Two years ago, on a whim/as an experiment, I started a private Facebook group for my staff members. I was looking for a way to communicate with my team, and was exploring options. I had tried Slack, Facebook for the Workplace, and the traditional methods (aka a printed sign in the breakroom), and I was still looking for something more. Here’s the how and why our Facebook Group has worked.
Starting a private Facebook group for your veterinary team members is relatively easy. Of my team of 22, all but one were already present on Facebook, so I knew I’d have a fairly reasonable success rate of being able to “reach” them. I signed into Facebook, and navigated to the “groups” page.
To start a new group, you’re given three options:
2) closed or
I elected the “secret” option and named our group. Secret groups are open to anyone, but members have to be invited or added by an existing member. No one but the members of the group can see the group, its members, or its activity, so this is what I would recommend for practice teams. You can check out more of the closed vs secret group criteria here. As an extra precaution, I named our group the “Rockstars of BAH,” removing our actual practice name from the equation.
Next, I needed to add our members. You will need one of two things to do this:
This access depends on each clinic’s dynamic. I’ve been in practices where everyone was personal friends with each other on Facebook and those in which no members were, and everything in between. There is an individual-specific and practice-specific dynamic here that could be a whole ‘nother blog, and maybe it will be someday. Bottom line: either you need to be personal friends with them on Facebook or you need the email address that they use to log into Facebook. Either one works the same way to add them to the group. Adding team members to the group does NOT give them access to your personal profile (unless your personal profile privacy settings are zilch).
And now, THE WHY:
Fast forward to when my team of 22 is all conveniently grouped into our own online microcosm. What’s the benefit? What’s the value-added proposition here? Why does this work? Here’s my shortlist :
1. Improved communication:
Let’s face it. My team is all already using Facebook, they like to be on Facebook, and frankly, we allow them to use their phones on breaks, lunch, etc. The reality is that it’s accessible on and off the clock.
My team will tell you that I LOVE to create Facebook events for our staff team. This includes any specific trainings, clinic events, and more importantly, staff meetings. Why? Because:
So hi, I’m Caitlin, and I’m a veterinary nerd. Obviously spending a fair amount of my time in the online/digital veterinary space, I come across a fair number of articles, product developments, pharmaceutical company initiatives and continuing education opportunities. Whether from company pages or other online groups, I’m able to share information and opportunities with my team. We frequently share webinars, drug recall info, marketing opportunities and overall practice tips from a variety of sources in our online group.
Helpfully, we can store files and documents, and share them, via our Facebook group. I’ve found this to be especially helpful as I often work from home. I will upload documents, staff meeting notes, flyers for the exam room, etc. to this, and that way it’s easily accessible to my team. I can also tag specific team members so they know where to refer back to and/or to print said documents.
5. Ability to "see: "
The beauty of the Facebook group is many…but it is helpful to know who my message has reached. If I post an announcement: for instance, on the latest meeting, or change in vaccine protocol, or deadline for insurance open enrollment: by clicking on the “seen by….” At the bottom, I can visually appreciate who effectively “should know” this info by a certain standpoint. If there have been team members who haven’t appeared in this list, I know I need to personally reach out via message, call, or in person, to make sure they’re aware of the latest developments.
Note: the caveat here is that I’m assuming they’re truly absorbing the info, when in fact they may be casually glancing through their Facebook feed in their off-hours. In fairness, I don’t expect them to be fully responsible just because they’ve “seen” it. I respect everyone’s free time, and their freedom to choose if and when to interact with our clinic team’s page. If the issue at hand is of major importance, I’ll ask them in the post to physically interact: either comment and/or like to show that they’ve seen/absorbed/understood and truthfully, and still respect their personal choice whether or not to respond to interact with this on their own time. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. But it helps our management team know who we still need to reach in person, if any, on the latest issue.
