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 :-)
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
I learned an important lesson early in life that I only fully understood when I became an adult and embarked on my journey to becoming a veterinarian. As a little league baseball player, I was terrified of failing at the plate. I didn’t want to swing and miss, become embarrassed. So how did I address this fear? I simply never swung the bat. You can imagine how far that got me. My point is you’ve got to swing the bat, even if you fail over and over. The only way you’re going to hit the ball is by making an attempt. If you have an idea, take a swing on it. Run with it and make it happen.
Why do you get up every day to go to work or school? What keeps you going back for more? And conversely, why do you leave situations that don’t make you happy? Is it the money? The sense of accomplishment? The recognition? The fluffy puppies and kittens we get to play with all day (sense sarcasm here)? In most cases, it’s the connections we make with our fellow peers, teammates, clients, and patients that make us excited to go to work each day. As a veterinary student I saw a need to build this connection amongst our student community and find an arena where we could interact. And thus, the Vet School Unleashed: Dissecting the DVM Podcast was born.
In my short two years as a veterinary student, I’ve found that there is plenty room for improvement in terms of the quality and quantity of our interactions with our peers and soon to be colleagues. Why isn’t there more collaboration amongst veterinary students at other institutions? Or between veterinary students and (human) medical students? I don’t know if there is a single, simple answer. However this podcast aims to improve the quality of our connections.
The goal of the podcast is to provide an outlet for candid discussions about any and all topics relating to veterinary school and veterinary medicine. According to my research, this type of environment has not existed in the podcast medium until now. Each episode features a special guest – a fellow veterinary student, veterinarian, consultant, veterinary technician, etc. – to share their experience and expertise on the topic at hand. The aim is to get us talking about important issues and for others to join in on the conversation. So far, we’ve been able to do just that.
The podcast was launched in October 2016 and since then we’ve released ten episodes. We’ve started with some of the most pressing topics: wellness, addressing imposter syndrome, how to be a more efficient learner, and networking just to name a few. One of the most influential episodes to me was an interview I conducted with friend and medical student, Clare Brady. We dove into what makes veterinary school and medical school similar and different. We talked about the struggles both of our cohorts experience in school and what we’re doing to combat them. We also helped open the doors to more connection between students in our two professions. Strikingly, we revealed to each other that our motivations to become doctors were nearly aligned. It showed that there’s much to learn from each other. Imagine what such insight from “the other side” could do for each of our careers.
In addition to providing a new place for these important discussions, I hope to influence and inspire my fellow veterinary student peers to transform their ideas into a reality. Each one of us has great ideas that will undoubtedly make great impacts in our career and lives. Unfortunately, many of these ideas will never get the chance to become a reality. But why? The fear of failure? Lack of time? While these are certainly valid reasons to delay or disregard putting your ideas into action, I can assure you two things: there is time for anything that is important enough to you. Even though you may fail at first, you will succeed in the end. If you have an idea, take a swing on it. Run with it and make it happen.
In the modern era of social media, mobile devices, and the rapidly decreasing necessity for human interaction in many of our daily tasks, it’s not surprising that my fellow millennials are finding it more challenging than our predecessors to build these ever-important personal connections. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a valuable tool for building connections. But there’s so much more to be had. More personal interactions not only energize us to do what we love but also play a major role in building our skills and moving our career forward. So let’s talk more. Interact more. Build more connection. It may not be easy at first, but I promise you that these connections you build and strengthen will help give you the tools and confidence to fulfill your dreams ahead.
Creating the Vet School Unleashed podcast has opened doors for me that wouldn’t have opened otherwise. It has helped me in my own communicating and networking skills. It’s given me the confidence to take a chance on my ideas and make them a reality. And most of all, it’s made me even more energized and excited to be a veterinarian.
If you’d like more information on the logistics of setting a podcast or want to discuss anything about the podcast or vet school in more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
Seth is a veterinary student at the University of Missouri and will graduate in 2019. He was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and hopes to build his career and family there after graduation. His dream is to become a companion animal veterinarian and a practice owner. When not flooding his brain with veterinary medicine knowledge, Seth enjoys spending time with his wife, Rebecca, and two dogs: Cane and Chase. Seth also enjoys spending time outdoors, cooking, both making and listening to music, and playing ice hockey.
Hey everybody: Just a quick review of the Polaroid Zip mobile printer, which I've been wanting to try out for a while! I love taking pictures of my patients and happenings in the clinic, but sometimes it's nice to actually have a "hard copy" of those images, right? Remember how we all used to print out photos and get our pictures developed all the time? I am super guilty of taking thousands of pictures, but I rarely get around to doing anything with them other than share on social media, both at the clinic and at home.
Enter the Polaroid Zip mobile printer. After researching a couple of mobile smartphone printers including the HP Sprocket and the Canon Selphy, I decided on the Polaroid Zip. The cost of the printer, the cost of the replacement printer sheets/stickers, and the overall size made this the winner for surviving life in a vet clinic.
