Developing and implementing a successful social media strategy for your practice can be overwhelming. It takes a fair amount of research, planning, and creativity to make it work. A social media calendar can help you organize your content, marketing goals, and overall strategy in one place, as well as making maximum use of your scheduling time.
For my clinics, I create a social media calendar a month at a time, and have the bulk of my content scheduled before the month even begins. This frees me up for other tasks throughout the month, while still leaving space for photos and shareables as they happen. Before the month even begins, however, I know that I've met my goals of promoting my practice, educating my clients, and having a consistent appearance on social media. When the inevitable emergency comes in during my "social media time" at the clinic or I unexpectedly get sick (seriously, winter, when WILL you end?!?), I know my page is covered.
Here are my seven steps to create your social media calendar:
1. Start with an online template or print out a blank calendar page:
When I first started, I just printed out a blank month from Microsoft Word or a general Google search, and filled it all in by hand. I got a little wiser and created an online spreadsheet I save in my Google drive so I can come back to it easily, anytime, from any device. Having it online has even helped me plan a bit more ahead. For instance, if we decide in February that we're going to have a clinic event in April, I can go ahead and put that on my calendar now. Added bonus? You may even be able to pull ideas next year!
If you'd like to try my template, access it here:
2. Mark off any traditional holidays, clinic events, closings, etc.
March 2017 isn't too exciting, at least in my part of the country. We've got Daylight Savings Time and St. Patrick's Day, but no other major events. I added these two holidays and color coded them.
I generally do a quick google search for "March 2017 holidays" to make sure I also don't miss any other important "unusual" holidays, and found I would have forgotten about Dr. Seuss Day. When the opportunity arises to post a picture of a cat in a hat, you take it. There are, of course, lots of the other weird holidays, like National Potato Chip Day, Submarine Day and Corn Dog Day...I just can't make those relatable to veterinary clients, and we have plenty of other stuff to share, anyway!
For each of the events, plan a photo, article or graphic to represent that day. I have a great Daylight Savings Time reminder graphic we made a year or so ago of our clinic cat lounging on a clock. A quick search of one of my most trusted resources, PetHealthNetwork.com, rewards me with a timely article called "How Does Daylight Savings Time Affect Your Dog?" (http://pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-behavior/how-does-daylight-savings-time-affect-your-dog). Boom! Now I've got two pieces of content already planned for that day. Repeat as needed for the other holidays.
3. Hit up my favorite resource for true animal related events, the AVMA's Pet Health Awareness Events Page:
I love this resource. Not only does it remind me of all the animal-friendly holidays, it also often has resources linked to them that are great for sharing.
Plug these events into your calendar and now we've got several other ideas for content on days like National Puppy Day and Poison Prevention Week. I may not end up using them all (it's pretty hard to come up with something for your clinic National Manatee Day when you live in St. Louis), but I like to make sure I'm aware of them and use them as a springboard for content.
Again, I'll look into my photo library to see if I have anything pertinent. I know I'll want to share several articles about Pet Poison Prevention week, and I'm going to make a new infographic to share from my clinic. I hit up ASPCA Poison Control (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control) for a mix of articles and resources (Top household toxins, poisonous plant database, sharing info about the app, etc) and plan one a day. Moving on to National Puppy Day, I know we'll want to share a photo of a doctor at the practice with a puppy, so I make a note in the clinic schedule to take a photo with the doctor of any new puppies in the few days before, and also plan to create a graphic asking our clients to share pictures of their dogs as puppies!
4. Holidays are covered...now what?
Now that we've gotten a good start on our calendar and covered any major "events," it's time to plan for the rest of the month. I like to next stick in one "reminder" post each week: one heartworm reminder, one website reminder, one Google reminder, and one referral program reminder. I vary these on the day and the time of day. For example, I always put our heartworm/flea prevention reminder on the first of every month, which in March falls on a Wednesday. I usually schedule this at night when I know people are more likely to be home and able to give their pets their heartworm prevention. For the second week, I'll plug in our website reminder onto a Tuesday morning. The third week, our Google page reminder goes onto a Thursday evening. And finally, our client referral program reminder lands on a Friday morning. There's no real rhyme or reason, other than to try to catch different segments of your viewers without seeming desperate for feedback or too "salesy."
Why do I post these reminders? Let's break each one down:
-Heartworm reminders: We speak to every client, every day about heartworm prevention and other parasite protection. Why limit that conversation to one day a year during annual exams? Not only is it good medicine, it's a great and free service you can offer your clients (and patients) to help remind them! My clinic's clients now know to look for it, and almost every month, we get a comment thanking us for the reminder on our Facebook page. I generally try to create a fun and seasonally-appropriate cute picture to go along with it.
-Website reminders: How often do existing clients visit your website? Not nearly as often as you'd like, I'm afraid. Your practice undoubtedly spent a lot of money and time developing a great website that has a ton of information about your practice, your services, and often, client resources like pet portals, education articles, online prescription sales, scheduling options, etc. Make sure your clients know about these resources, and build their loyalty to your practice. Try to remind them of some of the interesting things you have on your site with a graphic or descriptive post listing the items of interest in bullet points.