Another awesome Facebook group feature is the ability to poll your team. My team knows that I frequently come up with hare-brained ideas that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. In fairness, I’m often relying on the work and effort of my technicians and receptionists to see these initiatives out, and I can’t always speak to them in person to assess their perspective. I respect their opinion in many cases, and I know that without team buy-in, a lot of ideas are going to fall flat. Using the polling feature lets me know if my team is on board, and if an idea or project is worth pursuing. Obviously, it’s not the be-all, end-all, but it helps me know where to focus our efforts. In addition, also used it to help narrow down dates for staff events, etc.
7. Appropriate Outlet:
We all know that there are times, when as a team, we need to “break it down.” We need to discuss the crazy case, the unbelievable day, the frustrations and joys of everything that comes with being a part of a veterinary team. For many people, in this day and age, the natural outlet is social media. We know that doctors, technicians and practice managers need to express themselves and have a venue for “the vent.” Creating a safe place for that in our private Facebook group gives our team that option, and that “safe place” to do that, in a way that doesn’t jeopardize their personal, or the practice’s, reputation online.
8. Fun staff/team bonding:
In general, I think as our team has grown in both number and in professional development, having the group has allowed us to be more connected. This has been especially true for me as I have stepped back from physical time within the four walls of the clinic, and as we’ve brought new team members in to an established “family” for our practice of more than 50 years. We have team members who have been a part of our practice for more than 20 years, and team members who have been added within the last six months. We have some staff who work every day, some who work one day a week (sorry guys), some who work days, some who work only nights. The bigger and more expansive our team and our practice has grown, the harder it is to bring everyone together in one spot. Our Facebook group has allowed our team to learn and grow as a whole. And let’s face it, we all need to share that hilarious veterinary meme somewhere, with our “tribe,” right?
To wrap it up, I think there are many practices that could benefit from having a secret staff Facebook group. It provides another avenue to communicate with your team and improves team interaction. There will be some practices out there that this will not work for, and others that need more advanced options for file sharing and the like. However, for my team, this free option has been of value to myself and many of my team mates, by improving efficiency, communication, event and policy compliance, and given us a few more smiles along the way.
For more information or Facebook group help, you can shoot me an email or check out Facebook's help page for groups here.
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
I'd like to just start out this article with the blanket statement that if you had told me a decade ago, sitting in the back row of my vet school lecture hall, that I would someday write an article about robot's role in veterinary marketing, I would have laughed you out of the room. I probably would have made fun of you with a "beep boop boop" sound and/or calculator watch impression.
But here I am, ready to tell you that robots, or more specifically something called a chatbot, are going to be your new best friend. Maybe not today, maybe not next month, but soon.
What's a chatbot? A chatbot is a computer program that simulates 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.
Chatbots are relatively new to the marketing and customer service scene...but are rapidly gaining traction, especially as their technology and ability to "machine learn" improves. If you're feeling nerdy and interested, some articles I found helpful early on. are here and here.
We'll skip their background, how they work, and why they're a thing. Here's basically what you need to know: we can now use them to communicate directly with clients via Facebook Messenger.
Why is that important? Oh, I don't know....maybe because 80% of adults use messaging (text or via apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc) every day. The amount of messaging has increased worldwide nearly 70% in the last 2 years. And for those specifically using Facebook Messenger (that's 1.2 billion people, if you're counting), 58% of them use that every day.
So when we compare that to our "old school" methods of sending a postcard reminder........ or even email marketing, which has an average open rate of just 32%......using a messaging app and delivering that personalized message, straight to their phone and to the app they're probably already using, and making it beep with a new message.....is amazing.
So that's "messaging" as a whole. Now let's get back to chatbots. How can we use them in veterinary medicine?
Using a chatbot builder like ManyChat, you can create fully automated Facebook messages to connect with your client. Better yet, you can add your subscribers to various classification "sequences" to deliver even more customized content. And the best yet? Most of this is FREE, if not extremely affordable (<$10-20/month), depending on how much/detailed you want to get. As Brandon Brashears stated on his podcast about chatbots in veterinary marketing, most "subscribers" are going to cost you less than 20 cents!
Here's an example that I have implemented in a few practices:
On the first of every month, I always post a reminder on our Facebook page for my clients to give their pet's heartworm and flea/tick preventatives.