Basically, this smartphone printer uses Bluetooth technology to connect with any iPhone or Android smartphone or tablet. Using the free app, SnapTouch, you can quickly edit a photo by pulling from your camera's photo library, and print wirelessly to the printer in under a minute.
I'm hoping to incorporate this more into my practice as another way to personalize each patient's experience. We're toying with the ideas of using these 2x3 instantly printed little gems to:
1. Apply to the front of any puppy/kitten/new client folder (they actually print with a sticker back!).
2. Display in clinic (e.g. bulletin board)
3. Include in the welcome card we send to new clients after their first visit.
You can see my full review, pricing, and see the printer in action on my Facebook video. Here's a quick summary:
Pros: Small, portable, affordable. Printer cost: $115-130, protective case: under $10, Printer sheet refills depending on location/price: $0.35-0.50/each. No ink cartridges to mess with. Fun and unique.
Cons: The app (FREE) that corresponds, SnapTouch/Polaroid Print App, is a bit clunky. I was hoping to be able to write on the images, or include our logo, etc but no luck. There are some work arounds (e.g. editing the photo in PicsArt before uploading to the app), but I'm all about simplicity.
Have you tried one of these in your clinic? Let me know if so- I'd love to see what you create!
If you're interested, here are the links to each product I mentioned in the Amazon store. We will earn a small percentage of any sales, but that just helps us continue to test and try out new products to use in veterinary practices!
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
I had the pleasure of meeting Samantha Palmer at the recent AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC). If her impressive Instagram account (nearly 5,000 followers) wasn't enough, it was inspiring to meet a young veterinary professional so enthusiastic, innovative and creative! Samantha and I had the opportunity to speak again as she was wrapping up her externship with AVMA Headquarters (Membership Division), and it's even more clear that this girl has some serious skill that will benefit her career journey as well as our profession. Be sure to follow her Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/i.am.a.vet.student/.
--Caitlin DeWilde, DVM
“Sam, why won’t you get an Instagram, everyone has one” my friends asked me throughout my senior year of undergrad. My response was always the same, “I have a Facebook, why do I need an Instagram.”
I simply didn’t see the point of Instagram when I could just as easily post photos on my Facebook account. That was, until April of my senior year when I finally caved and started my own personal account. After following my friends, I began exploring all the other thousands maybe millions of accounts out there. I quickly realized that although there was a plethora of animal accounts, these days everyone’s family dog and cat has their own Instagram, and a few accounts specific to veterinary medicine like @vetgirlontherun and @vetsnobiety, there were not really any dedicated to veterinary school. This new found void gave me the idea to start another Instagram account that would be open to the public called @i.am.a.vet.student.
I chose the name out of simplicity-there would be no mistaking the purpose of this account by using this handle. I began my account five days before I started veterinary school at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in August of 2015, and I have posted one photo a day of my journey since then. I haven’t missed a day yet!
At the time that I started the account, I believed that I would use this platform to increase public awareness of the vigorous and academically challenging process of becoming a veterinarian. While that mission has been a huge part of the account’s success, it was not until I got my first direct message (private correspondence) a month after starting my account from a prospective veterinary student that I realized my account could also be a resource.
Prospective pre-vet students began to ask questions about the process of applying to veterinary school, high school students interested in veterinary medicine inquired about what they could be doing now to explore this field, and current veterinary students wanted to exchange study tips especially those entering their first year. As I have watched my account grow from my first followers, my siblings, to almost 5000 followers, I am elated by comments about how my account is inspiring the next generation of veterinarians and that makes this project one of the most rewarding tasks that I have undertaken.
I have learned many lessons in communication through this project. Taking photos of animals, research or client owned, was the first obstacle, although I had anticipated this one. I spoke to my veterinary school within the first week of starting classes about their social media policy to ensure that I was not breaking any rules in the student handbook with my account. I have had to tread lightly through this process.
Although students were initially given permission to take photos with the teaching animals including dogs, cows, and horses, this rule seemed to change depending on the class. It was clear that photos from wildlife labs or anatomy dissection were not permitted and that pictures of client-owned animals could not be posted unless we asked for permission.
While some social media rules make common sense, others appear arbitrary. This inconsistency is not uncommon in veterinary schools across the country as many schools have yet to write down a clear social media policy for their students or worse, in my opinion, have decided that no photos of any animals in the veterinary school can be posted online.
To complicate veterinary school social media policies further, the veterinary teaching hospital at a veterinary school can have its own social media policy, but that policy might not extend to classes or labs. In which case, permission is often left to the discretion of the professors- who may or may not address this at all. Issues like these are part of the reason that I have begun to urge my school to clarify this policy because I am a huge advocate for social media and its benefits. I worry that veterinary schools might begin to implement a “no photos on social media policy” rather than one that clearly states what content is or is not allowed. I strongly believe that the public should be able to share in the experience that is veterinary school.