-Google reminders: Let's face it. We could all use feedback, and we all love those 5 star reviews. Make it easier for your clients to give you a great review by casually posting your Google + page, which should have photos, clinic info, and oh, by the way, the place they leave reviews. I am purposefully vague in these posts and don't specifically ask for reviews. I generally post a screenshot of the page, or create a graphic of the Google page in a cool laptop image (placeit.net is great for these!), and say "Have you visited our Google page? We'd love your feedback!" and leave it at that. Not always, but often we'll land a new review. That's worth a post to me!
-Word of Mouth/Referral program reminder: Most clinics have some sort of referral program, and often times have special cards made up. Why not remind your clients to help spread the word? I find that many clients aren't even aware that the practice offers them a discount. Sharing a simple photo of your referral card is an easy post you can recycle each month. Again, not a surefire way to get new clients, but I frequently see clients tag their friends in the post.
5. Promoting Practice Products & Services
Now that our reminders and events are plugged in, I focus on educating our clients on ONE product and ONE service each month. Again, I don't want to come off as too "salesy," or too promotional. However, I'm a big believer that 1/3 of the content you publish on social media should be content that PROMOTES your practice.
So, I'll choose one product- with spring around the corner think your favorite flea preventative or shampoo. Often, these products have their own social media channels or websites- I'll hit those up to see if there is anything valuable to share like an instructional video or a special offer/rebate.
Moving on to the service, your website is a great resource here. Simply sharing the link from your practice's website about a particular service is a quick and easy post that can give your clients a bit more info into some of your lesser known offerings (think laser therapy, acupuncture, digital radiography, ultrasound, etc). Make sure the link populates with a picture, and simply use the text "Did you know that we offer ____? Check out our website for more info, or call us today at 555-5555."
6. Time for some original graphics
We HAVE to differentiate ourselves online and publish content that is unique to our individual clinics. Luckily it's getting easier and easier to do so. I'm a big fan of creating even simple quotes, and better yet, infographics or educational "snippets" in graphic form. Try hitting up Canva.com, Picmonkey.com or the WordSwag app to overlay a simple animal-related quote over a cute image. For more advanced designers, infographics are huge and often become big "shareables," therefore getting out the client education AND your brand all over social media. I have a bank of these I've created and will rotate one or two in each month.
7. Educational articles
We all know these are not going to be the bread and butter of making you a social media rockstar. Too often, articles are overlooked and often underliked. However, I'm still committed to sharing trustworthy, valuable information with my clients. I really feel that as a veterinarian, I have the obligation to be THE resource of pet health info. If a client is interested in gaining more knowledge on a particular topic, I want them to have a good place to turn. If I consistently publish material, or share from reputable sources, they'll start to have some competition from all the more sensational, non-veterinary pet info sources out there.
So, each month I think about what timely topics might be pertinent.
In an ideal world, I'd have a blog or two written, and hopefully I'll have time to do so. But just in case, I want to find some trustworthy articles.
Vetstreet.com and PetHealthNetwork.com are often my go-tos here. Simply typing in the word "Spring" lands me the following articles:
-Spring Exercise and Safety (http://pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-checkups-preventive-care/spring-exercise-and-safety)
-Nine Spring Time Pet Hazards (http://pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-toxins-poisons/9-spring-time-pet-hazards)
-Can Dogs Have Spring Allergies? (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/can-dogs-have-spring-allergies)
-Eight Spring Cleaning Tips for Pet Owners (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/8-spring-cleaning-tips-for-pet-owners).
Bonus: They also had plenty of funny ones like these:
-Celebrate Spring with Adorable Videos of Puppies Enjoying the Great Outdoors (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/celebrate-spring-with-adorable-videos-of-puppies-enjoying-the-great-outdoors)
-Five Adorable Dog Videos to Make You Ache for Spring: (http://pethealthnetwork.com/news-blogs/a-pets-life/five-adorable-dog-videos-make-you-ache-spring)
I pick a few of these and scatter throughout the month on days I don't have other content planned.
And now you're done! Your calendar should be satisfyingly full of content and ready to schedule! You'll notice there isn't something EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Why? Because you need to leave room for patient and clinic photos, which should be a regular part of your social strategy as well. And you know there will be a hilarious meme or video you'll want to share when you see it, and you should (like this one http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/19/golden-retriever-dog-fails-obedience-test-video_n_6186890.html). Clients love that, and love seeing that you love it too, and often end up sharing it from your page. Triple win.
Finish up your productiveness by getting this scheduled on your Facebook (and/or Twitter, other social outlets). It's far more effective to sit down and schedule 20 posts at once than doing one or two every few days. Now you have more time for coming up with other creative marketing ideas like new videos, graphics or promotions....or one of the other 13,798 things that seem to always need getting done in a vet clinic. Happy scheduling!
Remember, you can get my blank calendar template and the completed March template at this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/132bI5-bXXMJtOD_zO_eKJJKQJNyeYVjqz-U538wd1kw/edit?usp=sharing
To use, simply click File > Make a Copy and edit away to fit your clinic's schedule and goals!
-C. DeWilde, DVM