Whether you’re energized by the uptick in passionate political discourse, desperately seeking the fun photos and quizzes you were used to, or fed up and ready to sign off altogether, there is no doubt that you have noticed a shift in the content of your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds these past months. And you can bet your clients have noticed a change in what they’re posting, Snapping, and Tweeting, too!
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if you or your clients are happy about this social shift or not. You still have a business to run and need to market your business and services, just as your clients still have pets to care for.
If coming up with social marketing ideas for Halloween has you spooked, never fear! At Beyond Indigo Pets, we specialize in social marketing for veterinary practices, no matter the time of year – and Halloween is no exception.
Sure, you could run a last minute pet costume photo contest on Instagram, or post your favorite Halloween pet treat recipes to your Facebook and Pinterest pages, but why not think outside of Pandora’s box and do something that will help your practice stand out in the social marketing crowd?
As an emergency critical care specialist and toxicologist who lectures throughout the world, I’m often asked, What the heck is VETgirl?
VETgirl is a subscription-based podcast and webinar service offering RACE-approved, online veterinary continuing education (CE). I came up with the idea back in 2003, when I was frantically studying for my board examination(s). I was studying 13+ hours a day and felt guilty for going out for a run or hike with my dog. All I wanted was someone to teach me veterinary medicine through my Walkman while I was running or hiking. Since sleeping on top of my textbooks didn’t appear to osmotically work, I decided that this “listen and learn” modality would truly be the best way to “take it all in” while frantically multi-tasking. Then, when I was studying (yet again) for my toxicology board examination in 2012, I finally set my mind to creating this new learning modality. So, I teamed up with tech-savvy veterinary specialist Dr. Garret Pachtinger, DACVECC to create VETgirl.
Not that long ago, veterinarians looking to connect with their client base, and potential client base, were limited in their options. Business listings in the Yellow Pages, advertising in the local paper, the occasional billboard, bus bench, television ad (if you could afford it), and word-of-mouth shared between friends and colleagues at the local café were the mainstay of customer outreach for many small businesses, including veterinary practices.
Dr. Peter Weinstein and our CEO Kelly Baltzell put their heads together and crafted a survey to learn more about veterinary hospital behavior when it comes to the Internet. Here is the first couple paragraphs of the study which outlines our findings. Please read the full overview and findings at Put Social Media to Work for YourPractice.
Social media is everywhere – we even see and hear about it on TV, radio and in newspapers. It has taken smartphones and their owners hostage. However, the veterinary profession tends to be slow to adapt to the changing environment.
Facebook – When people think social media the first thing that tends to pop to mind is Facebook. It is the most climbed “social media mountain” for marketing journeys. The highlights of Facebook to know are as followed:
Numbers: As of October 4, 2012 there are over 1 billion active users. In the USA 137.6 million users.
Business Only Platforms: Yes, there is a separate business only pages vs. Personal.
Time Per User/Per Month: 7:45 hours a month in the US
Business Needs to Devote: Minimum of 5 hours a week on their Facebook Page.
Mobile: 54% of month users access Facebook through a mobile device.
When starting your marketing efforts in social media Facebook is one of the first ones to approach. Why? Because the sheer number of people using it and the amount of time they spend on Facebook. In eight years Facebook has become integrated into people’s lives. It is where they are building and maintaining relationships.
Many times at Beyond Indigo we talk to people who are moderately to extremely overwhelmed with their marketing Journey. For most veterinary hospitals they do not even know where to start, what to do or how much time it is going to take. I don’t blame people for being overwhelmed. There is significant amount work, time and knowledge involved in a marketing program. If you are on the overwhelmed train, here are some points to consider that I have gleaned from 1000‘s of veterinarians about why planning for this Marketing Journey can be so overwhelming. Maybe you can relate to some of them.
Overwhelmed Issue Number One: Since most veterinarians and their staff have had to conduct very little marketing until recently, there is a steep learning curve to get up to speed. Most veterinarians still tend to be between 1996 and 1999 in their online marketing initiatives. Hospitals still try to build websites themselves, have servers located in their physical buildings and are struggling weather to use Yellow Pages or not. The problem is how to quickly learn 15 to 17 years of knowledge in a short period of time? Where to start?