Using a chatbot I created with ManyChat, I took our last few month's posts to a new level. On that post, I asked my followers to comment in the post if they would like to receive a Facebook message reminder (as opposed to them taking the chance that they would see the post in their newsfeed).
Their comment on the post triggered my chatbot to automatically send them a Facebook message. They were given the option to "opt-in," meaning they had to take one more step to complete their subscription. Without it, nothing more would happen. If they took the "opt-in," which in my case was asking them to state the name of the heartworm product they were using, they would automatically receive a confirmation from my hospital stated that they were fully subscribed and would start receiving heartworm reminders each month. I was also able to attach links to directly call for a refill or to our website to make an appointment, if needed.
So this is the first part of this awesomeness. I now have a small, but engaged and committed, list of clients that have
1) told me they want me to contact them about a pet health topic,
2) told me where they want me to contact them (Facebook Messenger) and
3) also told me which heartworm product they use, so if I wanted, I could classify them by product type (e.g. Heartgard users compared to Interceptor Plus users, for instance).
The fun doesn't end here, folks. Let's talk about the next month's reminder message, which I can schedule in advance, to remind them to give their pet's heartworm preventative. Again using ManyChat, I schedule a fun reminder to be delivered. But instead of just the boring reminder, I attach two options. "All done!" with a link, or "Uh-oh, We're Out!" with a link.
The users that click "All Done!" automatically get a virtual high five in the form of a dancing dog GIF that I've embedded in the link. The users that click "Uh-oh, we're out!" get a different response. Depending on the clinic, I have used this to
1) link directly to a "request a refill" contact form on their website,
2) call the clinic, or
3) automatically respond with a message stating that we're available to help (with links to call for a refill or make an appointment), or a more personalized message that we'll review their patient's chart and contact them.
That entire sequence was pre-programmed, by me, a vet, with no coding/nerdy robot education.
One last thing.....remember how I asked them what product that they're using? Using their responses, I was able to sort them into individual product lists, and send them a helpful rebate link, for their specific preventative product only, mid-month.
So there you have it. That's an example of how I have used, and see chatbots being used in the future. Is it for every clinic? Nope. Is there a bit of a learning curve? You bet. Maybe some day it will replace vaccine reminders, or appointment requests/reminders, or other fun stuff. Who knows where technology will continue to take our profession, the way we communicate with owners, and how we treat animals. But if it means improved communication with clients, that means better-educated pet owners, and that means healthier pets.
So I'm all in. Are you?
One of my most popular blog posts last year was "Top 10 Gifts for Veterinary Social Media Lovers." Throughout the year, I met a few people in person who mentioned a product they loved and were still using! In honor of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday, and general holiday craziness right around the corner), I've updated the list with just a few tweaks.
I know these are good, because I actually own 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) I'll earn a small fee if you follow the links below to order. However, I will be donating any and all affiliate link proceeds to a St. Louis Spay/Neuter program!
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.
1. Joby GripTight ONE Magnetic Impulse: $59.95
I loved this tripod so much I did a video review of using it in my clinic. The Joby GripTight ONE GP Magnetic Impulse is portable, flexible, super sturdy, and MAGNETIC! It holds my iPhone 7 plus just fine, and adjusts to fit any smartphone. It wraps around sink faucets, IV poles, sticks to metal window frames and exam tables, and goes wherever you want it to go. Best of all, it comes with a bluetooth wireless remote so you can snap pictures from afar or start your live video without that awkward lean in/giant finger footage. My number one favorite gadget this year, hands down! Check out my blog for the write up and/or the Facebook video review and see how I used it around our hospital! For whatever reason, this particular model is only available on Joby's website or at Best Buy, but you can find a similar Joby model on Amazon here- it also is magnetic and has the remote, but I suspect the smartphone adapter may not be as flexible.
ILast week, I was surprised to hop onto my clinic's Facebook page and see a new marketing feature, called "Our Story," asking me to add information to complete our business' profile.
