THIS article is really about customer relationship management. As a service-orientated business, communicating your expertise and maintaining your relationship with existing and potential clients, alongside a high level of service, is your investment to continued business.
Social media is now a key tool to that process. Connecting with your animal-loving community through social media is a marketing must for veterinary practices … or so the numerous veterinary specialist marketing agencies state. This article will explore why it is worth communicating with your current customers through social media and outline a basic strategy for your practice.
I encourage you to engage with the twitter activities I suggest – the proof is in the pudding.
Say hi on twitter @broadtraining and find out who else is reading this article with the hashtag #tweetvets (you can then search twitter using #tweetvets to see all comments).
The outcome of your engagement with social media should be:
- added value for your customer;
- developing and maintaining customer loyalty;
- communicating the “personality” of your practice.
Generations Y and Z create online communities; your suppliers and the academic world share on twitter. The opportunities for knowledge exchange and customer care online are the value for your business.
A recent CM research survey states that 81% of vets in the UK use social media to promote their practice. But is it strategic and impactful?
#tweetvets @broadtraining with any questions about this that you have.
It is generally agreed that a Facebook page is more appropriate for your customer base. It is informal and visual. Twitter is an opportunity to stay up to date and connected. Both are about conversation and collaboration. Instagram or Pinterest make for good complementary tools.
- Choose your platform/s and set them up with your branding and company information.
- Choose your social media lead in the business.
- Update all your documents with your Facebook/twitter information.
- Social media is about reciprocity. “Follow” or “like” others. Forward information.
- Update your website with social media information.
- At all times point people to your website.
- With Hootsuite or a similar tool, you can post simultaneously.
Sit down with your team and agree style and tone. Ideas and stories should be encouraged, but should go through one person. If you have someone who is “into” social media, support him or her in developing the approach and give that person the responsibility.
Make your communications consistent and regular. Building a following takes time but if your posts are useful and engaging you will give your loyal customers more reason to talk about you and perhaps to recommend you.
Keep in mind that you have a geographical boundary to your customer base when developing your strategy. Lots of followers from Japan will be fun, but will not generate new business. Content should be relevant to your customers and your local community.
Develop some themes and repeat them each month.
This is all about creating interaction. Give reasons for people to share and do things together. It may be online but we all still want to feel like we are contributing and are a part of something.
- Start with a challenge: ask for help to get 100 followers/likes.
- Knowledge – e.g. seasonal pet tips or an interesting article.
- Stories – Bobby the bulldog and her new litter.
- Start a conversation – check out this lovely video of the difference between dogs and cats.
- Contribute to your local community – connect different local groups with each other around animals: scouts and their “animal care” badge, elderly and a dog walking service, guide dog trainers’ stories.
- Create a video diary – no more than three minutes, a quick chat with a good news story and a reminder to … get your guinea pig to run on your patio for a bit to shorten nails.
- Show your awareness of financial concerns – run competitions online with a prize: think of all your free samples. Give tips on how to save money on animal feed.
- Encourage social media engagement – April is “post your cutest cat photo month” with a prize. #tweetvets and tell me if you’ve found cuter than this! Or run a Q&A.
- Partner up – organise discounts with the local kennels if you “like” both their Facebook pages.
• None of my customers will be on social media – maybe not. But their grandchildren and neighbours will be and if you put a “cutest cat photo” competition poster up with a prize, they might mention it and you have a new follower.
• It will take too long. There are many ways to reduce the time spent on your social media marketing. Check out Hootsuite. Encourage customer contribution.
Create your content themes up front. The internet has a wealth of content for you to share.
I was not altogether keen to engage in social media generally but have found that partnering up with parties with mutual interests and sharing what I know has become rewarding. I cannot provide you with direct evidence that it has created new business, but keep an eye on your website analytics or LinkedIn page and watch your traffic rise.