Lawn signs, window clings, in-clinic posters — there are all kinds of wonderful ways to engage clients when they’re in or near your veterinary practice, but what about when they’re not?
Sure, you have a website, but what are you doing to drive clients there? You may feature your latest promotion or innovative service offering on your site, but if you don’t direct traffic to it, your clients will be none the wiser. Enter social media.
For many practice managers, the thought of marketing a clinic using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other popular social media platforms is daunting. But with a few simple tools and no hard costs, the payoff far outweighs the effort.
1. Plan in advance
You need content if you’re going to use social media. Chances are you already do something to mark a handful of annual industry-wide events, like National Pet Dental Health Month in February or National Heartworm Awareness Month in April. These events present great opportunities to engage with clients, as do seasonal concerns like flea and tick prevention, customer appreciation events, and more.
Create a calendar and assign different topics to the weeks and months so you’re not flying by the seat of your pants trying to figure out what to talk about. Keep in mind that not everything has to connect back to your practice website or something you’re doing within your clinic. Marketing isn’t just about building sales. It’s about building relationships. For content ideas and themes, the AVMA Pet Health Awareness Events schedule is a great starting point.
2. Create your content
Research indicates that visual content is significantly more engaging than plain text. For example, an image of a dog scratching accompanied by a headline that reads, “Are you prepared for flea season?” will be far more effective than simply posting the words without an accompanying image.
Image-creation tools like Canva allow you to effortlessly create graphics for your social media channels. The basic version of this tool is free and provides layouts, backgrounds, fonts, and graphics — everything you need to create eye-catching posts. You can even upload your own images or logo to personalize your posts.
3. Schedule your posts
To get the greatest value and efficiency out of your efforts, post regularly and use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your posts in advance. Hootsuite lets you manage up to three social media channels (like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for free. You can also view your social media calendar by day, week, or month and use tools to monitor traffic and engagement.
How often you choose to post will depend on the social media channels you use and how engaged your clients are. Start with once or twice a week, and don’t be afraid to share the same content across multiple social media platforms. Once you have a feel for which channels your clients primarily use, adjust your posting frequency accordingly.
Although its scheduling feature is the shining star for busy managers, don’t hesitate to be spontaneous! If a cute patient walks in the door, take a snapshot (be sure to ask for permission) and post it with a fun caption.
4. Find support
Follow VHA’s social media blog, join a Facebook group, or work with a social media expert who specializes in the veterinary industry. Here you’ll find inspiration, content and marketing ideas, how-tos, and advice.
5. Manage engagement
Remember that social media marketing is a two-way street. You want an open dialogue with your clients, and responding to comments — good or bad — is every bit as important as posting. Download the social apps on your phone and set alerts to ensure you’re notified when somebody leaves a comment so you can respond in a timely manner.
It’s okay to start slow with social media. This month you might want to focus on posting regularly to Facebook and monitoring engagement. Next month, add Twitter to the mix. The following month, try the free version of Hootsuite a go. Then continue to build at your own pace.