Overwhelmed Issue Number Two: Who in the heck does the marketing program? Many hospitals are trying to tackle it completely by themselves and noticing it causes a juggling problem. Multiple people are tapped to do different aspects of the marketing program but nobody really is in charge. Then the message from the hospital is not consistent either in tone or timing. Or the marketing program goes really great until a new problem or focus comes into play and it is forgotten for awhile. This causes gaps with building and growing relationships which is the primary function of online marketing today. The problem is how to have the staffing resources and time to keep the marketing program ongoing.
- Savvy Consumers. Today’s consumers are savvy about where and from whom they purchase products and services. They take the time to research online before they ever pick up the phone or get in their car to make a purchase. By having a social media presence that is both engaging and engaged, it helps reassure clients that your business is reputable and cares.
- Humanize your brand. Social media gives your business the opportunity to reach out and actually connect with your audience. Real one-to-one relationships are formed.
- Your competition is using it. The vet down the street is likely using social media. If you aren’t currently engaging and interacting with social media, how easily will you be found? And just because you aren’t participating, doesn’t necessarily mean others aren’t doing it for you.
You target audience is using it. Here are a few quick facts about Facebook.
a. 845 million monthly active users at the end of December 2011 b. 483 million daily active users on average in December 2011 c. 425 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products in December 2011
- Google counts social sharing when ranking. When many different people on social media refer to your content, your website, or your videos, it means those individuals find your content useful, entertain, informative, or all of it. When this happens, the search engines pay attention and in return use this as a factor to provide better search engine placement for your content.
- It’s the next generation version of word-of-mouth marketing. One of the best ways to interact with potential clients is by way of people who have already experienced what your brand has to offer. When your social media presence starts to generate conversation and reaction, such as likes, shares, tweets, pins, etc., it’s a visible reaction of their approval and they are sharing this with their friends and family.
- Provides transparency. Social media is an open book. If someone likes you, that’s great, everyone can see it. If someone doesn’t like you and mentions something negative about your brand or experience, then this too is available to the community. Many successful clinics that leverage social media use this as an advantage to show how in tune they are by replying and finding a way to close that loop. This shows to those watching that your clinic has integrity, values interaction and criticism, and cares about its clients.
- Opens up conversation. Your clients are the best people to learn from when it comes to making things better. By asking questions about their experience or their needs, you will get an understanding as to what clients are looking for. Social media for small business success is truly about listening as opposed to marketing
- Aids customer service. Use your social media outlets to answer questions concerning customer service. By doing it this way, you can not only highlight to your community that you are available, but also get other people within the community to provide answers and support to new or potential clientele who have per haps experienced the same issue themselves.
- Brand exposure. Everybody wants a larger piece of the pie. The more targeted people who are aware of your business, the greater the chance you have of turning those individuals into paying clients and them becoming an advocate of your services.
Program Protects Online Reputations Of Veterinary Clinics By Ensuring Employees Adhere To Specific Guidelines And Standards
HANOVER, MN (April 20, 2011) — Veterinary marketer Beyond Indigo Pets has developed a new program to ensure that veterinary professionals use proper digital media etiquette. This Technology and Social Media Policy protects veterinary businesses from having employees post inappropriate or negative online content.
Businesses spend a lot of time and money protecting their online reputations, because negative reviews and comments make as much impact as positive ones. The Technology and Social Media Policy enables veterinary professionals to monitor and control their online perceptions in two ways: providing employees with clear etiquette guidelines and managing employees’ digital conduct. This includes managing employee content with regards to company emails, blog posts, and comments posted on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, Wikipedia, and online review sites. The policy, which is fully customizable, is designed to maintain the integrity and consistency of all marketing messages and materials disseminated from a particular veterinary clinic.
“Businesses must proactively manage their online images in order to ensure that their employees reflect positivity, accuracy, and appropriateness” said Kelly Baltzell, M.A., president and founder of Beyond Indigo Pets. “We want to give our clients peace of mind as they expand their marketing efforts into the digital landscape.”
Visit redesign.beyondindigopets.com/social for detailed information about the policy.