It took just a few seconds to add the requested info: a title, a cover photo, and a much larger space than the traditional "about" section you probably haven't seen in a few years since you set up your page to begin with :-)
I opted to share our standard "About Us" message, detailing our history and a brief description of the things that sets our hospital apart. I'm still not sure why Facebook decided to add this feature, and it's only appeared on about half of the pages I manage so far. Ultimately, even though it's basically the same info that appears elsewhere on your social media and website, it's another opportunity to showcase your practice and what makes you rock, so I'm all for it. When you're all done, it lives on the right hand side of your profile on desktop, and has a prominent placing on mobile view as well, just under your likes and above your reviews.
Check out the screenshots below to see the process and the end result, and let me know if your practice has this feature yet!
So no surprise, I take a ton of pictures and videos when I'm in the clinic. I've relied on a cheapo flexible tripod for years for smartphone use, and a Gorillapod when I bring in my dSLR. I thought my little tripod was just fine...until I sat next to Dr. Sue, the Cancer Vet, at a recent meet-the-expert event. She pulls out this mini-tripod that looks much sturdier, AND HAS A WIRELESS REMOTE! So I'm geeking out about it....and had to have one of my own: the Joby GripTight ONE GP Magnetic Impulse. I can't believe I didn't get this sooner. You can watch the video for my full review and see how I'm using it in practice, but here are my top three favorite aspects:
1. Portable and compact: The entire device folds together so neatly that I can throw it in my purse or camera bag without worrying about it taking up a ton of space.
2. Magnetic: the feet of this bad boy are MAGNETIC! Extra stability on exam room tables, surgical tables, metal door and window frames, the sink, you name it! I love a little reassurance that my pricey smartphone will stay put and that I can get this guy in weird angles to take some great images.
3. Wireless remote: there's nothing more awkward than having to start your video with the obtrusive finger and awkward reach. Look calm, cool and collected and start your videos remotely, or use the remote to snap pics from a camera set up from afar.
The full video review (with captions), is available on my Facebook page, or watch via YouTube below!
A quick note from Dr. DeWilde: this topic appeared as an online video, including screensharing, on TheSocialDVM Facebook page (click here to view the video on Facebook with captions). The text below is an abbreviated, transcribed version of that video.
I wanted to do a quick video tutorial for you guys today on something really fun. Something that I think is pretty nerdy but pretty cool. That's right, we're gonna spend a whole video in the next few minutes talking about emojis. 'Cause why not? Who doesn't love emojis? Everybody loves emojis!
Emojis are a great addition to your social media posts. Here are just a few of the benefits:
I think it's important to realize that lots of big brands, not even just veterinary industry, are using emojis in their social media marketing. Just since 2016, we have seen a nearly 800% increase in emoji use across marketing efforts, including social media.
So we're gonna talk a little bit more about actually how to add them and how to integrate those into your posts. I do wanna make a point that, you know, they're not for, for everything, right? So there's a time and a place for them in which they're gonna be appropriate. Kind of like the hash tag thing, you don't wanna go overboard. You don't wanna use hundreds of emojis in every post 'cause people will think that's annoying. But try to use them sparingly and where they're appropriate.
You've probably noticed that I use them quite frequently, mostly for fun. But I do use them especially if I'm sharing large blocks of text. You know, if I have a post that has a lot of information, and I wanna break that up, or I wanna have bullet points Instead of the, just the dash is all you can do most of the time on social media posts, I'll use an emoji. It doesn't even have to be one of the cutesy ones, like an animal one. I do sometimes use the emojis that are like the blue diamond as a bullet point or something like that. But of course, everybody loves using the animal emojis because they're awesome, right? So, we're gonna talk about how you can actually do that, but just keep that in mind. Try to use them when they're appropriate, use them sparingly, but definitely start incorporating them into some of your social media posts.
You can add emojis to your posts four ways:
1. From your mobile device: emojis are automatically integrated with your keyboard!
2. From your PC: access the on-screen touch keyboard, available in Windows 8.1 and higher. Right click in your bottom toolbar, click on toolbars, find your keyboard, and then you'll see an emoji in the lower left hand corner. Unfortunately in my experience, this doesn't give you ALL of the emojis, but it's a start.
