Make it as easy as possible for your customers to leave you a glowing five-star review by creating a direct one-click link.
Once you have your link, throw it to the masses! Embed it on your website, include in post-visit surveys and communications, and share it on social media along with your latest five star review.
-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
Can you believe nearly 85% of mobile users watch social media videos with the sound OFF? Truthfully, I can. I almost never have my sound on- I’m always worried about my phone going off in an exam room or waking up a kiddo at home. It’s just easier for to leave the phone’s sound off.
Consider this stat along with the facts that:
1) videos are the preferred social media content (from the perspective of users and algorithms alike) and
2) we have just a few short seconds to capture our viewer’s attention.
Combined, these reasons make captioning your videos a worthy investment of time and in some cases, money. Captions are a great way to improve the length of watch time as well as getting your viewer to understand your message.
Even on image-heavy Instagram, captions can increase view time by 12%.
Adding captions sounds hard, but really can be done in just a few steps. Here’s the roundup of the platforms and options:
A quick note about file type: I had never heard of an .SRT file (SubRip file type) before I started captioning videos, so don’t feel bad if you hadn’t either!
Unfortunately, the only way to include subtitles on your Instagram videos is to have them be a part of the original file. There are a few apps that can help with this, or traditional video editing software like Adobe Premier Pro.
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
1: Find & Claim Your Page
You need to access the specific "Yelp For Business Owners" site, available at https://biz.yelp.com/ to claim or edit your listing.
Follow the prompts to either login, or get started and set up a new account. Enter your practice zip code, name, and business info.
Thanks to the magic of Google et al, your practice's info will appear and you'll be asked to confirm.
From here, there are two possibilities: 1) you'll need to confirm your email and set up a new account or 2) you'll find out that your practice has already been claimed. If the latter, you'll need to start the process of trying to reset the password.
2. Create a Business Account for Your Practice
Next, you'll be prompted to create a business account. Unfortunately, you'll have to create this in a person's name, not just the clinic name. I would recommend either the practice owner or the practice manager- whomever you want it to look like is responding to your reviews, etc.- set up the first access to the account For instance, if your practice is owned by Dr. John Doe, when you respond to reviews, it will appear as "John D." responded. Similarly, this person will also be the "owner" of the page, and you'll also need to share a bio and photo for this person. Run this by your practice owner if you're not sure who should be the face of your practice's Yelp page.
Yelp recently allowed manager access- so once the practice owner or manager has set up the account, additional managers can be added to the page for notifications and managing reviews.
In addition to the first and last name, you'll need to input an email address and a password for your Yelp login. Use the email address that you want all notifications about new reviews, etc to be sent to. Typically I would recommend either the practice manager or general office account, so that new reviews are seen by the practice quickly. Make sure to record this email address (username) and password so you can find them in the future.
3: Verify Your Business
You'll need to be at your actual place of business to complete this step. Set yourself up by the phone, or let your receptionist know a call will be coming. The Yelp screen you will see states that "To protect you and your business, we need you to answer a quick phone call." It will show show the business number it has on file, and you'll be able to actually trigger the call by clicking on the "Call Me Now" button. The screen will also show you a four digit code that you will be prompted to enter . This proves you're actually a human answering the phone at the business you say you're at, and not just some robot or disgruntled customer. The whole ordeal should take less than 30 seconds. If successful, you'll see a new screen that says "Your Business is Claimed!" and offering Yelp ads. Skip this part by clicking the "No thanks, continue to my business" phrase in the bottom left hand of the screen.
3b: Remove previous users, if necessary
If your page was previously claimed/owned, you'll see the first name and last initial of previous owners, as well as a portion of the previous user email addresses. If you don't recognize the name and/or they're not a trusted employee, delete them by clicking the "Remove From Business" button.
4. Download the Yelp app, if you'd like.
The next screen gives you the option to have a link for the iOS or Android app texted right to your phone, so you can download the Yelp app and be able to read and respond to your reviews. This step is OPTIONAL, but if you're interested in monitoring on the go, this is a good app to have. If you're not interested, click "Skip."
