Making full use of social media - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Making full use of social media

JAYNE LAYCOCK reports on her “pick of the month” webinar, The power of social media, presented by Anthony Chadwick, founder of The Webinar Vet, with co-hosts Corinna and Steven Essa

IN the words of the great entrepreneur Richard Branson, “Whether you are launching a startup or leading an established company, you should start establishing your social media presence if you haven’t already.”

Do we risk being left behind by ignoring this advice or should we be pursuing social media as an essential tool in running a successful veterinary practice?

The power of social media was the subject of a webinar organised by The Webinar Vet and demonstrated why businesses should not ignore the potential and opportunities of social media.

After all, The Webinar Vet’s own success story has been partly attributable to the power of the internet by creating a format for busy vets to keep up with their on-going education requirements at a fraction of the cost and time needed for many other CPD formats.

So it made sense for founder Anthony Chadwick to lead this event with social media experts, husband and wife team Corinna and Steven Essa.

Facebook

Anthony noted that the majority of our clients are likely to be using Facebook, and keeping them engaged by having a presence he believes is essential.

We are lucky enough to have a profession in which people are genuinely interested, and updating our Facebook page with what we are doing, no matter how trivial, is key to its success.

With 48% of 18-34 year old adults logging on to Facebook as they wake up in the morning, it will come as no surprise that it is one of the most popular social media sites available. When delegates were asked if they had a “practice” Facebook profile, 59% responded positively, an encouraging statistic but with obvious room for improvement.

However, for those using the Facebook medium the question has to be: are you making the most from it? People like to know what’s going on. A good news story of a dog that’s made a miraculous recovery is an opportunity to connect with your audience.

Steven explained that social marketing should be used to build relationships with our clients by posting tips, quotes and snippets of information about our everyday work. Using Facebook to promote the practice is about continually having a presence in your client’s everyday life.

In the words of Steven, it is about really putting yourself in people’s faces and, if you hang around long enough, it will pay dividends. He did emphasise, however, that there is no point in setting up a practice profile if it is not going to be regularly updated. An obvious point, but one that is surprisingly frequently overlooked.

When creating a practice Facebook page, it was advised to use a fan page rather than an individual or group profile. This allows visitors to click “like” to automatically receive updates, and avoids having to always accept people as “friends”.

Also, an individual or group profile can only accept up to 5,000 friends whereas a fan page can have one to two million followers – ambitious, I grant you, but why limit your expectations?

Concerns were expressed by the participating audience regarding the risk of negative comments being posted by disgruntled clients.

Both Anthony and Steven’s response was to seize this opportunity to talk to the client by organising an appointment where any issues can be discussed.

You may also find that the majority of your followers are on your side and jump to your defence, turning a negative into a positive.

If, in the worst case scenario, comments are being made that are completely inappropriate, Steven advised that removal of the offending comments is possible.

Twitter

Corinna Essa is a wellknown guru of Twitter and, according to Corinna, it has the potential to overtake Facebook as the number one social media tool. Twitter is streamlined, simple and straightforward, allowing short, succinct messages to be distributed effectively, and she believes it is more attractive to business and professional people and less orientated towards the recreational user.

She pointed out that one of the key advantages with Twitter is the opportunity to build lists very quickly. Tweets can be used to direct people to subscribe for practice newsletters or eshots from the practice on things like vaccine amnesty promotions. Another benefit is search engine optimisation. Google is geared to look for Twitter feeds, with the result that you could be on P1 of Google.

According to a poll carried out on the participating audience, only 14% of attendees have Twitter accounts for their practice, making this a very underutilised tool.

Corinna encouraged practices to set up a Twitter account, although once again it is essential to allow time for monitoring and tweeting on a regular basis. The point of Twitter is to regularly engage your followers and create belief in you and your practice.

E-mails

Here comes the surprising part: despite 59% of this webinar’s attendees having a practice profile on Facebook, only 38% have an active e-mail list. Steven was keen to point out that by far the most powerful social media tool available to us is e-mail marketing, and that if we do nothing else we should make an attempt to collect every client’s e-mail address.

This allows regular contact with your client base and often provides instant results with promotional advertising. E-mails enable reminders and promotions to be sent out free and help to engage the client with the practice.

YouTube

YouTube was perceived by this webinar’s speakers to be very much in its infancy. Audio-visual interaction is deemed to be the most effective form of engaging an audience, and with internet speeds getting faster, the power and scope of YouTube is only likely to grow. Just under 20% of the attending audience said they used YouTube for their practice, once again indicating further opportunity for many more practices to expand into this area.

The Webinar Vet is an active user of YouTube, and Anthony Chadwick suggested recruiting loyal clients to give video testimonials about your practice. This instantly gives potential clients social proof that your practice will offer them the best available service.

YouTube is also the second largest search engine, being pipped to the post only by Google, so again offering another very powerful tool for promoting your practice.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is different to the other social media sites as it is used to engage other professionals. According to the audience poll, 38% have an individual LinkedIn profile.

It is possible to have a LinkedIn group for the practice and is also ideal for professional networking and future employment.

Summary

The importance of social media should not be underestimated and from the polls carried out on this webinar’s audience there is still a lot of scope for practices to expand further in this area.

Many customers now expect trusted businesses to have social media presence and it has been shown that those with a greater number of followers are perceived by customers to have authority over their business.

Social media profiles associated with practices are also seen as assets and can ultimately increase the value of a business.

This webinar has been a valuable reminder never to be complacent in business and to always move forward with new concepts and innovations.

I admit to not being the most social media savvy person, as all my Facebook friends will vouch, but I do believe ignoring the power of social media could well be foolhardy.

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