3. From your Mac: Press Command, Control and the spacebar down all at the same time to open up your emoji keyboard.
4. Using Emojipedia.com: That's like the coolest word I've ever said in a professional sense, right? So emojipedia.com is a free website and you can actually go there to search all the emojis and learn all their history, which is crazy. These are all the emojis that are standardized-- approved by the Unicode Standard, (which is apparently like the governing body of emojis. So, how do I get to be on that board? 'Cause that sounds like fun. I want that job). But anyway, so you can go there, find all the emojis that you're used to and integrate them super easy and super quick.
Check out the screencast video to see Emojipedia.com in action and how you can quickly search, copy and paste your emojis into your posts.
We've talked time and time again about how important video is in your practice's social media and marketing efforts.
Most veterinarians HATE the idea of being on camera, so don't worry, before this goes too far....you're off the hook. For this one.
This one...is fun. It's goofy. And....your clients will love it. We're talking about GoPro footage.....from your dog.
Clients LOVE clinic tours and behind-the-scenes glimpses. What better way to give them that, without a fancy professional video? Strap a GoPro on a willing pup and let them see your practice from a dog's view!
Granted, this does require some specialized equipment. Two pieces, to be exact. 1) A GoPro (obvs). 2) A GoPro Fetch dog harness like this one. Now, if you're a nerd like me, you may have a GoPro laying around, or maybe a friend to borrow one from. The dog harnesses are a little more obscure, but they're available on Amazon and a friend just saw one at Target, so you can totally make this happen.
I have an older GoPro Hero+, but I think any GoPro would do. The Hero5 Session model might be a good investment if you plan to do many of these videos with your dog, since it can be voice controlled and also has video stabilization.
The GoPro Fetch Harness works on dogs 15-120 lbs, has two camera attachment points, and seems to be really well tolerated by all the dogs I've tried it on.
A couple of tips, when considering doing filming a dog's tour in your practice:
1. Do this before or after hours. It's difficult to keep your dog videographer focused with lots of distraction, other pets, staff, moving about, etc.
2. Pick a lazy, food-motivated dog (like my Maple!)....she was happy to wander toward the next treat, so we "planted" staff at various points along the hospital so she just followed her nose to the next treat, giving us the exact tour footage/path we wanted.
3. Motivate with treats- but use Pill Pockets or something else so they don't have to stop and crunch.
4. Plan ahead: what do you want your clients to see? Do you want them to show a quick exam? Do you want them to tour the boarding area? Plan your route and make sure your clinic's spic and span, and consider moving barking pets temporarily to limit distraction.
5. Don't even try it on the cat. Just don't. Trust me. :-)
If you'd like to see a few examples, check out Maple in action here, here and the embedded video below. Admittedly, my 40lb-ish Corgi/Lab mix is a bit vertically and orthopedically-challenged, so we've got a fair bit of swagger here that may contribute to a motion sickness vibe. In this view, which we recorded with a lab mix wearing the harness, you can see it's a bit easier/less motion.
The GoPro Fetch Dog Harness also allows you to position the camera on top of the harness (on the dog's back), or the front of the harness (on their chest). If you put it on the front, you don't get the dog's head in the footage, so it's hard to appreciate that it's from a dog's perspective. But it may be a cleaner look overall, depending on your preference.
The GoPro app, formerly called Capture, is available for iOS and Android. The app allows you to quickly transfer the footage to your smartphone, or you can transfer it to a computer via it's SD card/cable. I've posted that footage natively without editing, and I've also imported it into iMovie for additional editing.
These aren't the most professional videos I've ever done or published, but they have been some of the most fun. If you try this out with your clinic, please share what you create so we can all see it! Happy videoing!
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
P.S.: This post contains affiliate links. You probably already figured that out, but just in case, if you purchase something from one of those links, I get a teensy commission. Which means trying more new cool toys and ideas to share with you here! Thanks :-)
After a really crazy, exhausting day yesterday I'm glad I got to do it all....in scrubs. During my pregnancy, I kind of gave up on the white coat/business attire, etc. I know, I know, there are studies that show that a more professional attire can increase our client's trust and therefore buy-in of our recommendations, but I've never been a fan. Plus, white coats in a veterinary clinic? Between the anal glands, blood and the inevitable coffee I spill on myself....it just doesn't work for me. I also have been working toward my Fear Free certification, which is giving us an even better reason to forego the white coats-- they scare our patients!