5. Edit Your Business Information
After skipping or saving your info about the Yelp app, the next screen will look almost identical, but ask you for general business information. This is where many office managers may get stuck, since this information will most likely come from the veterinarian/owner. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
Enter the info as prompted. If you don't have all the details when you're first setting up your profile, you can skip certain questions, but it's best to just get it all done at once!
6. Confirm Your Email Address
Check your email that you used to set up your business account for a confirmation email and click the link. You'll need to be confirmed before proceeding to the last step of adding your photos!
7. Upload Photos
After you've completed the information, add some photos to personalize your profile, and draw attention during a search. Without adding your own photos, your profile will: a) look dull and boring b) customers will think it's an autocreated profile and less likely to visit/review your profile and c) potentially showcase photos OTHER people have uploaded of your business. Therefore, it's best to add your own and have control over your profile!
I would recommend not only the typical photos of the building outside, your practice logo, the reception area and the exam room, but be sure to showcase photos of what animal lovers want to see- your veterinarians interacting with animals! I typically try to add 5-10 photos, and ALWAYS am sure to add photos of the veterinary team doing what they do best-- helping animals.
If you want to go all out, you can also add captions to the photos. I have even used a few PlaceIt photos to showcase app or website-based features that some of clinics offer, like a clinic app or online appointment requests, etc.
You can access your photos from the left hand menu. Unfortunately, Yelp randomizes the photos so there is no way to pick which one is first viewed, so make sure they're all good photos :-)
8. Admire Your Work and Share with Your Followers!
You're done! Go back to regular 'ol Yelp.com and search for your business to see how it will look to your customers! Check out your site and if you're happy with it, share the link on your social media pages and ask your web designer to add a link from your website. Your clients will be able to easily find you and hopefully leave great reviews!
Have questions? Need help? I'm just an email or click away. Good luck!
Here we are with that platform we all love to hate.....Yelp. It's been steadily gaining traction and steam since 2004, starting out as a depository for restaurant reviews. You may have even visited it, looking for the best burger joint in the neighborhood near you. Well now, your potential clients are doing the same thing- so your clinic needs to be represented!
With more than 75 MILLION unique visitors looking at Yelp from a mobile web browser EACH MONTH, the platform now boasts more than 170 million reviews.
Truthfully, Yelp can be difficult and often gets a bad rap for its lack of recourse when allowing businesses to protest an unwarranted review. On the plus side, they offer a free listing with multiple avenues of business contact points, and across industries, nearly 50% of the reviews are 5 star and over 70% of businesses are "recommended."
Here are my FIVE reasons every practice should be represented on Yelp:
1. Reviews, photos and info are automatically pulled in by Google and Apple Maps' search engines. When someone searches for your practice on either of these platforms, you want to have some "screen real estate" here and some control over what business information is given.
2. Without the business account, you have no recourse to be notified or respond to new reviews (good or bad).
3. Even if you don't claim your page, clients can STILL leave a review! I'd rather know what was being said about my practice and try to have some control of at least some of the content (photos, contact information, hours, etc).
4. Client feedback. If we're not listening to them, we can't improve.. I know, I know- there will be a bad review at some point, but the overwhelming majority are positive and reinforce the great work we do. Even a "deserved" bad review, or any review less than those glowing 5 stars in the sky, has information we can use to improve our teams, our practice, and ultimately the experience we deliver to our clients and pets.
5. Client Referrals: last but not least......Yelp has the potential to bring you new clients. It provides clickable links to call, visit a website or map directly to your business. I've seen multiple clinics generate new client leads from Yelp- my own included, without spending a cent.
If I've convinced you and you're not sure how to set up this access, or you need to go in and spruce things up, visit my Yelp for Business tutorial blog here.
Need help or have other questions? I'm just an email away!
Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
I've been really serious about tracking client referral sources at my clinic for the last year. I was tired of the "online" generic response, and changed my clinic registration form to give our new clients more specific choices. I still had the "fill in the blank" spot in addition to checkboxes for the usual: Google, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, existing client, etc, etc.
For the first time, I started noticing more and more people writing "Nextdoor" in the empty blank. Then, we received a "Neighborhood Winner" sticker from Nextdoor and an invitation to claim our business page, so of course I did. So what the heck IS Nextdoor, anyway?
According to the platform themselves, Nextdoor is the world’s largest private communications platform for neighborhoods.
It launched in the fall of 2011, and has steadily been gaining traction. As of this writing, when I logged into my personal neighboorhood Nextdoor account, there were 186,000 neighborhoods established on the platform. My own little neighborhood has over 300 members, and when I searched for "veterinarian," more than a dozen clinics came up with little hearts next to them- indicating how many of my neighbors had "recommended" them, along with more than 2 dozen specific posts. I quietly trolled them all, making a mental note of my "neighbors" who had recommended or mentioned my practice in the posts.
I decided it was time to claim our practice's Nextdoor page. LIke many platforms, the good news it that establishing your profile can be a "set it and forget it" approach that needs little updating. Setting it up and enabling the proper notifications can allow you to be more accessible to your neighbors without the need to post frequently.
You'll recognize the process of claiming your business account as it's nearly identical to the process of other online registries like Yelp, Bing, Apple Maps, etc. It requires the typical practice contact info, history, hours, profile pictures, and verification by answering a phone call on the business number. You can see the screenshot slideshow below, or start the process at www.nextdoor.com/business.
Once you've established your clinic, you can share the word with your existing clientele via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Similarly, your profile will allow you to see recent neighbor comments and recommendations, and reply to them if you so choose.
Many of you may be thinking "Why do I need to do this? Do I really need one more thing to check or worry about?" I get it. I really do- in the day-to-day scheme of things, I don't think that Nextdoor is going to really make or break any vet clinic's reputation. But I DO think that if your clients are looking for you, you want to be found, and you want to be the first to know if your clinic is receiving any negative press. Without claiming your page, you'll have access to neither option.
To be truthful, I suspect this is more popular in urban and suburban areas. Small towns have many pros and cons, but not needing a digital platform to connect with your neighbors is often one of the pros.
In my community just outside St. Louis city lines, I could see where some of my clientele may be Facebook-averse and instead use Nexdoor as a smaller, more personal recommendation search engine. My own little neighboorhood group proved to be exactly where I turned when I needed a recommendation for a landscaping project, and the info I got from my post there far exceeded what I found on a similar Google search. Nextdoor is more akin to leaning over the fence and asking your real next door neighbor for advice- far more personable and trustworthy than a random search.
Bottom line- it takes just a few minutes to set up, and could be helpful in building your online reputation and bringing new clients in the door. Worth a few minutes of your time, in my opinion.
I'd love to hear how it goes at your practice- shoot me a Facebook message and let me know if your clinic was already getting mentioned, or if you've been seeing clients from Nextdoor's referrals.
With the holidays upon us and Cyber Monday deals launched, it's time to get crackin' on that gift list. If you need a few more ideas for your favorite veterinary lovin' social media nerd, look no further. I know these are good, because I actually own almost 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) We'lll earn a small fee if you follow the links below to order, but it doesn't change your price! This helps us continue to test out and report on new gadgets in the clinic! 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.
National Veterinary Technician week has ARRIVED! For the next seven days, it's time to put out some serious thanks and appreciation for the technicians that make this industry great!
Here are just a few ways to celebrate your vet techs on social media:
1. Individual staff profiles:
Sharing your technician's pictures and bios is a great way to give them a virtual shout-out, plus allowing your clients to get to know more about the team that cares for their pets on a daily basis. It also allows your clients to share their thanks, photos and memories in the comments! Post a candid or headshot photo of each technician scattered throughout the week, or make a specific graphic in Canva.
