a week can give you a great opportunity to post quality, engaging content, especially if you take advantage of social media scheduling tools. Furthermore, if you are delegating the posting to a technician or receptionist, this will limit the time they can spend on Facebook pretending to "work" on your page!
6. Check out your camera. Engaging content requires VISUAL appeal. That cute puppy you saw in your last appointment will get you a ton of likes, but not if you have pyrantel caked to your phone's camera lens. Yes, this actually happened to me. You don't need to have a digital SLR in the clinic, but consider at least a modest effort in taking quality pictures. The majority of the content I share on my page and the pages of the clinics I manage comes from smartphone cameras. I and many of my techs have Iphones, and another takes great photos with an HTC One. One of my client clinics has a hospital-owned point-and-shoot camera that floats around the office, available for all staff to use when at the first sign of photo-worthy activity. That camera holds a Wi-Fi enabled memory card, so photos are automatically uploaded to a computer, ready for editing and sharing. If you allow your staff members to take pictures with their phones, be ready to stress that while they're able to take pictures of pets, etc,. they must still adhere to your policies about phone use during the workday when they are not snapping cute puppy shots.
Another tip: Check out the "Pose a Pet" app, which will make squeaky toy and other noises to get pets to look at the camera!
5. Hold a staff meeting. Regardless of the level of involvement, the entire staff needs to be aware of the goals, usage and policies regarding your practice's social media presence. Make sure everyone is on the same page, and consider discussing the following issues:
4. Build your library of photos. There will be busy weeks filled with new pet exams, multiple new clients to welcome to the practice, an interesting GI foreign body workup /removal and a clinic event to promote. Then there will be weeks, usually in January, when your staff spends their time catching up on cleaning and paperwork. Having a library of material, including cool images- from staff-owned pets, funny articles, clinic pet photos, interesting cases and diagnostic tests, will allow you to maintain a consistent and interesting presence on your social media platforms. My veterinary friends know I'm still looking for that great microscope pic of Sarcoptes!
3. Plan ahead. I'm a procrastinator. While I work great under pressure and on a deadline, trying to get your dog to wear a sombrero the morning of Cinco de Mayo and pose for a photo before you rush off to work is not a great way to start your day. Trust me. If you want to share specific images or promote certain holidays and events, you have to plan ahead. Look ahead on the national and pet holiday calendars, and ask your staff and clients for photos in advance if need be. More often than not, they're eager to share and happy to help. I love the AVMA's Pet Health Awareness Events list, organized by month. Many of them have links to websites and shareable content, making it even easier to educate and promote pet health topics! Check it out at https://www.avma.org/events/pethealth/pages/default.aspx
2. Ask for help when you need it. If you're not seeing the engagement you want, you're running out of ideas on what to share, or you can't make the time to get the job done, ask for help. There are a ton of free resources and educational tools out there to help you learn what you need to do or get some inspiration. There are many professionals, myself included, who are passionate about this aspect of vet med and love to share ideas and info to anyone who will listen. If you need more tech know-how or content ideas, check out SNOUT School (www.snoutschool.com), owned and operated by a successful veterinary practice manager. SNOUT School is very active on social media, providing webinars and lots of great veterinary-specific information! Multiple initiatives by the AVMA and Partners for Healthy Pets can help provide shareable posts and tweets to help educate your clients and free up time for you to make more personalized posts. If time is the problem, there are companies like mine that offer in clinic training to maximize your efficiency and even daily management of your social media platforms.
1. Have fun. I've said this before and I'll say it again. Our job is cool! As veterinarians, we have a profession that makes children and grownups alike green with envy. People are fascinated by our every day, and let's face it-- some some days, we see some really cool stuff. You don't see thousands of people looking at funny fruit and vegetable photos or a video of roofing shingles going viral. We have that kind of "awww-inducing," heartwarming- story-making material right down the hall, almost every day. We have the opportunity to show off what we do, create bonds with our clients that go beyond the paperwork, and educate owners to ultimately help them take better care of their pets. The stories, photos and info you share might be seen by someone who didn't know about heartworm prevention, or who didn't know you were supposed to take your cat to the vet every year. While I'm not saying that posting, sharing and tweeting is going to save lives, I'm saying it has the potential to help people connect more deeply with their animals, and learn more about giving them the best possible health care. Isn't that why we got into this gig in the first place? Share what makes you smile, what you want pet owners to know, and what makes your practice great. Your clients, and their pets, will thank you.