An unforeseen obstacle from this social media experience was a need to learn about all the photo apps available. In fact, there are so many editing apps to download that it was overwhelming at first. I currently have six apps that I use on a regular basis and developers are always coming out with more.
Usually I need to edit a photo to keep the whole image in the frame without it getting cropped when I upload it to Instagram, and unlike the celebrities who have every photo edited to the extreme, I mostly add a filter or change the brightness to make the image stand out. In contrast to many Instagram accounts that are about the glamorous life of the blogger, veterinary school is anything but glamorous, as you all know, and I am dedicated to posting photos that represent the truth- the good, the tiring, and the dirty!
Sometimes I find myself with a great photo opportunity and no one to act as the photographer and then I must come up with a creative solution to capture the moment. In dire situations like these, I’ve learned to rely on the good, ol’ fashioned timer setting or the modern “selfie” timer. Fortunately, I often have a friend around to take my photo. I’m well known as “InstagramSam” around the vet school.
Ultimately, this Instagram account is a lesson in the importance of marketing yourself. With photos that can be misconstrued or taken out of context, I give each a post the appropriate forethought before posting. Although this task can be tiresome, I believe that my account will make me standout. When I graduate from Cornell in 2019, I want my future employer to pick up my job application and notice me. I hope that my social media skills will provide me with a unique niche to fill as the benefits of a social media presence become more well-known over the next few years. I look forward to seeing how my account and interactions with my peers, mentors, and the public continue to evolve.
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
DVM Candidate, Class of 2019
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Part 1: Logo Design and Digital Update
As our practices rely increasingly upon our online presence and marketing becomes more essential, establishing a consistent, clear brand for your veterinary practice is necessary.
What Is Branding?
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
In other words, branding encompasses more than just a logo; it also involves a consistent font, color scheme and overall feel. It visually represents the personality of your veterinary practice and is essential to convey your identity to your clients.
Here are my recommendations for getting a handle on your clinic’s brand, and how to revitalize it to create a consistent “brand kit.”
In each of the next few blogs, I’ll be sharing information and resources for you to either improve your existing brand kit, or create one with an existing logo or even starting from scratch.
Perhaps the most important component of a brand, your veterinary clinic should have a consistent, clear logo. Ideally, you should have this available in multiple digital formats (think .jpeg, .png, .pdf). I find that many clinics, especially those lucky enough to have a long-standing history, do not have access to a digital form of their logo and/or it lacks clarity.
If you need a new logo……
If your clinic doesn’t have a consistent logo, or it’s time to update, now is the time. Expect to pay a decent amount for a brand new logo, however. You may want to reach out to a local graphic designer, make a post on your Facebook page to ask for opinions and/or recommendations, or use a logo design service such as those on 99designs.com and/or graphic artists on www.fiverr.com.
Regardless of who you choose to design your logo, poll your clients. What would they like to see? What type of images resonate with them? Regardless of what designer(s) you choose, insist on a few variations of your logo. Share these with your clients- consider a Facebook vote and/or display the choices in your front lobby and encourage client feedback. You may love a particular design, but if your clients all hate it, you have a problem.
Pro Tip: If you end up creating a brand new logo that includes any text, be sure to ask the designer to tell you which font(s) and/or colors (hex or RGB) were used.
If you need an update or digital version of a logo…..
To remedy this, I would recommend having your logo “vectorized.” A vector image is the best possible quality of image, and is scalable to any size and detail. If you have a vectorized image it will look great whether you’re putting your logo on something tiny like a business card, or blowing it up to billboard size.
If you’re happy with your current logo, this can be established easily and relatively inexpensively with any graphic designer or many online services. It does require a graphic design program like Adobe Illustrator, but this is an easy task for many graphic designers, or for those of you with access to the software. Other alternatives include again looking on multiple online websites and/or sellers from www.fiverr.com.
In my experience, I’ve been able to send a scan of an old logo, even from an old business card in for vectorization. In just a few days and usually for less than $30, your logo will be returned to you in a digital format. Fuzzy lines are sharpened, colors are recolored, and your old logo should be restored to its once glamorous self.
If you plan to apply this logo to any other materials or images, it’s important that you also ask for a logo in a .png transparent background format. This will allow you to overlay your logo onto your social media images, new marketing materials, etc. without having to worry about the background color and any excessive white space.
I generally try to find a seller that offer to send the file in multiple formats: .jpeg, .png, and .pdf. This essentially ensures that no matter your marketing needs, you’ll have the format you need.
Next, I also try to ask for full color, black and white, and inverted logos. This can increase the overall cost, but if you’re up for the challenge these tasks are easy to complete yourself in PicMonkey.com using their free service. Stay tuned for my next blog to learn how to do it yourself.
Have questions? Need a new logo or vectorized image? Send me a note and I’ll connect you with my designers and get you on your way to a new, more useable part of your brand!