2. Group photo thanks:
This is a perfect excuse to get all your technicians together for a photo. We know it's hard to get everybody in one place at one time (and picture-ready!), but you'll be glad you did. Great way to identify, showcase and thank your whole team in just one post (but I think you can do even more!).
3. Facebook Frame:
Facebook profile picture frames are fun ways for technicians (or their allies) to add a fun border to their Facebook profile. You can create your own using the Facebook Frames Studio and a design tool like PicMonkey or Canva, or search
"vet tech" in the
Frames library (facebook.com/profilepicframes).
Don't have time to design one? Dr. Andy Roark has two- one for techs and one for their allies now available!
Use social to help educate your followers about what your technicians actually do! Regardless of where you fall on the "technician vs nurse" title debate, it's safe to say that the general public only knows a small fraction of what their job duties actually entail. There's no way to improve on that if we're not giving credit where credit is due, and helping share the realities of the 9,453 things vet techs do every day. Try a slideshow showing your techs in their different job roles- from blood draws to surgery, x-ray to filling meds, medical records to monitoring anesthesia, and of course, patient care. Run a "who got" on some of your tech-specific services in your practice management software and put a number to exactly how many fecal exams or technician appointments were performed in the last year! Bottom line, do what you can to help illustrate and thank technicians for all the hard work they do.
5. Share great content from industry leaders.
It helps to reinforce our message when we're able to share similar content from trusted sources, especially when they've done a great job of crafting it! Here are a few of my favorites (as of posting this on Sunday, although I'm sure several more will pop up this week so stay tuned to my Facebook page for shares!
6. Say Thanks!
Last but not least, nothing goes further than a personal thank-you. Take a minute to record a quick video to share with your followers about your technicians. Talk about why you rely on them, why they are the best!!, and how they help your client's pets. Need some inspiration? Check out Dr. Jenn Wardlaw's post about her techs on her page @Gateway Veterinary Surgery.
Give your techs the recognition they deserve- it's the best gift of all.
Another new app. Another new feature of social media. Another opportunity, or another obligation?
Instagram shook the world of social media content once again last week when they dropped a totally new experience, IGTV.
IGTV, or Instagram TV, is a new app that offers long form, vertical video from Instagram creators. While the app itself is standalone, you can watch within the original Instagram app as well.
At first, I was simultaneously excited and bummed- Instagram video without the limits of 60 seconds, PLUS an opportunity to connect with pet owners and clients on one of the most popular platforms..... On the downside, I have been PREACHING about avoiding vertical video at all costs. No more double dipping to film video for multiple platforms..... but in reality, most people seem to have a natural tendency to film vertically anyway.
But again, with a platform of ONE BILLION users.....seems like a good place to invest some time and content, right?
The IGTV is easy and user-friendly. Open it up and it starts playing, just like, ya know, regular TV. There are "channels" that will bring you content from people you already follow on Insta, or find new content based on your interests. Just as with normal Instagram posts, followers can like, comment and send videos to friends via direct message.
So, how is this relevant to the veterinary practice? Can you imagine clients that would tune to your clinic's "channel" for specific shows and videos by you, their veterinarian? With IGTV notifications, your clients will get notified about new videos you release. Gone are the time constraints of traditional Instagram videos- take all the time you need to explain that procedure or give a tour of your practice. With Facebook for small businesses being a constant uphill battle in recent months, and social media user's affinity for video over all else growing every day, Instagram is quickly becoming my preferred platform for veterinary practices and groups.
It's new, and the "shiny" may wear off over coming weeks. I'm anxious to try it out in my clinic later today, and find out the opportunities to link my videos to other platforms or embed in blogs or website content. The possibility of an educational "channel" just for my clients, one in which we can refer clients to for helpful tutorials or for more info about our practice, all created for free, seems pretty appealing right now.
Move over Facebook, see ya later television. IGTV has arrived. Check out my first IGTV video on the platform, and let me know what you think with a DM or note here. Stay tuned tomorrow for a quick tutorial on setting up your channel, and download the app here:
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
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?
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 :-)