Needless to say, I've transitioned to wearing scrubs every day in my clinic. I can move around easier, I'm not adding that dimension of anxiety for my patients, and frankly, it's quicker for me to get dressed in the morning without putting together an ensemble of business attire and coordinating accessories.
Landau is one of my go-to brands, and I recently got to try their new line, All Day. I got a pair in navy blue, and I'm hooked. The fabric is a little on the thicker side, meaning they'll be sturdy enough to resist damage from dog toenails and me crawling around with my patients on the exam room floor. The top was the standard V-neck with two bottom pockets and separate pen pocket. The pants were what sold me though, since they're the perfect length for me just shy of 5'9". I have a hard time finding pants that are long enough for me, but tall sizes are often too long. These were a great length and slight flare at the bottom. My favorite part is the drawstring, which had a gel striping for grip so they won't untie as easily (for some reason I've had that problem in the past).
You can check them out at http://bit.ly/2ujb69P. Let me know what you think and what your favorite scrubs are!
Keeping track of all of your clinic's social media channels, notifications, progress and activity is a tough job. It can take a fair amount of time to log in and check all of your pages, and sometimes the text, email or in-app notifications can get lost in the fray (or annoy the heck out of you with their constant appearance).
However, keeping a close eye on your online reputation is key to avoiding problems and growing a loyal clientele. Therefore, it's important to do, no matter how tedious. I've tried out lots of different methods, services and strategies. While there isn't a universally perfect answer for each practice, the Perch app is about as close as it gets.
The Perch app, which is free on both iOS and Android devices, is designed specifically for small businesses. It's not specific to the veterinary industry, so the information you'll find on their website is more generalized. However, I've been using it for about three months with my personal practice as well as testing it for a few other clinics as well.
Perch keeps track of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp and Google traffic. It actually even tracks Foursquare but I honestly didn't know that was still a thing. With one click to open the app, I can immediately see my total audience (number of followers on all channels), my engagement (how many likes, comments, shares, retweets), and my "chatter" (the number of Facebook checkins or Instagram tagged photos), over the previous 14 days.
Highlighted Successes & Reviews
Scrolling down to additional features of the app, I can actually see our recent Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts in one place. If one of them is doing well, it will be highlighted with a "popular photo" banner so that might be a post I would consider boosting or trying to replicate. New reviews also appear in this area.
Though optional, you can also elect to monitor other businesses in your area, and a small summary of their social activity will appear in your feed as well.
You can enable either daily or weekly emailed reports. The report (I went with the daily digest), shows all the posts we made over the last day, and also shows me any reviews made by "businesses I watch." This is kind of helpful to keep an eye on your competition, if you're into that :-)
In some ways, I've found it to be even better than the platform stats and notifications themselves. For instance, I've been finding all of the Instagram photos our practice has been tagged in easier on Perch than I have been able to track them down in the Instagram app, depending on if they tagged us or our actual location, etc. I also got an email notification BEFORE my Google notification came in for a new review of our hospital on Google.
As can be expected, it sounds a little too good to be true, right? Well, they do offer a paid level called the "Step Up Series," a monthly personalized guide and reports that tell you what you're doing well, and what your business could improve on. At $10/month or $90/year, that's honestly not too bad either. However, I've haven't sprung for this level yet, and I've been able to make some of these determinations based solely on the information I've gleaned from the free version.
All in all, Perch seems like a great way to quickly keep an eye on your clinic's social media/online review presence. It's quick, convenient and free. For those of you who struggle to keep up with regular monitoring, I'd recommend you give this a try. If it works for you, I'd love to hear about it!
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
The holiday weekend is almost upon us! Make sure your clinic is ready with these tips:
-Caitlin DeWilde, DVM